Over the past decade there have been more and more families moving to Thailand in pursuit of Muay Thai. There are many benefits to growing up in Thailand, especially when it comes to pursuing Muay Thai.
One such family is Roberto Gallo Cassarino and is son Mathias. Since moving from Italy to Thailand, Mathias has fully integrated as a Thai fighter who speaks, reads and writes the language fluently. Besides adopting to the culture, Mathias has also won numerous world titles and beaten some big names in the sport.
Roberto and Mathias have become the de facto source of Muay Thai for Italians. They both created the Muay Farang brand name, a website and line of clothing that is very big among Italians.
Recently, this father son duo opened 7 Muay Thai gym to help share some of the knowledge that they learned over the past decade of living in Thailand.
In this interview with Roberto, he talks about why he decided to move to Thailand many years ago, what it takes to be a champion, and opening up a new gym in Thailand.
Roberto Gallo Cassarino Interview
Most people are familiar with your son Mathias, but not many people are familiar with the man behind his success (his father). When did you first fall in love with Muay Thai and what made you move to Thailand many years ago?
I traveled the first time to Thailand 30 years ago, and I already knew what Muay Thai was, and I was already passionate about it before arriving in Thailand. Back in the days, in Italy I was fighter Kick Boxing and was of the first in Italy to fight Savate (French Boxing), and as well one of the first to fall in love with Muay Thai but, unfortunately at the time there was no body training or fighting Muay Thai. Coming to Thailand every year, I occasionally helped out in Camps or small events and I always trained because back home I was doing a sedentary job (business man). The fact that Mathias started to fight at 12 yo and wanted to keep going was a good excuse to decide to leave my business in the hands of other managers and move the family to Thailand.
You’ve managed your son and many other Muay Thai fighters who have fought under the Muay Farang gym name, so i’m sure you have seen a lot of people win and lose in the ring. What are some qualities that you look for when you see foreign fighters preparing for fights. Can you predict how well your fighter will do based on how they are doing in training?
Firstly, Muay Farang is not a gym but many other things, between which a Team of fighters who often train in different gyms and has some associated camps in Thailand, the main one being ‘7 Muay Thai’.
Working and understanding foreign fighters is very hard. It saddens me to say this but most foreigners who come to the camp have big dreams when they talk but then they don’t have enough discipline to reach their goals.
What I look at in a fighter to have a career in Thailand is , firstly he/she has to start young and that he can take the physical and psychological pressure of training and fighting regularly in Thailand; but up to here I don’t think I said anything new. The secret lays on making your fighter understand that to beat Thai champions, who normally have much more experience, they have to learn to use their brain. Understanding the rules and how a fight is scored is fundamental, something that in 30 years of Thailand I haven’t seen explained to foreigners in any Thai camp.
Therefore, a big part of the work we do it in the gym on what tactic to use in the fight keeping in mind that, just as in the game of chess, every wrong move can make us fall back on the scorecards.
It’s often easy for me to understand if a fighter will lose his fight, because the big problem of the farang fighter is that he will end up fighting the way he likes instead of the way that the crowd, the judges and the gamblers like, being the last ones a very important part of Muay Thai in Thailand. In 70% percent of the times, if the fighter is well trained and they don’t change the opponent last minute and the fighter listens to the corner, I am quite sure we and win.
Your son Mathias and you both speak fluent Thai. How long did it take for you to learn how to speak Thai fluently? Do you recommend people who plan on live in Thailand learn Thai and where should they start learning? Is it possible to become fluent in a few years?
Mathias speaks fluent Thai because he learned it at school and he lived train and ate for years only with Thais, but I speak only “street” Thai. Fundamental is to learn to understand the language first, mostly what concerns the terms of Muay Thai. To bring fighters to victory it is important to understand everything the Thais says ringside (opponent team, gamblers, promoters etc). I tell you another secret, it’s better if the Thais don’t know you speak thai so you can listen to everything they say without them knowing.
It is important to know well all the Thai words used in a camp or stadium, it is very easy to learn them if you are alone with Thai experts for example, I suggest, to stay near the gamblers to understand more and more things.
