Jump to content

MTG: The Curious Case Of “The Phantom Casual Fan Offensive” in Muay Thai and Kickboxing


Recommended Posts

MTG: The Curious Case Of “The Phantom Casual Fan Offensive” in Muay Thai and Kickboxing

Interesting article about growing casual fans of muay thai in the west.

I became a casual muay thai fan via feminism and women's empowerment. I stumbled across a bjj blog, Jiu Jiu's BJJ Blog. Started reading that, she linked to Sylvie's blog, 8limbs.us and the rest is history. I've also started following MMA. I'm not particularly interested in any of the male fighters though. Came for the bad ass women, stayed for the bad ass women. 

I'm the kind of bad fan that isn't gonna make anyone any money though. I do my fight viewing via youtube/reddit gifs. I don't buy PPVs or merch. I do feel slightly guilty about that but I'm not hardcore enough to need to see a fight live. Especially since most fight cards only have one women's match which is what I'm interested in.

 

 

 

 
 
  • Like 4
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yeah, the thing he talks about: promotions lack fighters with fierce personalities. They don't show the personalities.

On one hand, the thing I love about Muay Thai is the respect and control of emotions. On the other hand - yeah this is exactly what prevents the best fighters to be recognizable for their personalities. 

I admit the drama the MMA circle is creating really draws attention, but sometimes I feel disgusted by hearing how top fighters bad-mouth each other. So I'm kinda in-between. I want Muay Thai to be better known, but I don't want the "morality" to go down the drain. 

I came to watch MMA when I learned about the UFC The Ultimate Fighter Season 20 with all girls on board :) I liked Gina Carano and Ronda Rousey before, for being pioneers in the MMA arena, but I started following some fighters after I watched the series ;)

I don't really watch Muay Thai fights...I'm a bad fan. I prefer training :)

  • Like 4
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I hate the ridiculous posturing and manufactured grudge matches of MMA. Although, I found Joanna Jedzrejczyk and her pasta necklaces pretty funny. I think she's my new favorite MMA fighter. 

Some day I will get up the courage to try muay thai out for myself but today is not that day.

I agree that having a story/personality behind a fighter is important, although I can't stand reality television so the only parts of TUF I watched were the fight replays.

Having said that, I wish I could find a way to watch the  Enfusion reality series that Iman Barlow was in.

I mildly follow Angela Hill because I know she and Sylvie fought as amateurs. It's interesting to see how wildly their careers diverged. I ran across a hi-light reel from Angela the other day that had a few quick flashes from their fight. Back when the fights happened Angela and her camp wouldn't let Sylvie post the full fights on youtube.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I dont really mind being a fan of a niche sport. The only way it affects me is that instead of talking about it with my friends IRL I talk about it with my friends from the internet. Very few of my friends are into sports anyways, so it wouldnt be much different if it was any other sport. The only time I get a bit disappointed is when I get into something so niche that the internet doesnt have enough like minds for me to find. I have yet to find another fan of watching Shuai jiao.  :down:

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Kevin and I talk about this quite often. It's strange and, at times, frustrating for me because we recognize that the fan-base in the west is largely the Keyboard Warriors but that's just reality. You can't hand-pick who's supporting the game; in Thailand it's gamblers, which Thailand has been bitching about for years now.  But my thumb also really isn't in the pulse of the western audience - I just don't get it. I can't watch shows like Glory, Max or Thai Fight, which people seem to love; I shake my head in disbelief at performances that "the internet" is positively salivating over, like Buakaw's latest ventures or western fighters/fights people seem to love. Yes, we want the sport to spread and grow; but there seems to be a disconnect in what aspects of that sport/game/culture are going to proliferate.

Maybe like how the Germans really love David Hasselhoff or something. You can't say someone's enjoyment is "wrong," but it's just hard to understand. But then there's the other side, where it's someone geeking out over the staccato of the second violin section in an overture and everyone else is thinking, "I can't really hear it."

  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think Charlie Hustle got this right, and he got it wrong. The UFC took off because it tapped into both the absurdist passion of Pro Wrestling and the toe-to-toe tough man combat of western boxing. Muay Thai really has none of that. Muay Thai can't become the standup version of the UFC. It isn't what it is. I do think though that it won't grow if you don't know the fighters. Too many fighters hide their tape, hide their personalities, let gyms and promotions do their speaking for them. The one thing that always sells is human stories, people doing something they dream. But western Muay Thai fighters are too busy...more or less...pecking at other fighters and gyms on Facebook and elsewhere, hiding their tape so they can boast about unseen accomplishments, or inflate minor records by not being studied. They should be busy telling their story, and telling the story of other fighters too. The pie is WAY too small to be fighting over the tiny pieces of attention that anyone is getting. Grow the pie. There is no other way.

