When you fight in Thailand, you will encounter people from all walks of life. Some people are part time fighters who fight when they go on vacation, while others are full-time fighters living in Thailand for years.
If you meet enough fighters in Thailand, you will start seeing similarities among fighters who come from various backgrounds.
The following is a tongue and cheek look at some of the different foreign fighters you will see in Thailand. Please keep in mind that the categories are not mutually exclusive. Some fighters may fit into multiple categories.
#1 – The Bucket List Fighter
This is the guy who beats up a taxi driver in Bangla Stadium and then calls it quits after he is 1-0, retiring undefeated.
He has a typical list of cliche things to do on his bucket list like hiking the Himalayas, climbing (aka taking a camel ride up) Mount Kilimanjaro, skydiving, bungee jumping and of course, having a “real” Muay Thai fight.
You will typically hear phrases like, “life is too short to have regrets” and “YOLO” being said over and over. For the Bucket list fighter, life is all about trying to do as many things as you can, so you can brag about how amazing your life is to others around you.
When they tell their friends about their fight, they will say how they overcame great odds and knocked out a professional fighter from Thailand who had 300+ fights. When asked to see the evidence, they will make an excuse as to why the video is not available, not wanting people to see the overweight tuk tuk they beat up.
Occasionally, bucket list fighters will run into the reality of not taking Muay Thai seriously. When the stars align, these guys end up facing real fighters and get beat up.
Their goal is to check off an item on their bucket list. Once they finish fighting, they usually stop training altogether and do something else.
#2 – The Social Media Fighter
The social media fighter can be found flexing their muscles or posing in front of a mirror with as little clothing as possible.
These fighters want everyone to know how ripped they are and know how to pose for the camera.
Trained in the morning? Better Instagram that.
Ran 10 km? Make sure you share that also.
Feeling ripped after training? Hit that share button because the world needs to see those six pack abs.
Social media fighters are professional image crafters. They know how to strike the perfect pose, and know how to work the camera.
The social media fighter will post inspirational quotes that have been copied and pasted from inspirationalquotes.com (that website doesn’t exist in case you want to use it too).
To the average person not living in Thailand, the social media fighter has an amazing life that is amazing……….right? However, when you dig a little deeper, they are doing the same thing everyone else is doing around them.
While every fighter should have a social media page to gain exposure and potential sponsorships, the social media fighter has become obsessed with image crafting and do a lot more posting, then actual training.
#3 – The Muay Thai Enthusiast
The enthusiast is the Muay Thai nerd.
This is the guy who studies fights, follows many Thai fighters, and is obsessed with all things Muay Thai. They don’t have the hunger to be a full-time fighter or a champion; they just love the sport. They don’t fight because they want to make a career out of it, they fight because they want to improve their game.
They don’t want to be a full-time fighter; they just want to fight to keep on improving their game.
They try to make a trip to Thailand every year to have a fight or two. Some of these guys are pretty damn good, even though they have only had a handful of fights. They train hard and take the sport seriously.
They typically work full time at another job but dedicate their free time to trying to improve their Muay Thai game.
#4 – The ‘Broke’ Fighter
I’m pretty sure most long term fighters have fallen into this category at some point in their lives.
Unless you have some rich dad who is taking care of the bills or you worked on the oil rigs for the past few years, you will probably struggle with money.
If low-level UFC fighters barely scrape enough money to survive, imagine how hard it is for Muay Thai fighters getting paid in Thai wages.
Fighting in Thailand pays very little. The best paying organizations like Max Muay Thai might pay you around $500 per fight if you are good, which won’t even cover your monthly expenses.
Additionally, some people come from countries that have low wages, which means it is harder to save up before coming to Thailand.
While most people will leave Thailand when they run out of money and come back when they save up more money, these fighters will fight tooth and nail to avoid going home.
They are willing to do whatever it takes to stay in Thailand, even if it means hitting up all their friends for financial support.
They often have to fight injured because they literally can’t afford to take any time off. They either fight or don’t eat.
