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Sylvie von Duuglas-Ittu

A Unifying Meeting of Phuket Muay Thai Gyms: Coordination for the Promotion Muay Thai Fighting and Tourism

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As a bit of background, Muay Thai promotions are going on in Thailand but they are very limited. The Bangkok promoters, namely Petchyindee and Giatpetch, are having their biggest shows in Buriram (Isaan) as Bangkok was until recently completely shut down. Entertainment promotions like Muay Hardcore and Superchamp (what Sylvie calls "Channel 8" if you listen to our Muay Thai Bones podcast) relocated from a Bangkok night market to Phuket right around the time Thailand implemented the "Phuket Sandbox" as a soft reopening to international tourism. Num Nui is the head of the Singpatong Gym on Phuket, as well as the promoter at the Patong Stadium (one of two major stadia on Phuket), and currently hosts the Channel 8 shows in his stadium. He also appears to be the head of this new coalition to unify and coordinate on Phuket. I jokingly called him the "Sia Boat of the South" to Kevin this morning (Sia Boat is the head of Petchyindee Gym, a legacy to one of the biggest promoters from the Golden Age, and more or less the self-appointed ambassador for Muay Thai right now).

So all that is to say that Phuket is a bit of a hot-spot for Muay Thai right now, as it has permissions that most other parts of Thailand do not (due to the Sandbox) and is hosting weekly shows that are widely viewed around the world. Yesterday there was a meeting on Phuket between a huge number of gyms, mostly a hybrid of Muay Thai tourism and fighter gym, meaning their main business is not producing fighters but they do, in fact, have some fighters. It's interesting that part of this meeting was to encourage gyms to work together and even establish standards (both in training, hiring of trainers, fees, etc) among gyms to - it's not stated but I imagine the only inference - mitigate competition between them. Gyms on Phuket are hugely competitive with one another, from poaching trainers to competing for customers. So, it's a big ask to have them start coordinating.

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So yesterday there was this big meeting with all these Phuket gyms in attendance: Venum, Sinbi, Powerhouse, Phuket Fight Club, Singpatong, Sit Muatwian, Oleydong, Eagle Muay Thai, Sutai, Rawai, Phuketsing, Lamai, Phanna, Tiger, Maximum, Koh Muay Thai, Chalamkhao, Nawa, Suragit, Big Ben, Jay Power Roof, Revolution (formerly Sitsongpeenong), Petch P.T.O, and Phuket Top Team.

The meeting notes are as follows:

1) Discussion of promoting Hardcore and Superchamp ("Entertainment") as well as 5 round Muay Thai "online" (no audience is yet allowed).

2) Working to benefit boxers for working together, including awarding camps "bonus money" every 3 months as incentive to produce televised fighters, winning fights, etc.

3) Num Nui (head of Singpatong Gym and Patong Boxing Stadium) affirmed his experience in both promoting Muay Thai shows as well as producing fighters (he is responsible for western stars like Damian Alamos, Rafi Bohic, and recently Mathias). He encouraged everyone to work together under the aim of producing "fun" fights (this word in Thai means fun to watch, exciting, entertaining, etc) and told everyone that if he makes any mistakes he encourages anyone and everyone to come talk to him. He assured everyone that this committee is not exclusive in the sense that fighters have to notify any head of the group if they have a promotion elsewhere (this is a common practice among promotions, to more or less "own" their fighters against competing promotions, without actually signing any kind of contract). He also said everyone can relax as the aim of the new promotion of shows is without gambling.

4) If any member of this group of gyms feels that referees are acting/ruling unfairly or disagree with judging, they are welcome to approach the committee,

5) They intend to make a referee/judge's focus on striking as the main factor in scoring, as well as a "diligent" fighter (meaning they don't give up, pedal backwards, hesitate or become lazy if they have the lead). Interestingly, in their point about fights being "fun" and entertaining to watch, they distinctly make the point that folks who do not know "how to watch Muay Thai" (meaning they aren't familiar with scoring or the sport's nuances) should still find the fights fun to watch. The audience should feel comfortable and "not stressed" in watching the fight. This resembles the new Entertainment Muay Thai scoring aesthetic which typifies 3 round fights.

6) A secondary emphasis on gyms not having to notify the committee if their fighters have fights on other shows; again saying anyone is free to come talk about anything, any time.

7) Num Nui makes an interesting point here that I recently noted in something Karuhat said to me, he distinguishes a difference between a kaimuay (Muay Thai camp) and a gym. The former produces fighters as their main focus, the latter is a business and has "international benefits." He states, however, that this committee is aimed at building both fighters and gyms. He says that when a gym produces good fighters, who fight on TV in "fun to watch" bouts, it will promote international business coming to the camp "automatically." He says this is a way to promote and improve Muay Thai, to advertise internationally through televised Muay Thai, both "entertainment" and 5 round shows.

This meeting was held on November 14, 2021.

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These sorts of unifying meetings are happening at this time, coverage of a scoring unification meeting:

 

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Such an interesting political development in Muay Thai. Covid has put so much economic pressure on Muay Thai it has forced customary ways of doing business into new forms. Phuket kind of lost out its privileged position as THE fighter's destination, something they held a few years ago but seemed to lose out some of that to Chiang Mai in the North. With the sandbox advantage and the rise of Channel 8 fights on the island, it seems so smart to band together and make something of this momentum. Phuket seems poised to reach for something higher. I love that there is an interest in developing the kaimuay dimension of fighter production, and that 5 round fights are not just falling away to 3 round Entertainment Muay Thai.

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