The Decline of Muay Thai, Samart Payakaroon

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This was an interview I came across with Muay Thai Legend Samart Payakaroon.  His been very vocal about the decline of muay thai.  He believes that gambing and the gambling bosses are to blame to the decline of the art of muay thai.  I’ve added subtitles to the video so be sure to click the cog button the lower right of the player.  There a few small bit’s I didn’t understand.  He often uses the term “power shot” I think what he means by that, is relying on strength over skill or technique.

I found his comments on throwing a fight interesting.  He goes on to talk about how easy it is to throw a fight if your smart.  It’s easy, just hold on to the ropes, or spit out your gum shield… you’ll be sure to lose.

I’ve also included the transcript  of the video below, if I get a take down notice on the video.  Hopefully they’ll let me keep it up.

The original interview was from Thai PBS. Thank you for the upload.

 

Transcript:

Interviewer:Your statements, was it your intention to “Wake” up the muay thai establishment

no, not really I didn’t have an agenda… I just a feeling the wow… Muay Thai has really fallen in standards speaking frankly today there’s no no sense of devotion in Muay Thai it’s the spectators, judges… everything has deteriorated so I had to say something

Interviewer: You talk about judging… Samart: Yes that’s a really important point…

interviewer: You say it’s a huge cause of the decline of muay thai because, you don’t know what their standards of judging are…

Yes, even for me… I haven’t been to a fight for several years if I go, it’s because it’s one of my fighters fighting, and I’ll only watch my fighters… other bouts, I’ll go outside, I won’t watch because It makes you think…”I’m a fighter” how come I can’t understand the rules? Why is this guy getting the better odds? So I’m watching these bouts as a muay thai professional and person who loves the art of muay thai I ask myself, this guy is winning but why is this person losing… why has his price/odds in his favor? it’s like I don’t know how to watch muay thai… and the people who come to watch muay thai for the art, they are long gone. they come, and like myself… they can’t tell what’s going on… this guy is kicking and punching, but once he gets wrapped up and thrown once or twice and he losses! all those people who come to watch the artistry are gone…. only the gamblers come… I can tell you, the people who come for the artistry aren’t there! doesn’t matter if it’s an old era person or new era, the old era guys are gone… old era guys like me… the big shows used to get a lot of the old timers to go… but today, no old timers will go. you’ll only see new nak muay

interviewer: the referees they work for the “Muay Thai Bosses”

yes, the bosses are the ones who lead the referees…for example if the blue corner kicks the same side for 3 rounds… but the red is from a big camp… his odds (price) won’t go down Blue can kick as much as he wants, maybe he’ll degrade the red’s (odds) a little maybe 2-1, meanwhile the big camp they’re waiting for the 4th round to come out for clinch, to throw the fighters once or twice… that’s the big money, 10-1 odds for the blue… those 3 rounds where he was dominating… it was for nothing, pointless… I’m not trying to single anyone out… I’m just speaking truthfully, with referees I don’t know how they are scoring? are you giving them for powerful shots? please tell us that you are, be clear… then I can tell my fighters, don’t worry about the other techniques… the beautiful techniques of muay thai we won’t us them… we’ll use power shots… we don’t know how they are giving out points? to me they are giving out scores based on the odds, based on the bosses… sometimes the fighters has done anything and his odds are 10-1

interviewer: what about the people who want to come into muay thai… and they get decisions like this… the small camps will die?

yes, the small camps will die, to start a camp isn’t a small investment in the country it might not be much maybe 300-400K they could do it, because it’s their own property, roof, bags… small ring, bags… it’s possible the hard part is feeding fighters… suppose you have 10 fighters you have to feed them, take care of them of they get sick, the school fees for the kids etc small camps can’t survive…they need to pack it up you can sell your fighter to a big gym and get your investment back… that’s how it is…

interviewer: the old judges were looking for artistry?

yes, they were looking for beauty of technique, if the shots landed or didn’t land, they weren’t just looking for power shots like today

Interviewer: is it because there isn’t a council that holds them to a standard? There is nobody who goes over the previous fights to determine if their were good or bad calls. it’s like other sports, if a referee makes a bad call then they have other judges who can deal with it muay thai doesn’t have that.

All the stadiums are the same… whether it be raja, lumpinee, ch7, omnoi every place scores the same it’s all the same it’s all the same muay thai will disappear there’s nothing, today you just have to clinch if you really want to see the art of muay thai… watch the foreigners don’t watch it in Thailand! in Thailand, you only see wrestling fighters don’t dare do muay thai

Interviewer: you said this has added to the decline in attendance at the stadiums today it’s about 1M baht for a big show so a small show they are breaking even, minimally they need 400 baht lets look at ticket prices 400 baht, my time it would have been about 170-180 baht in my era, collecting 180 baht a ticket the stadiums would still make millions today, 400 baht ticket they don’t collect more then 6-700K baht

Interviewer: is it because it’s live on TV? is that a factor?

