There’s a lot going on below the surface when it comes to fighting. We all know about the important roles that coaches, refs and judges play in determining the outcome of fights, but most people don’t realize that the promoter is an important player in the fighting process.
The difference between a good matchup and a complete mismatch often comes down to the promoter. While your ego might believe that you can compete against anyone in the ring, that is simply not the case.
Skill, size, conditioning, fighting styles, mental toughness and experience all play important roles in determining who wins a fight. Unless you are a large foreigner who is too big for regular Thai fighters (75 kg+), there are plenty of fighters in Thailand who will beat you without breaking a sweat.
The promoter determines whether you get put in the ring with someone you are capable of beating or someone you have no hope in hell of beating.
The difference between a skilled fighter that you’ve never heard of and a fighter like Buakaw often comes down to the promoter. Buakaw’s manager had relationships with the K-1 promoter. This relationship allowed Buakaw to compete on the big shows and allowed him to blow up into a household name.
Even though Buakaw wasn’t the best fighter in Thailand, he quickly became the most famous Thai fighter in the world because of the exposure he received.
How the Promotion Business Works in Thailand
Promoters in Thailand are each connected to specific stadiums. A stadium like Lumpinee will have multiple (currently 14) promoters that each have a specific days marked into a calendar month that are designated for their shows. Throughout the month each promoter is responsible for lining up fighters to fight on their fight card.
The promoters have to pay the stadium a fee for renting the stadium and whatever profits they make from entrance admissions (GATE revenue) they can keep after they minus all their expenses from the fighter purses.
So if a show brings in 1 million baht revenue at the gate, they would have to pay for the stadium rental, fighter purses, plus whatever other miscellaneous expenses (medical fees) before they make a profit. In stadiums like Lumpinee or Rajadamnern, Thais pay an entrance fee (sometimes even free) that is typically 1/10 to 1/20 of what foreigners pay. This is why every promoter wants to attract tourists to watch their shows.
When a fighter starts fighting under a promoter, that fighter is typically tied to that specific promoter. This means that most of their fights will happen under that promoters banner. It doesn’t mean that they have to, but as long as the gym manager and promoter are under friendly terms, they will usually continue to fight for that promoter.
The top promoters have access to the best fighters to put on their shows. When you can feature the best fighters in Thailand on your shows, more people will watch the fights live, which will increase your gate revenue. So there is a correlation between quality of fights and gate revenue. When you watch Lumpinee or Rajadamnern fights on the slow nights, the stadiums are often empty and the fights are usually just up and coming young fighters.
Gym Connections with Promoters
In Thailand every gym is connected with specific promoters. Your gym could be connected with local promoters, Bangkok promoters or even international promoters. What often happens is a promoter will call up a gym manager and find which fighters they have available to fight.
All the local Boxing stadiums are connected to specific gyms in the local area. For example, fighters from Singpatong never fight in Bangla stadium, because their gym owner Num, is a promoter at Patong Boxing Stadium. This means that all Singpatong fighters always fight on his show in Patong Boxing Stadium.
Some gyms are better connected than others. If you train at a small gym that is owned by someone with very little connections, you will probably only be able to fight at the local stadiums. The more connected your gym manager/owner is, the more opportunities that you can have when it comes to competing.
If you want to fight in a specific stadium like Lumpinee or MAX Muay Thai, you have to train at a gym that has specific ties to those organizations.
If you train under a connected manager/gym owner, you will have access to better fights. This is how Damien Alamos was able to win the Lumpinee title. He wasn’t the best Thai fighter in Thailand at his weight category (not even close), but his gym manager had very good connections to a Lumpinee promoter that liked him. When a promoter likes you and your manager, you will be given opportunities that other fighters don’t have.
Your Relationship with the Promoter
While it is your gym manager/owner’s responsibility to deal with the promoters, it is important to understand the role that you play in the relationship with your promoter. Just because you don’t deal with a promoter directly, doesn’t mean you don’t have any impact on whether they like you or not.
A promoter who doesn’t like you may decide to match you up with someone you have no chance of beating. Logically, it is probably a good idea to make sure that you are on good terms with whatever promoter you are fighting for.
How can you get your promoter to like you? It often comes down to your performance and your reliability.
Because promoters are in the business of entertainment, they love fighters who put on a good show. If you put on exciting fights, then the promoter will want to continue working with you. Promoters love fighters who show a lot of heart and mental toughness because the crowds are always entertained whenever they fight.
