March 17, 2016 – Wan Wai Nai Khanomtom “Muay Thai Day” in Ayutthaya Historical Park
I’m standing at the ropes, hopping up and down and telling the doctor that I can go on, that I want to go on. I tell him in three different ways that I want to keep going and he’s furrowing his brow in consideration. It actually looks like he’s going to call it; it’s only when I say to him that I can win that he smiles, stops wiping the blood off my face and nods at the referee that I can continue. Hot damn. Now I gotta work, man. In round 2 I had landed some really nice knees that drained the energy straight out of my opponent, making her want to quit. She kind of came apart and the referee separated us, which I thought was an 8 count and headed to the neutral corner. But when I looked back the ref wasn’t counting, so I basically just gave my opponent, Duangdaonoi, a big ol’ break for nothing. So, going into round 3, I was sure I could knock her out. I was so focused on it that I kind of tunnel-visioned and ended up walking right into a spinning back elbow, which is how I got cut open above my left eye. That’s why I get sent to the doctor, and even after he’s said I can continue I’m bleeding quite a lot. So much, in fact, that I can’t really see out of my left eye for the final two rounds. But I don’t want to be sent back to the doctor, if he sees me again he’ll end it so I just stop wiping the blood away and try to angle so that my left side isn’t vulnerable to attack that I can’t see.
Duangdaonoi is a former WPMF World Champion at 105 lbs. She comes from a huge family, like 15 brothers and sisters, and they all train Muay Thai at the family gym. The littlest ones aren’t fighters yet, but I assume they will be. I’ve wanted to fight Duangdaonoi since she came on my radar last year, when she won the title, but it’s been hard to actually schedule the fight. This fight pretty much fell into my lap.
We arrived at a hotel the day before the fight in order to weigh in. Pi Nu was calling me on my phone and asking where I was when we were literally 2 blocks from the hotel, waiting for a landscaping truck to move, as it was blocking the road. Pi Nu wasn’t at this event, all the way up in Ayutthaya, which is a good 4 hour drive north of Pattaya and kind of in the center of Thailand. He was calling me because the guy who’d booked me on the card was calling him – an actual game of telephone. We were still 10 minutes before when weigh in was supposed to start, but when we actually parked and I went in they had me stand on the scale immediately. To be fair, me and my opponent were the first fight on the official card, so I reckon they weighed everyone in in the order of the card. I was 47 kg and Duangdaonoi hit 48 on the dot, which is what we were contracted to fight at. So I went to get some food and then just had to hang out a bit so we could do these promotional photos and videos for when we walked out on the stage. Jaidee couldn’t come into the hotel, so Kevin waited in the car with him, but he came to film a little when I was doing the promo video for the walkout and we have a clip of that. It turned out pretty good, actually. The director was trying to get everyone to shadowbox aggressively, like with bad intentions, and she got very excited when I did this. She also yelled at Duangdaonoi to picture hitting me, specifically by name, which she didn’t say to me when I went first. Hmmm.
On my way out the parents of my opponent made me go back to the front desk and get some drinks out of the fridge next to it, which were free to the fighters (they enthusiastically urged me), most of whom were staying at this hotel. I wasn’t, because we had Jaidee, and Duangdaonoi wasn’t because she lived close enough in Bangkok that they just went home. But both parents and Duangdaonoi (whose name basically means “little Venus”) were very friendly and nice. Good people.
The next day, for the fights, she came with her whole family. Just a huge group of people in uniform shirts and cheering wildly at the ring. But before all that happened I had to find a corner. I told a guy from Kaewsamrit Gym, who knows me from Chiang Mai and was organizing for the show, that I had no corner and he grabbed a someone for me immediately. His name was Neung and he had a perfect balance of giving me attention and leaving me alone. I wrapped my own hands and he had a few young men help him give me a massage, then I had about an hour to just hang around and wait for the fight. It was so hot, even at 10:00 in the morning, but the park is a beautiful area with little reservoirs around and trees for shade. In the distance are the ruins that you see in all kinds of movies and shows about Muay Thai in Thailand – such a gorgeous backdrop to the event.
I went to the bathroom, which at big events like this is usually a huge bus that houses slightly-nicer-than-a-porto-potty toilets, and put on my cup. When I got back to the mat I had to put on the enormous shorts that had the event’s sponsor on them, which required me to take off the shorts I was wearing. When my corner saw my purple, female cup he was absolutely intrigued. He made me pull down my shorts a bit so he could look at it and I became incredibly self-conscious, like, “dude, this is why I change in the bathrooms.” But, lucky I was wearing it because when I got into the ring the female referee totally tapped me there to check if I was wearing protection. I don’t know that women usually wear anything (although I do believe I felt a male cup on Duangdaonoi when we were clinching), so I don’t know if she checks everyone and feels no cup quite often, if you’re supposed to wear something for big shows and I don’t know this, or if she felt my cup because she’d felt Duangdaonoi wearing one… no idea. But this was the second time I’d been groped by a referee, the first time being a man in Chiang Mai and I was not wearing anything… super awkward for all involved. But as we start sealing the ring for our Ram Muay, I see the videos we shot yesterday playing on the big screen. It looks badass.
