Class-A Thai-boxer in a Pro MMA world.
I actually was writing this before Sean Fagan with “Muay Thai Guy” did his interview with Eric Haycraft. Which Mr. Haycraft touched on a lot of the same subjects, and he would know way better than I do regarding all this stuff, so I think it adds credence to my blog posting. Anyways, I hope you enjoy.
The word “amateur” in the combat sports world has several meanings. In international boxing, it’s common for people to have 100 “amateur” bouts, and even become Olympic athletes and compete for gold. Conversely, in the MMA world, it’s completely normal and very common for a fighter to have a bit of success and then turn “pro” after 5-10 fights. Recently I’ve started to see even more people turn pro after 2 fights, or even straight out of the gate as their first fight. And of course, in Thailand there is only pro. I remember the confused look on Kru Pong’s face when I told him I wasn’t getting paid (Haha), the idea of amateur athletes was very foreign to him.
Personally, I think the pro option is wonderful, as it allows many of the athletes the ability to make a small return on the time, work and money invested into preparing for a combat sports event. As we all know, fighting takes years of formal training, the same amount of time and effort it takes a professor to get a masters degree. And as we all know, athletes have to pay for gym dues, trainer dues, travel, hotel, food, blood work and medicals (Or at least I do). I understand the medicals, after all, who wants to get HepC or HIV from coming in contact with a bloody opponent.
The problem was, that I viewed the world through the experiences of my very thin slice of the world. So when I started fighting Muay Thai abroad, my goal at the time was to become a pro… Because being an “amateur” fighter, was viewed as being a newbie or getting your feet wet. We’re fortunate in Texas to have a strong and large MMA talent pool for athletes to compete against each other, and also to have enough of a crowd for promoters to make a small return on their shows. this allows many athletes to compete on a local pro circuit. however, do to the lack of Muay Thai fights Houston and around Texas, I began to travel and fight around the country. the more I got around, the more I heard the same thing from all the top Kickboxing and Muay Thai trainers and promoters “get as many amateur fights as you can”. Come to find out, there really isn’t a large market for pro Muay Thai fighters in the states, other than Glory WS (Kickboxing), Lion Fights and TakeOn (MuayThai). Obviously this is my end goal, but once you go pro there’s no turning back, and I soon realized that my opportunities (which are already limited as they are in Texas) would be even less, effectively grinding my career to a halt. While asking around, several promoters I spoke with told me that they usually only turn fighters pro after 25 fights. This is understandable and makes sense considering they would want to produce a quality product. I realized how the word “Amateur” in the US Muay Thai scene means a whole different thing; this is why we have “class” divisions at the national tournaments. Giving it some reflection, I would never think of an Olympic wrestler, judoko or boxer as a “beginner”… why should I think the same thing about a Muay Thai boxer?
So I figured out that I need to be careful going pro to fast, or else grind my career to a halt. I was very ignorant at the time, thinking I could do 5-10 Muay Thai fights then go pro. so taking those people’s advice to heart, I’ve spent a good bunch of years trying to get as much Muay Thai fight experience as I can. I’m so blessed to represent the titles and organizations that I do, and I am thankful for every opportunity that I’ve gotten win/lose/draw. However, Muay Thai has very little monetary rewards and even less prestige. It takes a lot of hard work and a passion for the sport that outweighs the cost, while everyone is trying to discredit all your hard work. After spending large amounts of cash on travel, hotels and competing, judges will make bad calls, they’re only human. travel is expensive, as you are paying for plane tickets, gas, food, hotels, then add to all the blood sweat and tears, time away from your family and so forth. People don’t realize how much goes into building a career in Muay Thai. We make all these sacrifices for Muay Thai, spend countless amounts of money, time, sweet, blood and tears… the only rewards being a national title from the TBA-SA, USMTA, WKA, IKF and other large sanctioning bodies.
This year I’m hoping to step into the pro arena, provided that the opportunity presents itself. I’m always testing the deep end, and while I hope that I get that opportunity… I’m hoping I don’t shoot myself in the foot by killing my opportunities to fight here either. Being a Class-A fighter already kills my opportunities to compete here in Texas.
I’m at this place in my life, where I am trying to help build a lot of Houston MT boxers up. Trying to share my experiences, because iron sharpens iron and obviously once we’re able to support a bigger Muay Thai scene here, I want to be a part of it. I want to be a pro one day, and hold those WBC and WMC titles. I want to fight those top names, but I have to be able to get to those names first. Even though I feel like I’ve come along way, I’m honest with myself, I’m not delusional. I know I have a lot of hard work ahead of me before I can rise to the international level. We need a good Muay Thai scene here before we can really have any guys at that international level. So we have to build each other up, help each other grow, because no man is an island and can do it alone.
My advice (and I’m sure almost everyone in the MT scene would agree) to anyone who wants to have a career in Muay Thai, get as many “amateur” fights as you can. If you’re a coach, have actively competing Thai-boxers and test your product against other boxers across the country. Get out there and compete, be an actively competing Muay Thai school.
This year I’m am going to try and make that leap, Thailand then IFMA and then hopefully Lion Fights. maybe I’m stupid, but I’m very aware of my mortality and I don’t want to get to the end of my life and say I wish I would have done this or that. While I’m working to make this leap, I will say that I am dang proud of being a Class A fighter, it’s taking me a long time to get here. We just have to keep working and moving forward, always getting better and keep working towards that goal.