maybe tv, has taken people away from the stadiums… the fights that they show are the grade b fights not the grade A, fights today for example, if a big show collects 500 these are grade A fights the ones that go out on tv are… are low paid fighters around 20K no more than 30K so I don’t think TV has anything to do with it the studio shows… it’s because people don’t how to watch muay thai and bad decisions…

Interviewer: is there a way that gyms can get together to make changes? is there a way forward?

it’s hard… we need to coordinate, we someone to coordinate the efforts we need to get together and discuss,the rules what are you scoring, how are you scoring? there aren’t many big camps, these camps are the ones calling the shots so as gym you have no rights to protest? no, as a gym owner I have no rights, the promoter calls the shots the promoter decides whether you fight or not.   Fighters, gym owners today have no rights it’s in the hands of the promoters it’s in the hands of the promoters if the promoter can’t make money, then it has an effect on the gym so if the promoter doesn’t make money then…

so the only people going are gamblers… then there’s no way to fix this.. we’ll just have to accept it that’s why so many people have quit they have no rights, what’s the point, we set up a camp and we can’t fight the establishment.  Small camps, are folding any camp that has one or two fighters, they’ll sell them to the big camps we are in the lowest point of muay thai ever.

Interviewer: so you get judging like this, poor money how do you make money?

for me I don’t make money off my fighters my fighters everywhere it’s 50/50 split camp and fighters as a fighter get’s better, a fighter gets 30K that’s considered a lot, so the fighter gets 10-20K, it’s so little for me I give fighters 70 and I take 30%.   30 percent goes to , food costs, overhead, trainers salaries so for my camp, I don’t make anything of the fighters

Interviewer: so you teach foreigners?

Yes, also Thai children, anyone who wants to learn the art of muay thai but yes, we focus on foreign fighters we can charge them more

Interviewer: let’s look back at Nai Khanomtom day, 17th of March there were thousands of foreign nak muay coming to pay their respects

yes thousands…

Interviewer: how does that make you feel? what do you think about the future of muay thai?

 

in the future… muay thai will belong to foreigners… they are the ones who care they are willing to fly here, to pay respect… thai people barely care at all. it’s good for foreigners big fighters here all go and fight abroad they don’t have opponents… big fighters (size) in Thailand are hard to find anything above 150 lbs is hard to find it’s good for foreigners The Muay Thai community here will gradually disappear maybe in 10 years we won’t have fights anymore maybe muay thai will only be fought abroad?

Interviwer: muay thai has made lots of promoters rich there are tournaments where fighters get millions to fight…

Today a well known fighter might get 20K in thailand maybe 30K, but if they fight abroad… 100K and up… the more they fight abroad, the more their fee goes up like buakaw, saiyok, yodsanklai everytime they fight it’s 600-700K and up the future of muay thai might be in China!  it’s going to be difficult for us to compete with them they have loads of people, and they are beginning to get into muay thai it’s very popular in china… they have lots of shows per month and their teachers are ex-fighters from Thailand

Interviewer: we can’t fix our own problems at home but abroad, people see the importance isn’t that positive?

yes… but when we fights abroad we have to fight under their rules, which might not be 100% muay thai rules sometimes they prohibit the use of elbows or only limit it to one or two knees… the rules aren’t exactly the same maybe they are going further and further away, yeah like K-1 or kickboxing, which came from muay thai they adapt it and make it their own

Interviewer: is there light at the end of the tunnel?

I can’t see it yet… every stadium judge should have a meeting and agree on the standards and let the gym owners go in and listen so they know what the rules are… so they can fight to the standards that the referees have set, today nobody knows! how they are scoring… in the future we won’t do anything else, we’ll just clinch! in the future we won’t do anything else, we’ll just clinch! people can come and watch wrestling!

Interviewer: so getting all the judges together from every stadium, won’t that cause issues in itself?

every camp has a relationship with a stadium… there are no standards… each stadium is different but one thing for sure, they follow the “bosses” if the bosses, protest they have to win every stadium is the same the only way is that the judges need to ignore the “bosses”

Interviewer: who can bring the judges together…

it’s difficult…

Interviewer: can it be the sports authority of thailand?

yes, they could do it.

Interviewer poptheratham was born about 6-7 years ago how is it going? you aren’t like a small camp

I teach kids they pay money to learn they become better, I’ll find fights for them it’s up to their guardians if they want to fight, I’ll help them find fights I’ll help them become professional I teach everything I teach all techniques my fighters will use all weapons they are complete if they lose, it’s down to the judging every small camp gets bad decisions any small camp that goes against a big camp… it’s all over… if you knock them out or cut them with an elbow, that’s another story…

Interviewer: have you taken any fighters abroad?

Yes lots of countries italy, america, france china, this month we go to china

Interviewer: lots of camps have to do that as primary way to make income?

small camps… it’s really difficult for them to fight abroad international promoters don’t know the small camps they will start with big camps first big camps can even arrange for fighters from small camps to get on the show that’s it promoters are only looking for big camps first they’ll look for big fighters, and fighters who fight internationally they go their first this is another way a big camp survives…  small camps will most likely disappear I think this is going to happen in the next year or two we are at an all time low this is it’s the lowest I’ve ever seen it since I was 10 it’s not the same

Interviewer: Is it because the good teachers are all abroad? that contributes for sure… instead of sharing knowledge at home it’s abroad because there is more money are the wages low?

