“You should wear a suit if you have one”, promoter and gym owner Phon Martdee told me over the phone as I was shopping for groceries this Tuesday evening. He was calling to give me the details concerning the Thai Fight press conference, which was taking place the next day. I was planning to go after morning training – have a shower at the gym, throw on my flip flops and jeans, and take a taxi down to the venue. Just as we were saying our goodbyes however pii Phon (almost apologetically) suggested I dress up. Never before have I been to a Muay Thai event that had a dress code, so I knew this was going to be the business.
I managed to make myself presentable enough and headed down to Moonstar Studios in Ladprao. Outside the studio there were fancy food stands offering everything from spicy papaya salad (som tam) to coffee and cakes. Inside there were legendary Thai fighters going back through the generations mingling with some of the heaviest hitters you can think of in Muay Thai – Songchai Ratanasuban, Fairtex owner Philip Wong, all the Lumpinee bosses and promoters and many more.
Among them were notable nak muays from France, Australia, Korea, China, England and 12 other countries, including Thailand. On my way through the door I was introduced to Liam Harrison, Fabio Pinca and up and coming fighter Youssef Boughanem. I was mildly surprised to see Petmangkon Petchfergus (or Petfocus as they transcribed his name for the event) representing Thailand – having just met him at Lumpinee a month ago when he fought Saenchai and won on points (see link).
Anyway there was perhaps all the talent and money you could imagine in Muay Thai there in one room and a turnout of over 2000 people. A myriad TV cameras and photographers were there in force – among them the ubiquitous Rob Cox. I have to say I always look forward to seeing Rob at these events – he has a totally authentic and approachable nature and during the opening formalities he gave me a who’s who of all the faces I didn’t already know.
The production value of the event was highly impressive and included a karaoke number of a very spirited new pop song about Muay Thai (Rak Chaat, Rak Muay Thai) which was sung with much jark jai by all the nak muay greats. To me this was the best part of the event – seeing Diesel Noi and Arpidaej Sithirun holding hands and singing along with Samart Paryark Aroon on one end with Yod, Buakaw, Saenchai and Anuwat busting moves on the other. I have to say I got more than a little moved by the performance – as good fun as it was meant to be. If you don’t recognize them all in the video, here’s a list of them from left to right:
Arpidaej Sithirun, Diesel Noi, brothers Samart Paryark Aroon and Gong Thoranee Paryark Aroon, twin brothers Kaosai and Kaokor, Phud Lorlek, Pudphadnoi Worravud, “Goldchin”, Kaowpong Sitpaphom, Somjit Jong Johor (who also MC’d the event with much humour), Saengtian Noi, Samrantong Kiatebanchong, Yodsanklai Fairtex, Buakaw Por.Pramuk, Saenchai Sor.Kingstar and Anuwat Kaewsamrit.
Anyway – after all the fireworks and speeches and singing we moved on to the business at hand. As most of you know, “Thai Fight” is the new 16 man Muay Thai tournament and reality show that will begin next month, with matches taking place at Hua Mak’s Rajamangala National Stadium. The show will be televised on Thailand’s Channel 3 and as of yet I am unclear if this show will be broadcast to the rest of the world. I hope it will, otherwise it seems to me that point of it might be defeated – i.e, to promote MT internationally.
In any event, the main part of the press conference was the introduction of the international nak muays along with a live draw to determine who would fight who. The official draw for the first round robin knockout resulted in the following:
- Jason Lea (Australia) vs Youssef Boughanem (Belgium)
- Liam Harrison (England) vs Behzan Rafighdoust (Iran)
- Sharos Huyer (Italy) vs Pinca Fabio (France)
- Fikri Arican (Turkey) vs Soichiro Miyakoshi (Japan)
- Farnam Mirzai (Sweden) vs Anthony Kane (Netherlands)
- Vitaly Hurkou (Russia) vs Jong hyun ko (Korea)
- Bartosz Koscielniak (Germany) vs Rafi Zouheir (Spain)
- Petchmonkong Petchfocus (Thailand) vs Zhou hongzhang (China)
I am told the contest will be 3 times 3 minute rounds with a 2 minute break. Full Thai rules apply. The first group of fights will take place on August 29th, with the next round scheduled for October 25th and the finals will be held on the 6 of December – a day after the King’s birthday. Top prize will be 2,000,000 THB (about US$62,500), runner up wins 1,000,000 THB (US$31,250), 3rd place gets 300,000 THB (US$9,375) while the nak muay who comes in 4th will get 200,000 THB (US$6250).
More about Abs
About a year and a half ago on a very fateful Saturday morning I walked into a sweaty little Muay Thai gym in San Francisco’s SOMA district to do an intro MT class with Neungsiam Samphusri and Bunkerd Faphimai at Fight and Fitness. I’ve always loved martial arts, in particular Shaolin gong fu, san shou and qi gong, but there was something that registered with me that August morning and MT has been a main feature in my life since.
After a few months training with Neungsiam I came to Thailand and -through a similar series of providential encounters — have been here since. I started training at Ingram gym in 2008 and now train with the Doctor at 13 Coins. I also continue to study muay boran with Pii Ta and cultivate my internal energy practices that I first learned with my Shaolin teacher, Shifu Shi Yanzi. I’ve taken a couple of extended trips back to San Francisco to train with Jongsanan at Fairtex, who has been my most inspiring and demanding teacher to date.
I guess I could say that Muay Thai has been the needle in my compass for the past several months and I am both suprised and grateful for all the challenges, experiences and opportunities it has provided me. It’s been quite a journey so far.