I recently had the opportunity to go to Singapore and check out Evolve Mixed Martial Arts. Evolve is the largest mixed martial arts academy is Asia and ranks among the best MMA academies in the world. They have world class instructors teaching everyday. For their Muay Thai program, Evolve is the largest overseas branch of the legendary Sityodtong Muay Thai Camp in Thailand. Sityodtong Camp has very deep history and is one of if not the oldest running Muay Thai training camps in Thailand, and is widely respected for producing the most number of Muay Thai World Champions in history. Not only is Evolves Muay Thai top notch, but they also have a world class Brazilian Jiu Jitsu program as well. Evolve is the only official Renzo Gracie Affiliate Academy in Asia. The Evolve Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Instructors are all authentic black belts from Brazil from Gracie Barra and Gordo Jiu Jitsu.
When this opportunity came up I jumped on it, and was really excited to be able to train with so many champions. I arrived in Singapore early on a Sunday morning and thought I would head down to Evolve to check it out. Their PoMo Mall academy which is the smaller of their two locations in Singapore was really close to where I was staying so I headed down there. It was just a few minutes walk and really easy to find. At first I didn’t know what to expect as I had never seen a MMA training camp inside a mall before, but as the saying goes “never judge a book by its cover”. As I walked in I was surprised to see so many people in there training on a Sunday. I was greeted by Saknarong Sityodtong (Kru Ped), and Daorung Sityodtong who everyone affectionately calls Papa. They welcomed me in and remembered me from when I trained with them before at Sityodtong Camp in Thailand. After some chit chat they told me to get changed because the BJJ class was almost over and next was Muay Thai.
The schedule at Evolve is setup differently then your usual early morning and afternoon sessions at the camps in Thailand. They have a huge schedule of classes from early in the morning to late at night and are open 7 days a week! They teach everything from Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Boxing, Wrestling, Submission Grappling and more. And the instructors are all top level World Champions in their dedicated art. There are different classes for beginners and more advanced students too. For the Muay Thai classes students go through a warm up at the beginning of class and then they work on basics and proper techniques. For the second half of class they work techniques on the bags and get pad work by the instructors. The session is finished up with sets of multiple punches, kicks, and then knees on the bags, and then situps, pushups, and squats. It is really great to see all the elements of real hardcore Muay Thai training being taught to the students rather than something that is watered down like you might find at many places outside Thailand. I was happy to see that even beginner students had that crisp “Thai style” kick with proper technique and good balance, and not just flailing their arms in the air while they try and swing their leg at the pads as hard as they can. The trainers really take their time and make sure the students understand proper footwork and technique.
The Fighters Program at Evolve is set aside for the Evolve Fight Team. The Muay Thai sessions for the Evolve Fight Team is run with the same vigor, and in my opinion a lot tighter, than a lot of camps in Thailand. The instructors care about your training and don’t just pad you until you get tired and then leave you on your own to go hit the bags. The fighters run together before training then skip rope, shadow box, hit the bags, get padded by the world champion trainers, clinching, sparring, and then sets of multiple knees and kicks on the bags. Afterwards they do all their sets of pushups, situps, pullups, etc. During this whole time the trainers are constantly pushing you to keep you going. There is no room for laziness either. You can’t be on the bags and think no one is watching you and just tip tap lightly on the bags until it’s your turn to get padded. The trainers make sure of it. You are training hard the entire time. I was honored to get padded by one of my old trainers from Sityodtong Camp, Kongtoranee Payakaroon. He is a living legend. Not only is he a 5 time Lumpinee Stadium Champion and one of the worlds best Muay Thai fighters of all time, the guy has a heart of gold and is one of the nicest people I have ever met in my life. I was also lucky to work with some of the other trainers there too including Yoddecha Sityodtong and Muangfalek “Bang” Kiatvichian, who have absolutely amazing technique. Also, another legend Lamnammoon Sor Sumalee, who is known for his great knees and clinch, and former WBA World Champion Yodsanan SorNanthachai. Yodsanan has the nickname of “Little Tyson” because of his insane KO power.
I was mainly training in the PoMo Mall location during my stay in Singapore, but on one of the days my trainer, Kongtoranee Payakaroon, asked me to go with him so I can see the other location in the Far East Square area. Kru Kong mainly teaches classes at that location. Now, he told me the FES location is bigger than the PoMo one, but I wasn’t expecting it to be as big and nice as it was. This past year I spent training in a tiny little camp in Thailand on raw concrete that has about 4 bags total that are all beat to hell. I already thought the PoMo Mall location was big and nice with it’s 4,000 sq ft facility with mats, all the Twins equipment, bags, and ring… Then I walk into the Far East Square location and all I can say is Holy Shit…
This place was HUGE. We’re talking 12,000 sq ft facility with separate training areas for Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu which allows them to have a bigger schedule and run 2 classes at the same time. Also, plenty of Twins gear and heavy bags, MMA cage, and various exercise equipment such as kettle bells, medicine balls, and full TRX station. The huge locker rooms, bathrooms, and 27 individual shower units are kept super clean, and they have towel service. After training you can get a protein shake from their Juice Bar and hang out in the members lounge which has a nice flat screen T.V., or surf the web with their complimentary Apple iMac internet stations.