Promotionally Muay Thai should be emphasizing it's Thai-ness (yes, it's exotic qualities, that's how "Kung Fu" grew in popular culture) and extolling the lives of western Muay Thai fighters.

  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Part 2  says the answer is drama, drama and more drama. 

 

For example, there is bad blood between California’s Combat Sports Academy (CSA) who happen to be very capable and effective self promoters, and the Chasteen/Earley brothers of Best Muay Thai in Arizona that went 100% ignored by anyone with a voice to speak to the casual fan. From a marketing standpoint, TALK about a missed opportunity!

At Lion Fight 18, CSA’s Eddie Abasolo fought Best Muay Thai’s Damien Earley and was disqualified after an [accidental or intentional depending on who you love more] illegal elbow to the back of the head. From there trash talking ensued on social media between both camps. It was a decently interesting affair; nothing earth shattering but it had potential to pay-off later.

I can't think of anything more boring this this. Squabbling gyms? Ugh. People bitching in social media? If this is what "saves" Muay Thai in the West, let it die.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I definitely agree about the drama- The only reason I actually knew this McGregor vs. Mendes fight was happening in the first place was all the hype that popped up on social media and other websites about McGregor and his (for lack of a better word) shit-talking.

I think that Muay Thai and MMA do also draw difference audiences though. MMA seems to embody a whole lot of aggression, people want to see these people go at each other like animals sometimes. It's completely opposite with Muay Thai in Thailand, where the point is to stay calm under duress.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

 

Squabbling gyms? Ugh. People bitching in social media? If this is what "saves" Muay Thai in the West, let it die.

I hate this idea, too. It's unfortunate that such a large portion of the Muay Thai fan base consists of the 'bro' crowd, who lap this stuff up. As much as I can see his point that it would help promotion in the West, it's definitely not something I'd like to see and certainly not something I can imagine happening in Thailand. In fact, I think it would defeat the whole point of the sport. The fact that it doesn't have this bullshit is part of why a lot of us love it so much. I'm with Sylvie in that I can't watch most of these new, Westernised Muay Thai shows like Max, Thai Fight, etc. I've never even bothered to watch a Glory show. For me, they have no appeal, so I disagree with his idea that 'the snobby 1%' will be there no matter what. 

Yeah, the thing he talks about: promotions lack fighters with fierce personalities. They don't show the personalities. 

This is something that Ronnie Green has been telling me constantly, ever since I met him last year. He also hates the 'tough guy' aspect of Western combat sports and desperately wants to find a way to show the stories and personalities of Thai fighters to the rest of the world. It's something that he's really passionate about. I agree that this is something Thailand is missing.

 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I can't think of anything more boring this this. Squabbling gyms? Ugh. People bitching in social media? If this is what "saves" Muay Thai in the West, let it die.

This is the problem though, majority of combat sport fans are people that haven't trained, so they don't understand the technical aspect and that's why they need the drama. In their mind if two people aren't trying to furiously knock each other out or insulting each other then it's just boring. I don't see how Muay Thai can grow if it keeps the calm, humble, and cultural aspects because the couch-potatoes don't want to see that, therefore it won't sell IMO. 

It's like the UFC you can tell roughly 90% of fans have no clue about mma because when the fight goes to the ground they don't see the technical aspect they just see two people lying down, and that's boring to them so they boo. 

I'm really crap at explaining and getting my point across but I remember Mayweather saying no one liked him or had heard of him when he was a humble fighter and as soon as he started talking shit, and became money Mayweather he was making hugeeeeee money. So that just portrays what the western combat fans want to see/what sells in the west.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Most Recent Topics

