When the people think about Thailand, they often associate the country with elephants, beaches, and sex shows. Thailand is a complex country that deserves much more than to be boiled down to three things (that are, more often than not, nothing more than tourist traps). The same could be said about Muay Thai. The thought of Muay Thai can bring up pieces of information that people associate with the national sport of Thailand. Often over-generalized, much of this information is either outdated, passed down from one misinformed person to the next, or simply untrue. Let’s bust some common myths people believe about Muay Thai fighters in Thailand.
Myth #1: Thai Fighters Eat Very Little
Because Thailand is considered a third-world country, people have their preconceived notions of what locals may look like. And everyone in the Muay Thai community have seen the photos of skinny kids training at a gym and teenagers with little muscle mass fighting in the stadiums. But the logic of equating someone thin to mean they’re starving has a misstep in it. On the contrary, fighters are encouraged to eat a lot so they have the strength and energy to keep up with the hours of training they have to endure. While it’s true that most camps feed their fighters only two meals a day (with snacking between the meals), they are not portion controlling by any means. Camps understand the importance of fueling their fighters so they can be taken to the next level in training, so food is not something that is skimped on.
Myth #2: Thai Fighters Don’t Cut Weight
Riding off the misconceptions from Myth #1, many think Thai fighters don’t cut weight. Outside of Thailand, people are expected to cut a lot of weight because they “hold” more weight, or tend to have more to lose (and the logic is that Thai fighters are the opposite, and therefore don’t cut weight). While not all fights require fighters to weigh in, for the shows that do, fighters cut anywhere from 3-8 kilograms, depending on their fighting weight. This is even the case for stadium fights where they have same day weigh-ins: check weight in the morning and fight in the afternoon or evening.
Like anywhere else, fighters in Thailand try to get the supposed-upper hand by cutting weight. Weights are recorded down to the gram at weigh-ins and this affects the gambling odds. There are no weight allowances in Thailand. Fighters who fail to make weight get their purses deducted.
Myth #3: Thai Fighters Don’t Know How to Punch
This gross over-generalization was not true during the 80’s and 90’s (the “Golden Era” of Muay Thai) and it’s certainly not true today. Do kicks take precedence due to the scoring system? Yes. But that doesn’t mean a majority of Thai fighters don’t know how to box. Some of the most well-known fights from that era were made famous by aggressive fighting styles that were common during that time, and muay mat was certainly one of them. Sagat Petchyindee, Samart Payakaroon, Lakhin Wassandasit, and Jongsanan Fairtex are just a few fighters from the Golden Era that had wildly successful Muay Thai careers and tried their hands at professional boxing (and some had much success at an international level).
Some of the more modern muay mat include Pakorn PK Saenchai, Pornsanae Sitmonchai, Rodtang Jitmuangnon, Kulabdam Sor.Jor.Piek-U-Thai, Stamp Fairtex, and Dangkongfah Jaruesonoi. Even fighters that aren’t considered muay mat have knockout power with their hands, such as Saenchai. With more foreigners entering the Muay Thai scene and more Thai fighters entering the international scene (such as ONE Championship), camps in Thailand are solidifying the importance of using hands in fights. More entertainment shows popping up in Thailand has also favored the exciting aggressiveness of muay mat fighters, such as Muay Hardcore. Many bigger camps now have a boxing coach on staff to help give their fighters an edge over their competition.
Myth #4: Thai Fighters are Uneducated
“Fighters come from poor areas where they have to work to help their families, and give up going to school to do so. And therefore are uneducated.” While this is true to a degree and true to a certain point in time, there are a good amount of fighters that hold university degrees and/or take courses alongside training.
It is also not uncommon for universities to have a Muay Thai team. Krungthep Thonburi had several excellent female fighters studying and fighting under the university name until they graduated just a few years ago. Saosukhothai, Petchchompoo, Phettapee, Petchbenjaa… just to name a few.
Myth #5: All Thai Fighters Have 100+ Fights and Fight Like Saenchai
“I went to Thailand to train, fought a Thai, and won!” We’ve all heard this coming out from someone’s mouth at some point or another. Someone being Thai does not automatically make them an excellent nor experienced fighter. There are plenty of casual fighters in the circuit that go to school and fight every now and then for some extra pocket money. These people do not train full time and are usually not in good shape. Yes, the famous fighters have well over 70, 100, and, some, 200, fights. But unless you yourself are extremely experienced and have been in the Thailand scene for a while yourself, you are not going to be fighting someone that level. Therefore, beating someone who does not make training their priority in life (while you’ve been training during your entire trip) is really nothing to brag about.
Myth #6: There are Only Men in the Scene
When people think, see, or hear anything about Thai fighters, it is usually men that come to mind. Saenchai. Buakaw. Sitthichai. Superbon. Rodtang. Ask anyone to name three female Thai fighters, and they probably have never even heard of one. How about Chomannee? Saosing? Pornpan? Supergirl? Duangdawnoi?
While there’s a glass ceiling for female fighters, it is entirely untrue to say that they are absent from the scene. The top female fighters regularly make the news and bring extra attention to every show they’re on, whether it’s televised or not.
There are world champions that are women. There are stadium champions that are women. And they deserve more recognition, opportunities, and equal pay to their male counterparts. The most popular Muay Thai media outlets rarely mention women fighters and market much of their material towards men. This is one of the goals of this blog – to close the gap of information and the gap of disparity. If you would like to support this effort, please consider becoming a donor on Patreon. With your support, high quality content can continued to be delivered consistently.