#5. The ‘Too Big To Fight in Thailand’ Guy
There is a shortage of skilled heavier fighters in Thailand. The most competitive weight divisions in the top stadiums range between 115-140 lbs (52-63 kg). If a local Thai fighter is above 160 pounds, they are probably out of shape.
Large foreigner fighters tend to have a massive advantage when they fight in Thailand. Since there are almost no Thai fighters their size, they will typically have a 10-30 lb advantage over every opponent they face. This can result in a lot of KO wins being accumulated.
Occasionally, they might end up fight someone their size, but that is pretty rare. Big foreigners, can clean up the ranks because there is very little competition. Unless you fight in a place like Phuket, where there are a lot of other bigger foreigners training and fighting, you will typically have a huge advantage fighting in Thailand.
Some big fighters are quite skilled, but you need to fight on the larger promotions to get matched up with some of these foreigners.
#6 – The Dreamer
These are the people who move down to Thailand to become professional fighters, until they realize what being a fighter in Thailand is actually like.
These guys often have unrealistic expectations of trying to get 15-20 fights in a year, without accounting for injuries, sickness, and even fatigue.
Dreamers usually get hit with reality, after their first few injuries and a couple hard losses. After a few months of hard training and fighting, they will realize that fighting in Thailand is not as easy as they thought it would be.
Most people who come to Thailand have a little bit of the dreamer in them, and that’s a good thing.
Unfortunately, dreamers who stay in Thailand too long, often end up becoming a little bit jaded with Thailand. This is why it’s nice to go back home for prolonged periods of time, so you can really appreciate what Thailand has to offer, and not get jaded.
#7 – The Eastern European
These are the fighters who have a non-Muay Thai background and can be found populating a lot of the MMA camps. They tend to be from Eastern Europe and fight very aggressively, throwing a lot of power behind their punches.
These are the guys who knock out other students in sparring and don’t have an off switch. They tend to be pretty stalky and are pretty tough looking guys.
They can do well in the ring because they are natural fighters. They fight in the different Muay Thai or Kickboxing organizations around Thailand and Asia.
#8 – The Lazy Fighter
These are the fighters who want to be good but don’t understand the work you have to put in to become good. They are always making excuses as to why they missed training and are “overtrained” over 50% of the time.
If you followed their social media accounts, you would think that they trained like a beast. However, if you see them in training, you will notice them taking it easy half the time, showing up late, and skipping their runs.
They tend to walk around with another “injury” and do not have what it takes to make it to the top. They can be decent fighters and win fights, but they typically lose the hard battles and the ones that count.
When trainers realize they are dealing with a lazy fighter, they will not care about that fighter. These fighters are often a bit delusional and don’t realize they are lazy. They think people are out to get them and are always making excuses for everything.
They win and lose, but most importantly they are lazy. They never reach their true potential because they don’t have what it takes to put in the hard work necessary to make it to the top.
#9 – The Bullied Into Fighting Guy
This is the guy who didn’t want to fight, but his Thai trainer kept on telling him, “you fight and win 100%.” After saying “no thank you” countless times, this guy finally succumbs to the pressure and takes a fight.
Leading up to the fight, this guy is miserable. He doesn’t want to be fighting, but he also doesn’t want to disappoint his trainer who he feels is looking out for his best interests.
He doesn’t want to be fighting, but he also doesn’t want to disappoint his trainer and drop out of the fight. He is stuck between a rock and a hard place.
While his trainer might be looking out for him, there is a good chance his Thai trainer doesn’t give a damn about him. The reality is that trainers have a financial incentive to get their students to fight, which is why you see so many guys fighting who shouldn’t be in the ring.
They do not understand why someone wouldn’t want to fight, even if they are not very good. These guys are typically the first people to quit in the ring because they didn’t want to be in there in the first place.
As a rule of thumb, never let someone pressure you into fighting, no matter what they tell you. Fight because you want to fight.
#10 – The Fighter on Holiday
These are the fighters who take a holiday to Thailand to fight. They work full time, and Muay Thai is their passion that they love doing in their free time. The holiday fighter lives the entire year working their 9-5 job, counting down the days until their next trip to Thailand.