When did you first create the Muay Farang team? How important has your MuayFarang.com been to the growth of your popularity among foreigners around the world?
Muay Farang Team was born by accident, because most Thais always told me I was lucky to have a son with talent, discipline, determination and courage, but that this was a rare case for a Farang. Seen that I am hard headed and I like to talk with facts, I started to work on other young boys, like Mathias, good and polite guys, who don’t normally fight on the street and bring them to fight at Lumpinee, like I did with Ginga at 19 yo and with Melo at 16 yo and others.
MuayFarang.com is very important but what really passionates the western audience is to know that some very young farang athletes are able to fight head to head with the thai champions in their homeland. Finally, the website is important but what made us famous are the accomplishments of our young guys on the most important rings of Bangkok. “Muay Farang” is the nickname that was given to Mathias by Thais when he was training in the camps.
About 7 Muay Thai Gym
Let’s talk about your new gym that you started with your son. Did you already run another gym before you opened up 7 Muay Thai or is this the first gym under your name? How did you come up with the name “7 Muay Thai? Does Mathias train at this gym or does he still train with Kem Sitsongpeenong at his new gym? Do you ever plan on having Mathias hold pads for foreigners at 7 Muay Thai?
I was helping running a gym 15 years ago in Koh Samui, and since then I was always collaborating with gyms I was training at in Thailand. In the last 2 years I was running a gym in Pattaya, but I was not the owner. ‘7’ is our recurring number, therefore 7 Muay Thai.
Mathias, since April, trains here full time and I don’t think Mathias will hold pads for foreigners but now he is only 22 and he is focused on his career.
7 Muay Thai gym is located near Koh Samet, which is a very popular tourist destination among people who live in Bangkok. Why didn’t you choose to open a gym in a tourist destination? I can imagine you have much more potential customers if you opened a gym in a big market like Chiang Mai, Phuket, Bangkok, or Koh Samui. How did you decide to choose your gym location?
Touristic destination are ideal for gyms that have a commercial goal. We chose a quiet destination because we want our fighters to have as less distractions as possible so they can focus on Muay Thai and use their free time to relax and enjoy what is real Thailand.
Me and Mathias we both love Muay Thai but also the country of Thailand for what it really is, for many years we were looking for a gym that would offer, other than a great training and good teachers, the possibility to enjoy the beach and Thailand’s nature. Another thing that we were looking for was a comfortable place to stay when training, a good and clean room and maybe a swimming pool to jump in after training. Since we did not find a place like this, we decided to open it ourselves.
We are doing everything to make ‘7 Muay Thai’ the camp we always dreamt of, even if it is hard to reach what we want but we are very focused. In summary, 7 Muay Thai wants to be able to compete with big Bangkok camps where champions are made, with the difference that outside the camp you don’t find cars and pollution but a nice environment of a quiet beach town without tourists. Our dream is when you open the door of the camp you feel like you are in camp in Bangkok but when you go out you find a nice white beach.
What are some things that set 7 Muay Thai gym apart from other Muay Thai gyms?
First of all, we teach how to use brain on the ring. Many foreigners don’t know how fights in Thailand are scored and many Thais don’t know how Kick Boxing fight are scored, therefore we teach scoring as one of the first things.
But most importantly is to teach ‘how’ to train differently for any different fight/opponent. Set the fight tactics and set a training program customized for each fighter. Example : Gery Bavetta, one of my fighters he prepared his last fight at Lumpinee in a different way. He is a natural aggressive fighter but I made him crazy making him training as a ‘fee meu’ (skill) fighter.
During the training he felt bad but then he won and was happy because he won on points and fought for the first time with a different style. We like to build a complete fighters, starting from the clinch to kicks and punches. We are not a camp with a single style of fighting each fight we use the style we think is best to win and this is what will set ‘7 Muay Thai’ apart from most of other Thai camps. For now we are not at 100% with the structure and with what I’m talking about, we need time.
The camp has been open only for 7 month and we already offer a very high training standard in a comfortable environment but the true differences will come soon, since it being a big project it will take its time to realize to fully, therefore you will see the difference and there will be a lot.