  • Latest Comments

    • Just very briefly I want to take up one of the most interesting aspects of the fighting art of Thailand's traditional Muay Thai, an aspect that really cues for me how I watch fights and weigh the skills of fighters. Managing distance. Many people watch "strikes" and look for "points", but there is an under-fabric to strikes, a kind of landscape of them, no less than how a topography will influence how a battle is fought between armies. Even the most practiced strikes rise and fall to opportunity, and in Muay Thai a significant determination of opportunity is distance. Above is a quick edit of Sylvie's last fight up in Buriram, bringing out all the significant moments of engagement, telling the story in about a minute. (The full fight should be up in a few weeks with Sylvie's commentary, as usual.) I'm going to start with Entertainment Muay Thai as presenting an negative can often be the best way to bring out a positive. Entertainment Muay Thai (and there are many versions of it, so we have to be very broad here), is largely principled by eliminating the importance of distance. What is sought, again being very broad, is a more or less continuous trading in the pocket. The quest is for an easy to follow, by the casual eye, "action". Everything is about the distance of the pocket. Setting up outside of the pocket can be regarded as anti-action (so, if you do, you should regularly charge into the pocket...and trade). And fighting through the pocket, to clinch range, is also devalued by very quick clinch breaks, scoring biases (changing traditional aesthetics). Clinch, which historically is featured in some of the most technical fighting of the sport, in Entertainment Muay Thai is more and more understood as a stall of the main goal. Pocket trading. Much of the art of Muay Thai is actually organized around all those distances that border "the pocket", controlling distance through length, or through grappling. In this fight Sylvie is giving up between 8-10 kgs (perhaps more than 20% of her body weight). Now, imagine it being fought under Entertainment aesthetics. What would it be if she just stood in the pocket, bit down, and just traded over and over with Phetnamwan? Would there be any point of such a fight? Yet, as the Golden Age legend Hippy Singmanee once said when criticizing hyper-aggressive, pocket-trading Entertainment Muay Thai, "Muay Thai is the art where small can beat big." Hippy was one of the most renown undersized fighters of the Golden Era. He knows of what he speaks. This fight, in the broad brush, illustrates some of that. More and more we've come to realize that as traditional Muay Thai evaporates slowly from the urban stadia, the only traditional Muay Thai still being regularly fought is in the provinces of the country. It is there that fights are scored in keeping with the art, and fighters retain the all around, multi-distance skills that make that art happen. Clinch is allowed to unfold. Narrative fight arcs are told as principle to scoring. Ryan, a knowledgeable commenter on Twitter and a very good writer on the sport, right away noticed how the ref let clinch flow. You can see some of our discussion there. I recall a conversation I overheard when attending the funeral of the legend Namkabuan in Nongki. It was the passing of one of the greatest who ever fought. During the day-before cremation a casual conversation arose between other legends of the sport, and very experienced news reporters, people who had been a part of it for decades. One of them insisted, Muay Thai no longer existed in Thailand. Others knowingly nodded their heads. But a Muay Siam reporter objected. "No...it still lives in the provinces." And the others agreed. It still was there. We in the English speaking world tend to think the substance of something is what has been presented to us. The Muay Thai of Bangkok is the real Muay Thai of Thailand because that is what we see...and, historically, many decades ago, it did represent the highest skills of the country. But what largely remains unseen is that more and more of the sport is being designed for our eyes. It is less and less for Thais, and more and more for "us", so we can become quite disconnected from what is real and authentic in a cultural, and even efficacy sense. There rhythms and values of provincial Muay Thai, as it is fought, coached and reffed, are part of the rich authenticity of the sport which falls into the shadows when we just look at what is being shown to "us". This fight, how it is fought, shows "the art of where small can beat big", and it shows why. It's through the control of distance. If you are small you just cannot stand at range. You either have to explore the bubble outside of the pocket, too far, or at its edges, and fight your way in to score...or, you collapse the pocket, smother the strikes, and possess the skill to control a much larger bodied opponent. Clinch, historically, is kryptonite to the striker. Muay Maat vs Muay Khao battles are legendary in the sport.  Classic. Who is going to impose the distance which is best for them? It's a battle of distances. And, for this reason, Muay Maat fighters of the past were not experts in trading in the pocket. They were experts in managing clinch fighters, or even high level clinch fighters themselves...and they were experts at hunting down evasive femeu counterfighters as well. Muay Maat fighters were strong. They had to have so many tools in their tool box. In versions of the sport where both fighters are forced to "stand and bang" repeatedly, we have been taken quite far from the glories of Thailand's Muay Thai fighters, and that is because Muay Thai is an art of distance control. This goes to a deeper point about the sport. It isn't really a "sport" in the International, rationalist idea of a sport. Muay Thai is culture. It is Thai culture. Thousands and thousands of fights occur on temple grounds, far from Western eyes. It has grown up within the culture, but also expressive of that culture. And it is a culture unto itself. The more we try to extract from this rich fabric some kind of abstract "rule set" and "collection of techniques" that can be used in other cultures, expressing their values, favoring their fighters, the more we lose the complex art of what Muay Thai is...and in the bigger sense move away from the value it has to the entire world. It's value is that it has a very highly developed perspective on distance management and on aggression. It has lessons upon lessons to teach in techniques of control and fight winning, woven into the DNA of its traditional aesthetics. And these techniques embody the values of the culture. It's all of one cloth. Sylvie has chosen the path less traveled. She's fought like no other Westerner in history (a record 271 times as a pro), and she has devoted herself to the lessor style, the art of Muay Khao and clinch fighting. There are very, very few women, even Thai women, who have seriously developed this branch of the art in the way that she has. And she's done it as a 100 lb fighter, taking on great size disparities as she fights. Because Muay Thai is "the art where small can beat big" there is a long tradition of great, dominant fighters fighting top fighters well above their weight, and developing their in style the capacity to beat them. Fighting up is Muay Thai. Sylvie's entire quest has been to value what may not even be commercially valued at this time, the aspects of the art which point to its greater meaning & capacity. The narrative of scoring, the control of distance, the management of striking through clinch, in the heritage of what it has been. I'm not saying that this is the only way to fight, or that Entertainment Muay Thai has no value for the art and sport. It's not, and it does. But, we should also be mindful of the completeness and complexity of Muay Thai, and the ways that those qualities can be put at risk, as the desire to internationalize it and foreign values become more and more part of its purpose. If we love what we discover when we come to Thailand, we should fight to preserve and embrace the roots of Muay Thai, and the honored aspects of the culture/s which produced it. photos: Khaendong, Buriram, Thailand (temple grounds)    
    • Hi, this might be out of the normal topic, but I thought you all might be interested in a book-- Children of the Neon Bamboo-- that has a really cool Martial Arts instructor character who set up an early Muy Thai gym south of Miami in the 1980s. He's a really cool character who drives the plot, and there historically accurate allusions to 1980s martial arts culture. However, the main thrust is more about nostalgia and friendships.    Can we do links? Childrenoftheneonbamboo.com Children of the Neon Bamboo: B. Glynn Kimmey: 9798988054115: Amazon.com: Movies & TV      
    • I really appreciate your wave patterns analogy; it applies to a lot of interactions. 
  • The Latest From Open Topics Forum