Similar to the Muay Thai fanatic, the holiday fighter is obsessed with Muay Thai. These fighters would be able to go to a high level if they had the time to dedicate themselves to training full time.
A lot of holiday fighters used to fight full time but had careers or family tie them down to a regular job. Just because they can’t fight full time anymore, isn’t going to stop them from still competing when they visit Thailand.
#11 – The Sand Bagger
Sandbagging Definition: Competing in a skill-bracket or being ranked lower than one is deemed capable of. (In Muay Thai it usually occurs when a fighter lies about their fight experience, or don’t mention they have any amateur fights to get a fight against someone with less experience.)
The first time I witnessed someone sandbagging, it was obvious from the start of the first round who was going to win the fight. The guy who was sandbagging was a Kickboxing champion who told the trainers it was his first fight. While technically it might have been his first Muay Thai fight, he failed to mention the 30 Kickboxing fights he had under his belt.
You can probably imagine what happened to the young kid having his first fight against this experience Kickboxer. If you guessed that he get knocked out in round one, you would be correct.
The only reason I found out the Kickboxer was a sandbagging, was because someone recognized the Kickboxer from his home country and knew his Kickboxing record.
Every once in a while you will have a fighter with years of experience, come to Thailand and tell people they have no fight experience when in reality they have lots of experience.
They impress a lot of people because they look vicious knocking out whatever unlucky foreigner got matched up against them.
Someone who is sandbagging usually gets away with a few easy knockouts, before the promoters put them in the ring with someone who is actually their skill level.
#12. The Lifer
These are the long-term foreigners who fight in Thailand just because they love fighting. They typically don’t have the skills to beat the best guys, but they are solid fighters and can hold their own against the most competition.
The lifer doesn’t have quit in them. They fight because they love the sport and love fighting. These guys are typically missing a lot of teeth and can be seen with a massive smile on their face everytime they step in the ring.
These fighters are good gauges to see how good a fighter is. If a new fighter enters the scene, they might put them up against a lifer to see how well they do.
#13. The Guy Who Should Retire
If you live in Thailand, it is easy to get lost. Months, turn into years, which can quickly turn into a decade. The downside of fighting for too long is that some people end up taking a lot of damage over the years.
Some fighters who have been knocked out so many times, they are at risk of getting seriously injured if they continue. While these fighters should hang up the gloves, they are usually stuck in self-denial, thinking they have more left in the tank.
While you have to respect their dedication and commitment to the sport, sometimes hanging up the gloves are the best thing a fighter can do.
These fighters have usually suffered a few bad knockouts, and don’t have the chin to take hard punches anymore. I know a few fighters like this, and it is quite sad. Whenever they fight, it is a coin toss whether they suffer another serious knockout or not.
Note* If you keep getting knocked out in fights, it is important to realize that maybe your brain is telling you it is time to hand up the gloves.
#14 – The ‘Numbers Game’ Fighter
I’ve met a few people over the years who only care about racking up a large number of fights. They don’t care about trying to become a champion. They want to fight as often as possible.
These guys remind me of the guys who try to sleep with as many women as possible, wearing their number with a badge of honor. For these fighters, fighting is all about quantity over quality.
Some fighters rack up fights against a bunch of tuk-tuk drivers so that they can increase the number of fights they have.
In Thailand, it is easy to rack up a lot of fights. If you want to fight often, you can. Experienced foreigners in Thailand who have been fighting for a few years will have between 30-100 fights, depending on how active they are.
Getting fight experience is a good thing, but some fighters are solely focused on the numbers, instead of actually trying to improve their game. I’ve seen some fighters with 30 fights, who look terrible in the ring. These guys are usually much larger than most of their opponents, and beat up a lot of Thais half their size.
#15 – The Hot Mess (Crazy)
Mental illness affects millions of people around the world, and you will meet some fighters who might be missing a few screws in the head. These are the fighters who might seem normal on the surface, but if you get to know them they are absolutely crazy.
