When it comes to competing in Muay Thai, there is no better place than Thailand. You can literally walk into any gym and say you want to have a fight within a week and they will find a promoter to line you up with a fight. This doesn’t mean you will have an evenly matched fight or opponent, but you will be fighting in the ring in 2 days. Don’t expect to be fighting in a premier stadium like Lumpinee or Ratchadamnoen, but expect a fight somewhere.
No other country in the world can you line up a fight within a few days. In most western countries you will have to know for months in advance to set up a fight with an even matchup. While there are many good things about fighting in Thailand, there are definitely some bad ones. Here is the good, the bad, and the ugly on fighting in Thailand.
Great Place to Train before your Fight – Thailand is a great place to train and fight. The system is setup so you can train at any local gym and they will set you up with a fight with a local promoter. It is an easily built system that gets people in and out of the ring in a constant revolving door. If you plan on fighting while you are in Thailand, you will be able to fight. Matchups aside, there are plenty of good opponents they can line up for you, so don’t ever think you’re too good to fight.
Full Muay Thai Rules – Another great part about fighting in Thailand is you get to use full thai rules. Many organizations don’t allow elbows without elbow pads, which takes away a huge weapon in muay thai. The clinching is pretty much non-existent in most western countries as well. In Thailand, the refs will allow you to work in the clinch without breaking you up after 3 seconds. This is a benefit to fighters who have a clinch style of fighting.
Scoring System Rewards Skill – You will also find that the scoring system in Thailand rewards skilled fighters over aggression. While in most western countries the punches score the same as kicks, in Thailand, one clean kick is worth more than a bunch of punches. This means a fighter that is only walking forward with punches will not be rewarded for the fight. You need to ensure that you are going to knock your opponent out if you are only going for hands only.
Pressure to Fight all the Time – The trainers can be pushy when it comes to muay thai fights. In fact, they can be downright annoying. Expect to hear statements like “when you fight?” or “you fight next week?” if you are in good shape and training every day. While the Thai’s will fight on a bi-weekly or monthly basis if they can, I like to get some good R & R before I step into the ring after a fight – one of the consequences of not fighting for a living.
Obviously some fighters don’t have a problem fighting every 3-4 weeks in Thailand, especially if they want to rack up as many fights as possible. It depends on your personal goals while you are training.
Fight Mismatches – While Thailand is a great place to fight, it isn’t the best place for matchups. If you are having your first fight in Thailand, there is a good chance the matchup won’t be the best. You are more likely to get a better matchup as a beginner in a western country, where they will find someone roughly your weight and height to fight.
The promoters will try their best to get you a good matchup, however, it can be challenging for promoters who put on fight cards 3 times a week. Don’t be surprised if you end up fighting a tuk tuk driver or a thai that is a lot smaller than you. This happens all the time in many of the stadiums.
The promoters do their best to try and find close matchups of skill and size. If they can put on an exciting fight, they will. They want to entertain the audience as much as anyone.
Complete mismatches are not uncommon in Thailand. While it’s OK if you are fighting a guy worse than you, when you get thrown in the ring against a Thai trainer with hundreds of fights, you’re going to have issues. I have seen many complete mismatches where guys get beaten up without standing a chance against their opponent. These are the worst fights to watch because you know what is going to happen the moment the fighters touch gloves.
If you are a high level Muay Thai fighter than you don’t have to worry about mismatches, its the beginners/intermediate level guys that should be concerned before they step into the ring.
Lack of Concern for Fighters – Besides the complete mismatches that take place, there is not the greatest concern for fighter’s health and safety after a fight. On numerous occasions I have witnessed Thai fighters get knocked out cold, having to be carried out of the ring, only to see the same fighter in the ring again a week later being beaten up again. There is no control over a fighters health and safety. Fortunately as a foreigner fighting in Thailand, if you get injured or knocked out in a fight you have access to resources that a lot of Thai’s don’t.
Gambling and Corruption – Another ugly side of fighting in Thailand is the gambling and corruption that goes on behind the scenes. I’ve seen a few Muay Thai fights where winners are rewarded with a draw or a loss because of gambling behind the scenes. If too much betting is happening on one side they will sometimes manufacture a draw or a win out of thin air. The betting is what dictates and controls the fight scene in most stadiums. You don’t even need to look at the judges’ score cards at the end of the fight to know who won, just look at the gamblers.
Gambling and corruption are ingrained in most of the Muay Thai stadiums across Thailand.
While the gamblers make Muay Thai fights more exciting because of their enthusiasm for the fighter they place a bet on, it also takes away from the honesty of the sport. It’s quite common to see Thai boys slapped around after a fight if they lose a big bet for the gym. I’ve even seen one gym trainer slapping a boy after he was just KO’d in a fight because the gym bets a lot of money on him. The gambling side of things is the ugly side of Muay Thai. Yet, without the gamblers, the stadiums would be empty of locals, since it is what fuels the sport in Thailand.
Should You Fight?
Absolutely. Fighting in Thailand is something that everyone should experience at least once. If you are active in the sport, it is a great way to test yourself and your technique in the ring. Don’t be turned off by some of the negatives associated with fighting, if you are at a good gym with a good trainer, they will look out for you. The key is making sure you are ready to fight both physically and mentally. Find a trainer that cares about you and you won’t have anything to worry about when you are prepared to enter the ring.
Have you fought in Thailand before? I would love to hear your opinion on some of the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly on fighting in Thailand. Everybody has a different experience fighting in the land of smiles. Share your experience below!