    • Hi, this might be out of the normal topic, but I thought you all might be interested in a book-- Children of the Neon Bamboo-- that has a really cool Martial Arts instructor character who set up an early Muy Thai gym south of Miami in the 1980s. He's a really cool character who drives the plot, and there historically accurate allusions to 1980s martial arts culture. However, the main thrust is more about nostalgia and friendships.    Can we do links? Childrenoftheneonbamboo.com Children of the Neon Bamboo: B. Glynn Kimmey: 9798988054115: Amazon.com: Movies & TV      
    • Davince Resolve is a great place to start. 
    • I see that this thread is from three years ago, and I hope your journey with Muay Thai and mental health has evolved positively during this time. It's fascinating to revisit these discussions and reflect on how our understanding of such topics can grow. The connection between training and mental health is intricate, as you've pointed out. Finding the right balance between pushing yourself and self-care is a continuous learning process. If you've been exploring various avenues for managing mood-related issues over these years, you might want to revisit the topic of mental health resources. One such resource is The UK Medical Cannabis Card, which can provide insights into alternative treatments.
    • Phetjeeja fought Anissa Meksen for a ONE FC interim atomweight kickboxing title 12/22/2023. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cu92S6-V5y0&ab_channel=ONEChampionship Fight starts at 45:08 Phetjeeja won on points. Not being able to clinch really handicapped her. I was afraid the ref was going to start deducting points for clinch fouls.   
    • Earlier this year I wrote a couple of sociology essays that dealt directly with Muay Thai, drawing on Sylvie's journalism and discussions on the podcast to do so. I thought I'd put them up here in case they were of any interest, rather than locking them away with the intention to perfectly rewrite them 'some day'. There's not really many novel insights of my own, rather it's more just pulling together existing literature with some of the von Duuglus-Ittu's work, which I think is criminally underutilised in academic discussions of MT. The first, 'Some meanings of muay' was written for an ideology/sosciology of knowledge paper, and is an overly long, somewhat grindy attempt to give a combined historical, institutional, and situated study of major cultural meanings of Muay Thai as a form of strength. The second paper, 'the fighter's heart' was written for a qualitative analysis course, and makes extensive use of interviews and podcast discussions to talk about some ways in which the gendered/sexed body is described/deployed within Muay Thai. There's plenty of issues with both, and they're not what I'd write today, and I'm learning to realise that's fine! some meanings of muay.docx The fighter's heart.docx
  • Forum Statistics

    • Total Topics
      1.3k
    • Total Posts
      10.9k
×
×
  • Create New...