I hate watching Thai Fight.
Every time I sit in front of the TV and tune into a Thai fight event I am always left feeling disappointed. I’m not sure whether it’s the annoying commercials that are constantly on repeat, the bastardized rule set that takes away the essence of real Muay Thai or the fact that it’s the same Thai fighters over and over, but something about Thai fight really makes me annoyed. (It’s probably all of the above).
Last night there was a special Thai Fight that was put on for the first time in London. Going against my gut instinct that said, “do not watch that garbage,” I decided I would give THAI FIGHT one more chance. It had been over a year since I last watched a show and maybe they had improved.
Now, the last time I watched a Thai Fight event I got so annoyed I wrote this post about what you can expect to see when you watch Thai fight. Unfortunately, not much has changed in the past few years. The fighters are almost exactly the same as before, the format is the same, except there is only one big difference, the results are different.
Instead of the Super Star cast of Thai fighter coming in and smashing their opponent’s, most of the Thai fighters looked like out of shape Thai trainers you can find in any Muay Thai gym in Thailand. While they still have the high level talent, they are all aging fighters (In Muay Thai terms).
In fact, I’ve never seen the hard hitting Saiyok look so out of shape in his life. He has the same gut that many of the Thai trainers have when they are retired (a sign of very little training).
Now this is a very common practice for fighters in their late 20s and 30s. Guys who are at the tale end of the career end up becoming lazy and fighting foreigners without training hard. Given their huge amount of experience, they can usually use skill to beat foreigners in the 5 round rule set.
I see this first hand in Thailand whenever there is a trainer who is also fighting. The Thai trainers will put minimal effort into training, maybe run a bit for a week, clinch for a week, and still work full time holding pads the day up until the fight.
If they fight a tough opponent who is good, they will put more effort into training because they know they’ll need the cardio. But for the most part Thai fighters who are no longer fighting in Lumpinee or Rajadamnern become lazy because they can rely on their experience to win.
The difference is that THAI FIGHT utilizes the bastardized Muay Thai rule set. Like Max Muay Thai they try to encourage knockouts and try to feature fighters who are all about moving forward with aggression. Their MO is to show off “aggressive Thais” dominating their foreign opponents.
While this has definitely worked in the past, it doesn’t anymore.
When I say they aren’t training, I mean they aren’t putting in their type of hard work they did when they were fighting in the Lumpinee circuits in Thailand. I’m sure they still come to the gym and hit pads for a few weeks, but it would be a fraction of the amount of work they did when they are in their prime.
Except for Saenchai who always messes around with his opponents, every single Thai fighter stalked forward trying to hunt for the highlight reel knockout, which never materialized (except one mismatch fight).
Besides the competition being better (the UK fighters were game to fight), one of the key factors to being effective as an aggressive fighter is cardio. Any good coach will tell you that if you want to be aggressive and go toe to toe with your opponent, you need to have a strong gas tank. Being able to sustain a high volume of powerful strikes is one of the best ways to put down an opponent.
Now if these Thai fighters were fighting bums then yes, they could get away without training and would easily smash their opponents. But they aren’t. The British fighters had much less experience, but they definitely were comfortable in the ring.
More and more foreigners are fighting in Thailand on a regular basis and gaining confidence that they can compete with Thais. So just because a Thai fighter has a name, doesn’t mean that name is going to intimidate their opponent anymore.
What about the Legend Saenchai?
Now logically you would think that adding Saenchai to any show would make it amazing. But your wrong.
If you’ve never seen Saenchai fight then watching him for the first time is a treat. I trained at a gym with him for a year when I first came to Thailand and he fights like he spars. He just toys with guys.
But even out of shape Saenchai toying with foreigners starts to get boring after you’ve seen it enough times. He literally gets paid to play around in the ring. He gets the occasional knockout, but he will just as easily cruise to a victory without much drama.
Saenchai is 36 years old and is passed his prime. His glory days are over (Sounds like Buakaw doesn’t it?). While he’s riding his fame among new fans who just realized he is a living Muay Thai legend, he is no longer the same fighter he was when he was younger.
Don’t get me wrong. Saenchai will beat every foreigner he faces in the Thai Fight format. 3 rounds of toying ensures he doesn’t have to dip into his gas tank for too long. However, if you put him in a 5 round fight with a good Thai opponent with high level clinching skills, he will lose every time.
This brings me to my final point.
Thai Fight is supposed to showcase the best Talent that Thailand has to offer, and it doesn’t.
When I turned on Thai Fight last night I was watching a bunch of high level fighters who used to be the best fighters in Thailand (I’m talking about the main Super Stars). They obviously don’t train hard anymore and have been surviving on all the skill that they banked over their years of fighting.
If Thai fight wants to stay relevant as an organization they need to stop using the same fighters in every show. With shows like Max and Super Muay Thai delivering on the knockouts and entertainment that casual fans want to see, I don’t see how Thai Fight is going to be around in the future unless they make major changes.
After watching THAI FIGHT London I can honestly say that is the last time i’ll watch it live. I’ll stick to the 2 minute highlight clips on YouTube.
Any Muay Thai event that puts on real fights with 5 rounds of action is much better than these 3 round shows that are manipulated for knockouts and aggression. I would rather watch a show like Rebellion Muay Thai that features some young talents and Australian fighters, than a bunch of Thai ‘Super Stars’ who have stopped training hard many years ago.