I give about 10K/mo. which is considered a lot that’s alot small camps can’t pay that if they go abroad minimally 70-80K /mo. if you’re a champ then it’s 100K/mo.

Interviewer what if all small camps disappear and the big names don’t want to fight anymore how are we going to grow and build fighters?

it’s hard… there aren’t many camps… all the fighters are from about 5 or 6 different camps, who fight each other they buy fighters, so they end up fighting the same camps the small camps never get a chance to fight with the big camps those who go abroad… sometimes they can’t fight the foreigners the foreigners go with work rate, shots landed when we lose abroad, we call foul! really they aren’t cheating us, they are just scoring against different criteria.  In thailand we only focus on the strong fighters abroad a fighter might get thrown 4 or 5 times but may land a few punches, might win they don’t award power moves they award on work rate and shots landed

Interviewer:it’s sounds like it’s a lack of coordination no rules, no testing the rules ?

in the past I was with kru yodthong if I wanted to go to another camp, I couldn’t it was out of respect today, if a fighter doesn’t like the camp they can sneak back home for 3 or 4 months then ask the authorities to move to a new camp they don’t think about camp owners who’s raised them for 10 years some camp offers them more money…they’re gone.   the new laws are their to help nak muay but in the wrong way… they have to consider the gym owners who’ve raised them… it doesn’t take 6 months to make a fighter sometimes gyms raise a fighter since they were 10… but it isn’t until their 20’s they become popular… how many years did they have to raise them? and the fighter can just leave? under the new laws, he can go maybe the camp owner cant find a fight for his fighter for 3 or 4 months you have the right to leave… some leave and go home the laws haven’t really helped the muay thai community

Interviewer: so do camps have arrangement with stadiums?where they can’t fight at other stadiums?

so today, only a few camps fight at the stadiums… for example there are about 10 fighters who are 100K fighters that are the same weight. 3 are at one camp, the other 3 are the other, and 4 at another…. it’s a small pool, so they only fight between these 2 or 3 camps it’s not like before… promoters would find fighters from other camps on a big show, you could ask a fighter from another stadium you could ask for a raja fighter today it’s few and far between unless a promoter from raja and lumpinee set it up and they have a good relationship promoters don’t get along, every promoter for himself …this group has 3 or 4 camps this promoter has 3 or 4 camps, they just circulate between each other these 3 camps will fight each other, those 3 camps will only fight each other… promoters don’t collaborate I don’t have too much insight into their business… I don’t go and watch fights, even if you let me go for free,  pay me, and I still won’t go!  it’s too costly for those outside of bkk to go to fights, ticket prices, transportation etc just to watch show, is a real effort

Interviewer: is it true promoters can choose their own judges? I have to ask…. you are in the know….

I don’t know. if they are close to someone they don’t interfere with the fighting but maybe they talk… ?

Interviewer: if the bosses … wanted they could get someone to throw a match?

throwing matches isn’t difficult it’s easy if a fighter is smart, it’s not hard there are a lot of things you can do to lose… like grabbing the ropes grab the ropes and the odds will go against you! Spit out your gum shield… that’s another way to get the odds against you if you want to lose, spit out your gum shield you’ll lose! I don’t know how they get that? that it’s strange some fighters have that intention some fighters, accidentally lose their gum shield, they’ll lose as well…. there are many things you can do to lose a fight there are a lot of ways to lose a fight… it’s up to the intelligence of the fighter throwing matches isn’t difficult there are lots of ways for you to lose these people will never be successful, that’s their only trick

Interviewer: bad decisions, poor attendance, fighters throwing fights… these things are all a result of gambling if this is the case, then it’s going to be hard to fix it.?

it’s up to the judges if the judges affect the bosses, the stadium suffers.. gamblers wont come, the stadium loses. stadium loses tickets sales stadiums go out of business… it’s all in the hands of the gambling bosses that’s it.

Interviewer: it’s deadlock… it’s difficult how do we fix it?

the community needs to work together or there is no future!  like I said, maybe in 10 years nobody will be watching muay thai anymore it’s disappearing… maybe in 10 years, you’ll have 100 people in attendance… and those people are the gamblers and bosses maybe that will be it small camps won’t participate, muay thai will gradually disappear this is something I’m worried about

thanks for shedding light on the situation

spectators, judges… everything has deteriorated so I had to say something

 

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About Author

I started My Muay Thai back in 2006... I was tired of reading about MMA, and wanted somewhere I could watch real muay thai fights, be inspired and connect with others who love muay thai as much as I do... I currently live in London... when I'm not geeking out over muay thai you can find me bombing around London on my scrambler, ferreting out the latest street food gems.

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