Mobile Ad 320x100 NEW

Fighting in Thailand – The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly


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.

The Good

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 easy 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 your 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.

The Bad

fighting in thailand

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 everyday. 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.

The Ugly

The reason the stadium is packed is because all of the gamblers who take up a huge portion of the stadium.

The reason the stadium is packed with gamblers looking to place bets on the fights.

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 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 bet 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!

About Author

In 2011, Stephen decided to move to Thailand in search of 'real' Muay Thai. After training MMA for 5 years, he wanted to focus solely on his standup striking. After gaining a few years of experience in the ring, he decided to start Muay Thai Pros with his brother Ben, to share their experiences from the land of Muay Thai. You can follow Stephen on Instagram or read about his Muay Thai journey HERE.



    Great post STEVE!
    I was recently in Thailand and experienced the pressure of trainers constantly asking me to fight after 2 days of being there. Best training of my life was in Thailand.

    • Glad you like the article John. Dealing with the pressure to fight is something that every guy will have to face who travels to Thailand in decent shape. If you plan on fighting in Thailand it’s great, if not, it’s best to say NO without giving them hope. At least the amazing training can make up for everything!

    • There are a number of great camps for beginners all around Thailand. You can’t get wrong with somewhere touristy like Phuket, Koh Samui, or Chiang Mai. Find a gym in a location that you want to stay and you’ll have no problems getting good training. Best of luck.


    I fought back in 2011 and it was an amazing experience. Though I have trained in Thailand on 4 separate occasions I was only comfortable enough once I reached a camp which I felt had my best interests in mind that I agreed to fight and it was one of the best moments of my life after winning a fight against a very tough Thai opponent. Although my camp had not told me of my opponents record prior to the fight because they didnt want to scare me (30+fights, which is still low for Thai standards), they had confidence in me and the work I put in. It came together nicely with a 2nd round TKO. Everything on this post was spot on, good job! Definitely make sure you are in a camp that has your best interests in mind, and be humble enough to know when youre out of your element.

    • Well said Shane. As long as you are comfortable in your training environment it is all good. Having a trainer that cares about you is essential if you plan on fighting. Thanks for the comment.


    I had a go in Phuket a few years ago, I wasn’t ready but I volunteered as I wanted a go.
    The guy was bigger than me even though I am 6 foot, he told me after he had had 55 fights, he was a French guy of Arab descent, and he was able to get a good workout in on me 🙂

    I just couldn’t close the distance and I was backed down every time he lifted that front foot, and he knew that and kept me inactive with it…he wasn’t a very aggressive fighter himself and being bigger, he knew I have hands because he saw me on the pads before (which is surely a mistake). He just stood outside and kicked my legs, they went unchecked by me, my own fault, after the fourth round I couldn’t stand on my legs anymore, I tried to make it to the 5th but they had the longest 4th round in the history of man…amongst a crowd of laughter and Boos I called it off.
    On the way home I was told how he could have head kicked, I never said being so dejected but I wanted him to try and head kick as I could maybe then get inside but whatever man… I was even told my boxing was terrible which – well I sparred boxing at that gym and that wouldn’t be my assesment relative to them…to be honest I would have rather fought someone who could have put me away as it would have been less drawn out and embarrassing, the first 2 rounds were alright but that’s forgotten…one experienced gym guy told me I shouldn’t have been in with that guy, he was right but most were just critical and unrealistic, 1st fight vs 55 fights and the 55 fight guy is bigger, it’s fair to look bad in that situation I think….
    I’d still recommend Thailand though, I just think it’s a lot about size and range, that whole thing could have gone different, it could have been someone else, and I could have stuck with it…Coulda woulda shoulda.. So have a go if you fancy, you’ll be alright. I had some bad female trouble in Thailand, you’ve got to watch out for that but I’m telling you there is no watching out for that… but that’s another story.

Leave A Reply