Imagine to be in one of the big Bangkok gyms who everyone know for the quality of the training but also for the modern structure but with resort style resort with swimming pool, near the beach.
We took as an example the best camps of Bangkok for what concerns training methods and for the organization of the team of trainers, which is made by an Ajarn with experience with more years on his back and a group of young good level trainers.
For what concerns welcoming and comfort we bought an already existing resort, therefore built to satisfy the customers needs and than we put a modern structure. We only started 7 months ago and slowly we are attracting young foreign fighters who we think have a future in Muay Thai, and we will work on them to replicate Mathias’ success and hopefully even more.
All our trainers are chosen young because other than holding pads they also clinch and spar with us everyday. Soon the new area with 3 rings will be finished and we will have space to invest even more in buying some very young Thai fighters with a big future.
In your logo for 7 Muay Thai gym, your quote is “Real Muay Thai.” In your opinion, what is real Muay Thai and what is fake Muay Thai? How do you distinguish between a “good” gym and a “bad” one?
There are no good or bad gyms, but every gym aims to a different target. Muay Thai is sport that is spreading exponentially, therefore, there are always more people who want to “taste” Muay Thai without getting too tired and without fighting, for this target commercial camps are great. Great are also camps in Bangkok or in Isaan that work solely on forming fighters.
Our camp aims to foreigners who, on the other hand, want to learn the art of Muay Thai to be able to fight and sometimes even try and challenge Thai champions in the big stadiums; but, one thing is a foreigner wanting to fight at high level and other is having to sleep on the floor or eating street food everyday. Furthermore, I learned that to bring a fighter to success he/she has to start very young, a comfortable environment might help to convince western parents to send their child to come and try have a career in Thailand.
What are some challenges that you have experienced since opening up your new gym? What is the hardest part of owning a gym? Is it hard to manage Thai employees who work for you?
I am lucky to have a very smart Thai business partner and also good Thai manager that takes care of alot of things, and she is even more efficient than me since I am 50 yo and sometimes I forget things and also sometimes I prefer focusing on Muay Thai (training myself and following the fighters) rather than office work. It might sound strange but the biggest challenges are with foreigners, especially the ones from your own country.
Training and Building a Champion
What is your opinion on the Thai style of training? Do you incorporate any Western training methods into your new gym or is it all traditional Thai style of training?
During the years I learned to understand and to like Thai style training methods and surely if you want to do real Muay Thai you have to follow the Thai method. The limit of Thai style training is in some cases the one of ‘quantity’. Most Thais think: the more you do the better and stronger you get, for example, if you do 100 kicks you become better therefore if you do 1000 you become 10 times better.
At 7 Muay Thai we try to contain this trend. For what concerns Thai fighters who I want to bring to fight in Europe, obviously I put in some good boxing training with a Western Boxing trainer who will start to in the new and bigger part of the gym.
While for physical training we exchange opinions with European experts, between which Dr. Giuseppe Cimadoro, who teaches Sport Science in London.
If someone wants to become a Muay Thai champion like your son Mathias. What is some advice you would give them? What are some key ingredients that you look for inside of a fighter to determine how well they will do in the sport of Muay Thai?
As I already said: start very young, do not speak too much, train constantly and learn to dream!
More than trying to see who will succeed, I try to discard who gives me opposite signals. For example, youngsters who just started and already speak like they know Muay Thai better than the Thais, the ones who have as much talent as excuses to not train, the too aggressive ones that don’t know how to use their brain and the ones who train and fight only to put a picture of social networks and than give up at the first obstacle.
For my experience, the ones who start announcing their big future success, are the ones who stop first, while the ones who are first to arrive and last to leave the gym attract more my attention.
Thank you for the interview and I wish you good luck with 7 Muay Thai and your son’s future success.
Thank you for interviewing me, your website and FB page has some very interesting contents!
Too bad you don’t write in Italian 🙂
For those of you who haven’t seen Roberto’s son Mathias fight, here is a nice video highlight of him below. You can find out more information about their gym that is located 2 hours outside of bangkok on their website 7 Muay Thai