I was writing to female Muay Thai fighter Dalia Hosny, a veteran of fighting in Thailand (35 fights here), who was offering me very positive support and it made me think about how in some quarters people who aren’t too informed have taken to attacking me, my record and even my passion. No big deal, it comes with the territory, but as December has arrived and I’m closing in on 100 overall fights (and eventually my goal of 109 overall, which will be 100 fights in Thailand), it seems like a good moment to reflect on how much I’m fighting. If all my fights come through in December I will have fought more times in a month than I ever have before (7 times). And this month I’m due to fight some really good, top fighters including former WBC champion Loma (on the 9th) and a rematch against Cherry Sityodtong (on the 15th), as well as the very good fighters Chalaamlek Phetdaotaan (who I just beat on December 1st) and Payaksao Chor. Ekunsuk on the King’s Birthday (December 5th), not to mention unknown, wildcard opponents in Korat, Buriram and Surin. Some people seem think: nobody fights like this, there must be something funky going on.
my husband is big on graphs, he made this one showing how many fights I’ve had in each month since I arrived. The months where I have fought only once were when I had a broken nose, stitches or moved to Pattaya.
It’s true, nobody fights like this…and it’s also false. In fact lots of young Thais fight like this, but really no westerners do. There are a few reasons westerners don’t, some of which have to do Muay Thai gym tourism and western goal setting, length of stay in Thailand (not everyone gets to stay more than a few months), as well as how western fighters conceive of fighting. But fighting like this isn’t really seen as special or unique in Thailand. In fact, fighting like this often implies that you’re poor, or only a grinder. I’ve heard Phetjee Jaa’s brother Mawin put down for how many fights he has had in his 14 years (maybe over 200), as if he’s a junk fighter and has been burned out in his childhood rings (funny though, nobody says the same thing about his sister, despite her number of fights, which is probably around 170). In the generation before this one in Thailand, fighting like this was more common. Most of Saenchai’s 300 fights were not under big stadium spotlights, nor those of Sakmongkol’s 200+. They were in fields, temples and back rings.
For me, fighting like this just kind of gained its own momentum. When I came here I just wanted to fight “a lot” in order to reach 50 fights and I had a gym in Lanna Muay Thai that, once I proved that I meant what I said when I said I wanted to fight, just kept putting fights in front of me. I liked it that way. I didn’t think about who I was fighting, I just fought. I didn’t even know that I was eventually fighting world champions in the middle of nowhere at times. It was only when my opponents got too big (increasingly 8 kg more than I) that I started trying to get more control over who was matching me up, and was forced to change gyms. But I still really wanted to keep fighting, and fighting a lot.
Part of it was because I could. I trained incredibly hard so I developed a physical toughness and pain tolerance that just allowed me to bounce back from fights more and more easily. Fighting a lot also seemed to harden me so that I don’t even really feel dings after a tough 5 round fight these days. I realized from the start that I’m here for only a very short window of time – at first I thought it was all going to end in 6 months – and I wanted to get every single drop of Thailand I possibly could. I didn’t want to waste a single opportunity at a fight, or even a day of training in the gym. I love this country and I love Muay Thai and each and every fight or round of padwork felt precious to me; and in fact still is. If others object to the way I train (overtrain?!) or how much I fight, go right ahead and do things your way, work at your pace. In the words of Nas, “This is my level / fuck if it get you mad.” My pace is that I want every single second of Thailand and Muay Thai that I can possibly squeeze into my body.
A second part of why I fight as much as I can is that I came to Muay Thai late. I didn’t hit a bag until age 24, and though I fought sporadically as an amateur in America, I didn’t begin fighting seriously until age 28. I fight at a rate of a 12- or 13-year-old Thai boy because that’s basically where I am at as a fighter in terms of skill and development. Fighting like this is necessary, at least for me, so I can develop the quality of Muay Thai that I’ve always dreamed of having. And just because I can beat world rank level fighters it doesn’t mean that I’m where I want to be as a fighter – not even close. I’m fighting more than ever now because I’m getting better and better through fighting. But I’ve been doing this for only 2.5 years. I imagine that it takes about 5 years minimum of intense practiced experience like this to really get the depth of understanding that may be regarded as excellence. I’m only really half way there. I’m fighting like this because this is how I grow, this is how I improve to the greatest degree. This is how kids fight, and how kids develop. Make no mistake, 13-year-old kids all over Thailand are really good. In fact Phetjee Jaa, who I train with, is probably the best female fighter in the world, pound for pound, she’s been fighting heavily for 5 years. It is only part of the way there, a process, an education.
