October 6, 2015 – Thapae Stadium, Chiang Mai – full fight video below
full fight video, above
Because my hand is still broken (although doing SO much better), I’m very diligent about having that side wrapped well for fights. So I sent some messages to Tor, with whom I trained at Lanna, and he agreed to come down and wrap my hands for the fight. Which was a good call, I tell you – he gave me an awesome professional wrap that he said is great for clinchers because it’s lightweight on the hands. Tor is a clinch fighter also; we are pretty close in our stitch counts, haha.
Walking into the stadium was kind of a trip. I was in Chiang Mai for about 2.5 years but it’s been almost a year and a half since we moved to Pattaya. So I’m surprised by how many people recognize me and remember me up there. It’s lovely, really. Some folks I don’t actually know from before, but they’ll come up to tell me they came to Chiang Mai because of my blog and are training at such-and-such gym or fighting their first fight soon. I love that. I was most happy to see this guy whose name I don’t actually know but he was the trainer of Poda (now called Tanadet Tor. Pran49) who was the first clinch fighter I ever knew personally. He was only 14 years old when I knew him and he would come to Lanna camp to clinch with some of our boys for practice; he was just incredible. Then this guy sold his contract to the gym in Bangkok that he’s at now and he’s been fighting at Rajadamnern and Lumpinee’s big shows. I always liked his trainer and his trainer has always been very supportive of me – so when I was walking into the stadium and saw him I got really excited and we had a quick chat about Poda/Tanadet. I didn’t really speak Thai back when I last saw this trainer, so it was cool to actually converse with him this time around.
As I was sitting on the mat before my corner arrived, this group of men were staring and talking about me. I recognized one as being a coach I’d seen many times and slowly it dawned on me he was my opponent’s coach. He came over and squeezed my arms, making faces about how strong they were. Another of the men was clearly freaking out about the small part of my chest tattoo that was visible in the shirt I was wearing. Just wait till I’m in my fight top, Buddy… you haven’t even seen my back yet! But one guy came right over to me and squatted down, telling me in Thai that the gamblers of Chiang Mai missed me (kit teung = to miss something/someone). He said they missed me because I fight with heart. As it was, my last fight in Pattaya was a technically okay fight but was lacking heart in my eyes. So if this experience with this gambler wasn’t a motivator toward fighting with heart tonight, I don’t know what is. It was pretty touching to be remembered like this; to be told that I left an impression on my old stomping grounds… it just meant a lot to me because I’ve earned that reputation from my years fighting in Chiang Mai. I haven’t had that chance in Pattaya, really. Largely because I haven’t fought in Pattaya very much and most of my fights require traveling to different areas, so my impression is small pockets here and there, rather than concentrated in location. But I can get there. I know I can build that kind of legacy again.
A woman I met online and who trained with Andy up at Hill Camp for a few months came by to see my fight, which was great because we finally got to meet in person. And a few young girls came and snapped pictures with me before the fight, without even saying a word to me. One, Nong Foam, sent the photo to me afterwards with the message in English, “I like you.” That was awesome. She’s a wicked little fighter in Chiang Mai right now.
Me and Nong Foam before the fight
I was the last fight of the night and when I climbed into the ring I heard some mutterings from the westerners in the crowd behind me. One guy was saying he was betting on my opponent because I seemed “too calm.” Alright. My last fight, which was in Pattaya, was a kind of embarrassment, so for this fight I just wanted to focus on energy and heart. I’d just started training this hop in the clinch that was working great on my oversized clinch partners in training, you can read about some of that training here, but I hadn’t implemented in fights yet. Den had been telling me for years to do this – he does it – but we never worked on it when I was training at Lanna and it’s up to me to remember and actually work on it for myself down in Pattaya. But damn… it works.
I started hopping in the clinch in round 1 and it freaked Baifern out. She’s a knee fighter – not so much a “clinch fighter,” but she’s tall so she gets a good grab in the clinch and then her knees are high and straight. We’ve fought a few times before and were 1-1 before this go around, she’s a good, solid 50-51 kg fighter in the North She didn’t know what to do about that hopping though. I put her on the ground early in the fight. I crushed her down to the floor from her neck, which is perfectly legal but I’ve never actually seen it before – anywhere. You can see a GIF of it my husband made here below.
