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What happens at the end of a fighters career?

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I understand that Thais fight from an extremely young age and that they pretty much live and breathe fighting for a good 10+ years. That will burn anyone in any craft out.

My question is what are the details that lead to a fighters end? Do they get career ending injuries or pains? What are typical injuries?

Do they go on losing streaks and are deemed not capable of competing at the highest level anymore? Do they quit and walk out the gym and never come back? What happens?

We know Namkabuan and Dieselnoi retired due to lack of competition. But what about Hippy, Karuhat, Kaensak, Chamuekpet, Attachai, etc? What made them stop long before their physical age peaks?

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We've not heard of career ending injuries, actually. I think a large measure of retirement is that these fighters have been fighting for more than a decade, and there is a kind of sense that it is just work that you'd like to quit. Yes, there is fame at the top of the game. but there is also the sense that fighters are kind of low-class workers, grinding. They do not carry esteem across the culture. I think Thais also have a very quick "old man" setting, when viewing fighters. Fighters, after their peak fame often just start training much less rigorously. They start drinking more, feel that they can get along in fights just based on their IQ. Everything just slows down, not just physically, but also emotionally, I suspect.

Chamuakpet though fought a LONG time. I think he fought into his 30s, at a very high stadium championship level, if I recall.

You can hear a little bit about the slow down in Sylvie's Interview with Namkabuan (turn on English subtitles):


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A number of the fighters we interview talk about lack of opponents, the lower frequency of fights makes training and cutting weight much more difficult, an overall feeling that they're "done" in the sense of just not feeling as strong or willing to go through the intense fatigue and work that's required to be a top fighter; some get distracted after reaching a top level - Kaensak was Fighter of the Year for 2 years in a row, then started losing at a high rate just after. I asked him why and he said he had a girlfriend and spent all his time with her rather than focused on training (usually this is a soft implication to a fighter becoming sexually active, as this whole men-have-to-abstain-in-order-to-have-power belief is STRONG here). Some just lose the passion. Most I've talked to talk about just being tired. If they're at the top level, even in their mid or late 20s they're facing rising stars in their late teens or early 20s; that's hard. It's pretty crazy that Suk fought into his 50s and Wichannoi and Chamuakpet were downright old men, retiring in their 30s. Saenchai is a fogie by Muay Thai standards.

If we're talking about women it's a completely different story. Yes, lack of opponents but from a much, much smaller pool. Hormones change and the body changes. Women retire much earlier. Some go to school to get a career so they can support their families because there's no such thing as a female fighter who is earning what even mid-level male fighters earn. Women have children pretty young here (male fighters also start families but that's obviously a different process). Lommanee is the oldest female fighter (Thai) I can think of, at 31. Sawsing at 24 is unusual, for sure... and a mother as well.

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