Usually, you add these people on Facebook, and suddenly you see them spouting off some ridiculous stuff you didn’t know was even possible. Every once in a while you will read a Facebook post, and wonder if this person is joking or are they bat shit crazy. Usually, it is the later.
Thailand is known to attract a lot of people who don’t fit in back home, so it is not surprising that some crazies end up in Thailand also.
If you discover a hot mess, try to keep your distance and avoid getting into their wrecking path. Usually, these people leave a path of destruction among people close to them, so you need to avoid these people at all costs.
#16 – The Hater
I think it is fair to say that a lot of fighters gossip about each other. Muay Thai is a pretty small community, and you will see a lot of hate being thrown in every direction. While some gossip is normal, the Hater takes gossiping to a whole new level.
Haters feel very insecure about themselves, and need to put other fighters down to make themselves feel better. They usually hate other fighters in their weight class because they feel threatened by them. If two fighters are fighting the same people, watch out for the gossip between them.
Usually, shit talkers will smile and be friendly to your face, but the moment you walk away they will say how your last fight was garbage, and that your technique is terrible. Female fighters probably experience the most haters, because the divisions are small and all of the fighters usually fight the same opponents.
The best way to spot a hater is to see how a person talks about other fighters at their gym they are supposed to be supportive to. If someone is talking trash about their teammates in front of you, you can bet they will talk bad about you when you leave.
Avoid the hater and don’t get involved with their drama. Focus on your training and ignore all the gossip, rumors, and hate that gets spread from different fighters.
#17 – The Fighter Who Lost His Way
This category is for the young single guys, who come to Thailand looking to become a fighter, but end up leaving as a sex tourist.
While these guys have great intentions of being a fighter, they have no control over their vices. They usually start off strong in training and fighting, but eventually, the bar girls, partying, alcohol, drugs, and nightlife start to consume them.
They often go through a cycle of falling off the band wagon, pulling themselves up again, and then falling off again.
If you have an addictive personality and find it hard to control your impulses, Thailand can be a dangerous place.
#18 – The Muay Thai Pro
The final category of fighter at the elite foreigners fighting full time in Thailand. These are the guys who are at the top of the game and are fighting the best competition. They have stopped fighting average guys a while ago and only fight the best.
To help understand the difference between a Muay Thai Pro and the other fighters on this list, this dialogue from the movie 300 can help explain:
In the following scene, King Leonidas army of 300 Spartans, met up with Arcadian soldiers who were numbered in the thousands. The Arcadian army leader (who brought thousands of men), asked King Leonidas (300 soldiers) why he didn’t bring as many soldiers as the Arcadians, and this was his reply:
King Leonidas: You there, what is your profession?
Free Greek-Potter: I am a potter… sir.
King Leonidas: [points to another soldier] And you, Arcadian, what is your profession?
Free Greek-Sculptor: Sculptor, sir.
King Leonidas: Sculptor.
[turns to a third soldier]
King Leonidas: You?
Free Greek-Blacksmith: Blacksmith.
King Leonidas: [turns back shouting] SPARTANS! What is YOUR profession?
Spartans: HA-OOH! HA-OOH! HA-OOH!
King Leonidas: [turning to Daxos] You see, old friend? I brought more soldiers than you did!
For the Muay Thai Pros, fighting is not a hobby. It is their profession.
They are the Spartans of Muay Thai. They live, breathe, and fight. Training 6-8 hours a day, they often live in Thailand for years, training and fighting.
These are the 1-3% of foreigner fighters who are at an elite level in the sport. They are the foreigners who are giving the Thai champions a run for their money. They have usually been fighting for years, and have a load of experience under their belt.
They are the elite fighters in Thailand.
These are the foreigners who dedicate their lives to the sport and move to Thailand to fight on a regular basis. The only time a Muay Thai Pro takes time off training is when they are injured, otherwise, they are training.
The professionals are fighting because this is the career path they have chosen. They see Muay Thai as their life; it is not a phase or a hobby.
They want to be champions, and they train like champions.
The List Could Go On
There are so many fighters you will encounter in Thailand, and it is hard to categorize every one of them. As long as you are doing what you want to be doing, that is all that matters.
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