Maybe she didn’t ever see it before either because she complained to the ref that it was a “back break” foul, but it’s not – I wasn’t clinching her back – and the ref ignored her protest.
Somewhere in round 2 I walked into one of her elbows while entering the clinch and opened up. I knew I was bleeding immediately and the blood was actually running into my eye a bit, but it was okay. In another round or so she got me with a real elbow – like one that was on purpose rather than me walking into her guard – and I got a second split in my eyebrow.
bloody between rounds
By this time I had a lot of blood running into my eye. It was easy enough to clear away but I think I had Vaseline on my lashes or something because I actually couldn’t see out of my left eye. I don’t think it was blood causing that though. The ref pulled me over to the doctor and I begged him to let me keep fighting. It was the fourth round, I was winning and I had to finish this fight. I’d be so pissed if it were stopped. But the doctor was awesome and let me keep fighting, after what seemed like the longest consideration possible. And back I went, chasing down Baifern.
In the corner before the final round Tor was telling me to stop kicking, stop doing anything other than knee. Just knee. So I went after her and actually got her down again in my own corner, maybe 15 seconds before the fight ended. After I did that I felt I should back off and just dance away my victory. I looked at my corner and Off – who broke my nose in training a few times when I was at Lanna but is a much cooler cat now – was motioning for me to go, go! I don’t know why I would listen to Off; if I didn’t have lizard-brain from being in the fight and could actually reason out a thought, I would have known better and followed my own instincts. I’ve had some fight experience by now and can generally follow my instincts. But so I chased her to the next corner and the fight ended. Those 15 seconds probably didn’t make or break the fight, but if you look to your corner and they tell you to go, that means to any judge who sees you do this sees that your corner believes you’re behind or that you have to score. It’s a subtle but important moment.
To my shock, Baifern was given the decision. I really don’t know how that happened. After the fight I considered it was maybe this final 15 second thing, but at about 4:00 AM my phone was blowing up with messages from Den, who arranged the fight for me but is in Scotland with his wife right now. He was furious about the decision – apparently there was a chat-room about the fight afterwards and he’d heard from multiple sources how bad the decision was, including both the promoter and the owner of the stadium, as well as gamblers. He wanted me to post the fight immediately so everyone could see. I asked him after he’d seen it if there was something I could have done to secure the victory, what he thought happened.
“You don’t have to do anything, you win,” he said. “Everybody know you win. I don’t know why the referee do like this,” he said. (In Thai the word for “judge” and “referee” is the same, so when he says referee in English he probably means the judges.)
I felt pretty good about my performance in the fight. I was sad to have been cut again because it meant I couldn’t fight 5 days later, which I was scheduled to do at the same stadium. Basically, I lost two fights at once; and I didn’t think I lost this fight. I don’t say that often – I’m not one to claim, “I was robbed!” as usually I can find something in the fight that explains the decision. This is maybe only the 2nd or 3rd time in my 115+ fights in Thailand where I felt the decision was a bad one. In this case, I don’t see where I lost. It was a bullshit decision. And despite knowing it was bullshit, it’s still a loss and so it still feel shitty. I wrote a blog post right after the fight to express these feelings of wanting to feel good about the fight, regardless of outcome, but losing feeling like losing either way. Losing sucks and it continued a losing streak. (When I got back to Pattaya though, Pi Nu simply told people who asked that I’d won. He reclaimed the decision in a way I wouldn’t dare.)
We stayed in Chiang Mai for a while to focus on some 8limbs.Us work, getting content and some cool stuff for the website. It felt good to experience so many things in Chiang Mai in what was really a short number of days, but that I wouldn’t have been able to do with another fight. I still would like to have fought, obviously, but the Beetle Battles and visiting the All Female Gym was a real treat. And one of my favorite things about this trip was running up Doi Suthep with Jai Dee the morning after the fight. He’s never been able to run free off-leash before, as I always have to reign him in a little bit to keep him safe. But in the mountain there was nobody for him to bother and no traffic, so he got to run his little doggy brain out. I’ve never seen him so free and happy. That alone is worth everything… and then he slept for about 2 days, which was also fantastic.