Evolve MMA is run by Chatri Sityodtong, who is a nak muay from Sityodtong Camp in Thailand. I had the chance to sit down with him for a little bit of Q&A to find out a little more about him and Evolve MMA.
Alex: Hello Chatri, can you tell the MMT community a little about yourself and how Evolve MMA came to be?
Chatri: I am from Thailand. I grew up in Bangkok and Pattaya. I began training Muay Thai at Sityodtong Camp when I was a child. Kru Yodtong Senanan (the head teacher of Sityodtong Camp) has always been like a father figure to me. I have been doing Muay Thai for almost 25 years now. I also lived many years in the US as an adult, mostly in Boston and New York, before returning to Asia. I have also done Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for a few years. I received my blue belt under Master Renzo Gracie when I lived in New York. Martial arts has had a big, positive impact on my life and I started Evolve MMA to spread the beauty of Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and MMA. People mistakenly think that martial arts is about fighting and violence, but it is really about unleashing the human potential – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. It is a journey of continuous self-improvement – a way to discover yourself so that you can unlock your potential and make the world a better place. This is the lesson that Kru Yodtong taught me.
Alex: How did you pick Singapore as your first location for Evolve MMA?
Chatri: In my opinion, Singapore is the best city in Asia to live. The tropical weather and spicy food are very similar to home in Thailand. Singaporeans are very nice and open. There is also a strong international flavor to the city with Chinese, Malays, Indians, and foreigners living in harmony. And it is only 2 hours away from Thailand. Of course, I still love Bangkok and Pattaya because they are home to me with all my family and friends there. But I truly love Singapore.
Alex: There is an unbelievable team of trainers at Evolve MMA. You have world champion Muay Thai trainers teaching there everyday including Kongtoranee Payakaroon, who I consider to be one of the best Muay Thai fighters of all time. Can you tell us a little about the trainers at Evolve MMA?
Chatri: Yes, we currently have 47 full-time, permanent instructors at Evolve MMA in Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Boxing, MMA, etc across our 3 locations. We are very fortunate to have some amazing Muay Thai and Boxing World Champions like Namsaknoi Yudthagarngamtorn, Kongtoranee Payakaroon, Lamnammoon Sor Sumalee, Muangfalek Kiatvichian, Yoddecha Sityodtong, Yodsanan Sor Nanthachai, Saknarong Sityodtong, etc. Our Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Program is equally strong with Black Belt World Champions like Rafael Gordinho Lima, Roberto Gordo Lima, Leandro Issa, Zoro Moreira, Takeo Tani, etc. Evolve MMA is very lucky to have World Champions in Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Boxing, and No Gi Grappling. Whether it is about life or martial arts, I learn so much every day from my fellow instructors. The Evolve Instructor Team has a breadth of diversity and a depth of knowledge that is very beneficial to our students.
Alex: In the short time Evolve MMA has been open it has already produced some champions in MMA and you have expanded from a single location in Singapore to 2 and also one in Brazil. Do you have any plans for future Evolve MMA locations?
Chatri: Yes, it is better to be lucky than smart! We got lucky in producing our MMA champions – it was a combination of some naturally gifted fighters like Leandro Issa, Tommy Yang, and Mitch Chilson and our international team of instructors. As for expansion this year, Evolve plans to expand in Singapore, and maybe Brazil.
Needless to say, I had a great experience at Evolve MMA. Everyone was very nice and welcoming. The staff was really great about helping out, answering questions, and showing me around the place. The trainers keep you motivated and will push you to help you reach your goals. I even trained BJJ everyday that I was there and had a great time learning something new. One thing I really loved was that even though Evolve is a MMA gym, you won’t find the typical “meat head” attitude among the students or the Evolve Fight Team that is common in the MMA world. It truly feels like a big family there and everyone is helping each other out. I would definitely recommend checking out Evolve MMA if you are ever in Singapore. Although it might sound like with all those amenities and World Champion Trainers the training fees might be ridiculously high. You will be surprised to find out that the price is less than what you would pay for a months training at a lot of camps in Thailand. More details on their facilities, training, instructors, and locations can be found on their website. www.evolve-mma.com. The only thing I wasn’t able to do was go around and see the sights in Singapore. I wanted to make the most out of my training so I was pretty much at Evolve for my entire trip! I hope to return there soon.