And partly why I’m fighting like this is to show that it can be done. This summer when we told the much respected Sifu McIness of WKO about my goal of fighting 100 fights in Thailand he frowned. We had moved down to Pattaya to specifically train with Sakmongkol at his gym. He kept trying to push the idea of pursuing belts onto me. I didn’t want belts. There are too many belts in Muay Thai. He objected, “Anyone can fight 100 fights.” But that’s the funny thing. We thought yes, anyone could do it and I do believe anyone can, but when we actually checked at who had done it we discovered that nobody really had. Some of fighting like this has been to show that it could be done, to present a living example that one could “fight like a Thai,” as they like to say and to open the door and lift the roof off of what is imaginable for westerners who come here to fight. I’ve repeatedly said, I’m nobody special, I’m not a special fighter and I don’t have extraordinary talent or ability. Sure, many other people could have done this, but nobody thought to do it. It just never seemed like something to focus on. (There is a fellow from New Zealand who aimed for a goal of and achieved 100 fights, Daniel Kerr, although not all of his 100 fights are in Thailand. And a fellow up north named Jovan Stojanovski who estimates he has around 110 fights in Thailand over many years. Interestingly, in my research I’ve also come across fellows who have claimed numbers exceeding 100, but in those cases the claims are contradicted by firm evidence and habits of exaggeration. This discovery made me realize it’s even more important to document the process, so that people can surpass it.) While “the Thais” were busy fighting like this all over the country, most westerners were honing their techniques, focusing on belts and special fights. Perhaps my focus is different because I’m someone who came into the sport later in life, without a lot of time to develop, and a crazy passion for pushing herself higher and higher along a focused path.
I can’t say what I will do after I reach 100 fights in Thailand, if I am fortunate enough to stay healthy and continue to be booked for fights at this rate, but I’m certainly not slowing down. Right now only finances are a major concern. I’m hoping beyond hope that we can find a way to stay two more years, until April 2017, and complete my 5 years of intense practice and experience in Thailand, and one day have the Muay Thai of which I have always dreamed. In that case fighting at a good rate I may have 200 fights in this beautiful country, as crazy as that sounds. When I first aimed for 50 fights it was because it seemed a reasonable challenge – big enough to fail, but Sylvie Charbonneau had done it before me. When I didn’t fail, I reached for the next number that seemed just shy of impossible and threw myself after it. These numbers are light-posts, the way when you’re out running and you choose a landmark in the distance to sprint to, once you reach it you don’t stand still; you choose another light-post. The numbers are important because they’re goals, because they put a handle on something abstract like the concept of “a lot.” But once I get there, which I have no doubt I will, it doesn’t mean I’ve arrived – I’m trying to be something, and that kind of accomplishment is hard to pin down as it’s always evolving.
You can find my Complete Fight Record here
A Map of all the places I have fought in Thailand below. A dimension of loving Muay Thai for me is that I want to fight all over the country. Often a fighter can get stuck in a gym and in a stadium or two and think that they have experienced the Muay Thai of Thailand in a definitive way. I love that I’ve been able to reach far out from my original gym and the few western-oriented stadia in Chiang Mai, fighting festival fights in the North and in Isaan, and I’m starting to reach fights in venues across Bangkok and in Korat as well. I want to fight like this because you really can’t know Muay Thai and it’s birthplace Thailand unless you do so. And the more you fight, the more you know. As I like to quote the famed American wrestler Dan Gable: “More is more”.
Lastly, my fight rate has gone up even higher in the last few months perhaps because I indeed asked people to support me to make fighting a great deal possible and the outpouring of support really spurred me on. I was given support and I’ve done exactly what I said I’d do…fight.
Thank you to my wonderful supporters on GoFundMe:
Minu Oh, Lisa Hearting, Wing Wong, Thomas Palmer, Andy Evangeli, Nell Geiser, Dustin Grant, Robyn Klenk, Pixi Pickthall, Khanomtom Muay Thai Tampa Fl, Karen Rihanna Lim, Adrienn Neset, Michael Regala, Dana Hoey, Rachel Knox, Augie Matias Beth Klenk.
Will KBRN UK, Cormac O’Síocháin, P-A Guillon, Andrew Viloria, Michael Ashe, Joe Miller, Meagan Brooks, Kurosch Saremi, Tony Le, Matt McCartney, Jeff Mazziotta, cynthiakoala, Walter Gouws, Michael Satumbaga, Tai Krueger, Christopher Chiu, Charlotte Stone, Matt Doerflinger, Jenny Prowse, Andrew Dearnley, Lisa Hedden, Mindy Cunningham, Matt Lucas, Michelle Garraway, Alice Friedman, Michael Meyer, Trini C, Dana Castillo, James Douglas, Richard Hart, Will Weisser, Radhika K, Holli Moncrieff, rosy Hayward, Khanomtom Muay Thai, Alexander Cunningham, jeanette yap, Belinda Miller, Jillian Bosserdet, Kate Simmons, jay c, Marie Porter, Cory Fundme, Eddie Garcia, Peter Le-baigue, Jen Gaines, Eh Paweena
and 29 additional sponsors who wished to remain anonymous.
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