The Pros and Cons of Being a Professional Muay Thai Fighter

For some, the love of Muay Thai runs so deep that they choose to pursue it as a career. However, like any profession, being a pro Muay Thai fighter has its pros and cons.

Muay Thai is a sport that has gained a lot of popularity around the world in recent years, thanks to the long-standing MMA scene that idolizes Muay Thai as the best striking art and ONE Championship that is allowing Muay Thai and other combat sports to shine on its platform.

Muay Thai requires strength, technique, endurance, and a lot of heart. For some, the love of the sport runs so deep that they choose to pursue it as a career. However, like any profession, being a pro Muay Thai fighter has its pros and cons.

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PRO: You get paid to do what you love.

One of the biggest pros of being a professional Muay Thai fighter is that you get to make a living doing what you love. You get to train and compete in a sport that you are passionate about, and you get paid to do it. For many fighters, this is a dream come true. This is especially true of regions where amateur Muay Thai (unpaid with full/partial gear requirements) fighters often “pay to play”.

CON: The money isn’t livable.

The reality is that the money you make as a professional Muay Thai fighter isn’t always enough to sustain you. And it certainly does not financially justify all the hours put into a single fight. Even if you’re at the very top of the sport, it can be difficult to make a living wage from fighting alone. This means that you may need to find additional work (most work another job) or rely on sponsorships to make ends meet.

PRO: You don’t have to wear protective gear (aside from gloves) during your fights.

Another pro of being a professional Muay Thai fighter is that you don’t have to wear a lot of protective gear during your fights. Unlike in other combat sports, you don’t need to wear headgear or shin guards, which can make you feel more free and agile in the ring.

CON: Any injuries sustained from fighting are your responsibility to bear long term – financially and otherwise.

This lack of protective gear also means that any injuries you sustain during a fight are your responsibility to bear. This can be financially and emotionally difficult, as injuries sustained in the ring can have long-term consequences. Fight promotions do not provide long-term care for CTE and other conditions that result from fighting.

Photo by Chris Liverani

PRO: The potential of getting more and better sponsorships opens up.

As you gain more success in the sport, the potential for sponsorships and endorsement deals opens up. This can provide an additional source of income and help you build a personal brand as a fighter.

CON: You’re judged harshly by viewers if you don’t fight “enough” or if you lose certain fights.

Professional Muay Thai fighters face a significant amount of pressure to perform well in their matches from fans, friends/family, gamblers, and/or coaches and teammates. They’re judged by fans and viewers who expect them to fight frequently and win every match. Losing a high-profile match can also lead to harsh criticism and even loss of sponsorships.

PRO: There’s a lot of fulfillment. In the work, in the grind, and in where you’re currently standing.

For many professional Muay Thai fighters, there’s a lot of fulfillment in the work, the grind, and in where they are currently standing in their career. The feeling of training hard, putting in the work, and seeing the results can be extremely rewarding.

CON: It’s very easy to lose sense of who you are, how to listen to your body, and how to balance yourself as a person with your life outside of fighting.

Despite the fulfillment and excitement of being a professional fighter, it’s essential not to lose sight of who you are as a person outside of fighting. It’s easy to become consumed by the sport, which can lead to burnout, physical and mental exhaustion, and difficulty maintaining relationships outside of the sport.

PRO: You can share your wealth of knowledge and experience with people during and after your fight career.

As a professional fighter, you acquire a wealth of knowledge and experience that you can share with others. This includes training techniques, nutrition advice, and life lessons learned through the sport via coaching, teaching seminars, or owning a gym.

CON: Only a few mistakes can seriously set you back (and may even cost you your career).

Whether it’s a poorly executed technique, a bad performance in the ring, or even an offhand comment made in an interview, any misstep can have serious consequences. Fighters have sustained serious injuries from training or fighting, and some of these mistakes could be indirectly related, such as poor nutrition or bad weight-cutting techniques.

Becoming a professional Muay Thai fighter can be a highly rewarding experience, but it’s not without its challenges. While the opportunity to share your knowledge and experience with others can be incredibly fulfilling, it’s important to be aware of the financial and physical risks that come with the sport. Ultimately, it’s up to each individual to decide if the rewards outweigh the risks.

If you want an in-depth guide to training in Thailand, I’ve got just the thing.

Fighter, social media manager, content creator and writer. Currently training and fighting full time in Bangkok. Originally from NYC.

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