The Full Fight Video with Audio Commentary
Immediately from round 1, Duandaonoi is trying to style. She’s fighting backwards and she just backs up, backs up and then throws a lead kick. She likes that lead kick, which comes out fast, but there’s no power to it so I feel confident to just walk through it. As the pressure from me continues, I can see she’s getting a little tired, so she starts throwing more bizarre, showy moves. But when I catch her, she kind of crumples under my clinch. I’m doubling her over with knees in the clinch when we’re against the ropes and I almost knock her out, but even without that she’s draining – fast. After that non-count that I gave to her in round 2, we’re clinching over by her corner and her father actually climbs up onto the ring and reaches through the ropes to slap my opponent on the leg and tell her to fight harder. That was kind of amazing. But this referee is letting the clinch go on, because I’m still working in it, and that’s really good for me. Even when I get cut open, before she stops it to have the doctor look at my cut I manage to drop Duangdaonoi to the canvas and kind of topple down on top of her, which results in her being absolutely doused in my blood. Like, horror movie waterfall of blood kind of thing. It was a single moment in the fight, but that image is stuck in my head.
Cuts on the forehead bleed quite a lot, because the skin is shallow and there are lots of capillaries. I knew it wasn’t an old cut because of how much blood it was. And my corner, somehow, didn’t have Vaseline on hand. This was nuts, because I’d handed a kid money to specifically go buy me some Vaseline, which he returned with before the fight… and then left it on the mat, I guess? We do end up getting the Vaseline going eventually, but it’s some guy in the crowd breaking apart his cigarette and making a paste out of Vaseline and the tobacco that actually gets the bleeding to slow down. It’s hard to win a fight when you’re bleeding profusely, but I’m ahead. In the last round I tie her up one more time, nail her with a few knees and then dance away. She tries to do the same and not chase me, but there’s no fucking way. When my hand is raised I can still feel the stream of hot blood slicking down my face and my corner is ecstatic. I climb down off of the ring and the doctor who let me continue is already approaching me, but not with a towel in his hand to take care of the cut. Instead, he’s got his cell phone ready for a photo, which he snaps and then hands to someone else to take a photo of both of us.
I wai to him and thank him for letting me continue, which he responds to by patting me on the back and then sending that photo of me exiting the ring, grinning from ear to ear, to the main online Muay Thai feeds on Facebook. It’s his photo that gets passed around; it’s his photo that Pi Nu sees before I’ve even sent him a text to let him know I won. I get whisked away into a van to have my face stitched up and I kind of chat with the medical staff as they huddle around me. A photographer gets in the van with me to snap some photos for his upcoming book and Kevin is left outside with Jaidee – Kevin thinks that because the doors to the van have closed that they’re taking me somewhere, so he’s a little panicked about not knowing where I’m going or when I’ll be back, but it’s actually just so they can run the air-con while they perform the sutures. I’m out of the van again in 10 minutes and get to take some photos with my opponent and with Yodying, one of the most prolific female fighters around 100 lbs and a friend of mine. She’s there with some students to do a Muay Boran demonstration.
There are so many female fighters on this card or around this event that I spend the rest of the afternoon running around trying to interview a few of them, watching their fights, etc. I get a lot of grins and thumbs-up as I cruise around with my stitches, which by this time are incredibly sore due to the heat and sweat and my adrenaline wearing off. But that’s alright. I’m used to all that by now. It was a great experience to be part of this event, to meet so many great female fighters and of course to be able to feel the sting of my stitches with the perfume of victory wafting around me rather than feeling pitiful. My cornerman was so happy with me and kept telling Kevin throughout the day what a good heart I have. One of the trainers from Sasiprapa Gym (Fani Peloumpi fights out of that gym and was on this card) was telling me that some fighters shrink from the sight of their own blood but he was really into the way it seemed like I was not only undisturbed, but actually encouraged by it. It’s a funny thing, because cuts are not seen as badges of courage so much here for women. My scars are pointed out to me all the time by people who are not paying me compliments. But at times, depending on the context, they are seen in a positive light, as a sign of having a good heart and not giving up. My favorite example of this was the doctor wanting to take a photo with me, because he had to make the call and by letting me continue and then going on to win, he gets a little credit for that. He made a good call.
Post Fight Video Update
my post fight video update
You can see all the fights I recorded Audio Commentary for here.