It doesn’t matter if you win or lose fights, what is important is that you put in the effort. If you gain a reputation as an entertaining fighter with a strong heart, then you will have promoters lined up to put you on their shows. Fighters who put on entertaining fights make the promoter look good because they are the match makers.
Another key aspect is being reliable. Promoters love fighters who are willing to accept fights under short notice, or even take some matchups that are not exactly perfect. They love having fighters that they are always willing to fight whenever and whoever.
Local Stadium Promoters Will Take Anyone
When you fight in the local stadiums designed for tourists, promoters needs to fill up their fight shows with foreign fighters. For some reason tourists find it more entertaining to see a white guy in the ring, than smaller Thai fighters from Thailand. This means that no matter how good or bad you are, you will be asked to fight on the shows.
Promoters will pay the gym per fighter they put on the show, and the gyms will then take a cut and give you the rest of the money. The more fighters a gym can put on a show, the more money they make. This is why Thai gyms are always eager to get their fighters on the local shows.
The top promoters are much more careful about choosing quality matchups to make their shows entertaining. If you want to fight on a big show like Channel 7, you need to have the right connections and be a pretty damn good fighter.
How to Upset Your Promoter
Given the fact that your promoter plays an important role in the outcome of the fight, it would make sense that you don’t want to piss off your promoter. Here are a few things you can do to ensure that your promoter doesn’t like you.
1. Constantly Getting Injured or Sick Before a Fight
The one thing that causes promoters the most headaches are fighters who pull out last minutes before fights. Now, we all understand that injuries happen and that is acceptable. However, some fighters develop a reputation for getting ‘sick’ or ‘hurt’ just a few days or a week before a fight.
Even if this is all true and you aren’t making it up, this will irritate promoters because they have to look for new people to put on their fight card. Last second withdrawals often lead to shitty fight matchups because promoters have to find anyone to fill your place.
While injuries and sickness do happen and there are legit reasons for pulling out of a fight, Thai’s put a lot of stock into your ‘Heart’ as a fighter. In Thailand, most Thai fighters will often fight regardless of how they feel. So even though foreigners are given more leeway, if you make a regular habit of pulling out of fights last minute your promoter will not like you.
2. Pulling Out When You See Your Opponent
If you plan on fighting in Thailand you have to expect to fight heavier, more experienced fighters from time to time. There simply isn’t enough fighters at your exact weight unless you are very experienced fighting in a bigger show.
I’ve seen some fighters get cold feet when they see their opponent and pull out of the fight last second. Usually the guy is a few kg’s heavier and they ask for a last second change. If you back out of a fight without a good reason, you are pretty much leaving your promoter stuck between a rock and a hard place.
There may be legit reasons for not taking a fight (such as the opponent being 10+ kilos bigger than you or much more experienced), however, sometimes fighters will quit because someone is a few pounds heavier. This really upsets the promoter.
3. Your gym gets in bad graces with a promoter
If for some reason a promoter doesn’t like you, your trainer or your gym manager, you may be on the receiving end of a bad matchup. This isn’t a guarantee, but if there is a bad matchup to happen it will probably happen to you.
A gym can upset a promoter if a lot of guys from that gym regularly pull out of matches. A promoter may ‘take it out on a gym’ by setting up fights where that gym’s fighters get beaten up bad to make a point to the Gym owner. Most likely what happens in this scenario is your gym won’t even put you in the ring and will work with a different promoter.
Benefits of Training at Connected Gyms
If you plan on fighting in Thailand there are benefits to training at gyms that have good connections with promoters. Not only can you get put on good fight cards, promoters are more likely to give you better matchups if they don’t want to piss off your gym manager.
If you are a beginner who is looking to have your first few fights, then you don’t have to worry too much about your promoter. However, if fighting is your career then the right connections can be the difference between getting the title shot you want and nobody knowing who you are.
Quite often the fighters you see on big promotions aren’t the best guys out there, they are simply the guys who are hooked up with the right gym and promoter.
Since it is the gym managers that are the ones who are communicating with the different promoters, it makes sense that training at a connected gym can greatly improve your chances of being well known and getting bigger fights.
This doesn’t mean you will have title shots handed to you, but it does at least give you the opportunity to fight for a title if you have the skill. An opportunity that many fighters will never get.