September 30, 2016 – Suranaree Stadium, Khorat – full fight video above
It’s been a long time since fighting at this stadium, which is probably my favorite in all of Thailand (that I’m permitted to fight in; Rajadamnern is my dream stadium). Kevin and I arrived at the door with Jaidee in tow and the guy working the entrance kind of gave me this hand-up, “hold on there, Missy,” gesture when we approached. I told him in Thai that I’m a fighter, number 4 on the card and then pointed to my name on the piece of paper in his hand. Like telling a doorman, “I’m on the list.” He gave me a huge smile, then shook my hand and said, “okay, okay,” while more or less shoving me through the door. He was way more friendly later on in the night when I passed through again to take Jaidee out, all smiles and hand shakes.
We found our way over to an area to put our mat down and not long after a guy in a blue shirt came by to put a check next to my name on his own card, like he was taking attendance or something. It was definitely an hour or so before the show started, so maybe he was seeing who had arrived to make sure the order on the card didn’t need to be altered. I did assume he had some kind of authority in the space though and since I hadn’t seen the promoter yet I let this guy know that I had no corner and asked if he could help me find a “pee liang” (cornerman) to work on the ring. I told him I can wrap my own hands, I just need oil and someone to be in the ring for me. He got this look of total shock, then asked me rapid-fire a bunch of questions about who I am and what my experience is, then got really excited by my answers and said he’d get in the ring for me himself. That was quite nice. He ended up grabbing another guy to actually do the oil massage and all that, as well as moving me to a different spot in the stadium that was closer to a fan (so I wasn’t so hot, I guess) and then suddenly I was being looked after by 3-4 gamblers. That’s fine, I like their energy, but Kevin was warning me that I was now a ping-pong ball being bounced around at the whim of guys putting their money on the fight. That’s still fine, but you have to mitigate that energy in your own experience so you don’t get caught in the whirlwind of it. For example, this guy in the blue shirt who had agreed to help me told me immediately to wrap my hands and kept telling me when I didn’t immediately do it. I was the 4th fight of the card and we were still about 45 minutes out from even starting – that’s a few hours of having my hands wrapped for no reason and, if you have one little spot that’s too tight with your hand wrapped it can cause discomfort or numbness. I wrap my own hands so I can make adjustments as I go, but I also didn’t want to rush. The other guys who were working my corner all kind of made this “yes yes” at him and then would turn to me and say, “no rush.”
I didn’t see my opponent until moments before our fight, when she came over to the table to get her gloves put on. She wasn’t tall, which I was happy about, and probably really only 48-49 kg, which is pretty close to me. I was told by one of the gamblers that she doesn’t like the clinch, then another one told me right before we went in that she is a clinch fighter… how did that get mixed up? I just smiled and told him that I’m a knee fighter, too. And I suspect I’m stronger in that realm as well.
We got in the ring and I felt good. I also knew that I needed to make an impression in this fight for two reasons: 1) I wanted this promoter to book me again; and 2) I suspect that some of these gamblers in the audience remember me from my previous fights here and both of those were pretty impressive. So I had a reputation to uphold. The guy putting on my mongkol struggled with the angles of slipping it over my hair-ties and as a result just popped them right out. So from the get-go my hair was annoyingly unkempt. And then he put my mouthpiece in upside-down and I had to use my gloves to turn it around for myself, which you can’t see in the video but I was sure looked totally bizarre. One of those things you’re self-conscious of and absolutely nobody notices; probably on both points about the mouthpiece and the hair. But these are the things you notice in the ring.
I noticed my opponent was Southpaw right away but didn’t really register it. I’ve fought a lot of lefties, there are a lot of them in Thailand, and maybe coincidentally or maybe through subconscious recognition I started out using the tactic that Dieselnoi had instilled in me a few months ago: set everything up with the left, then use your power side when you have them in the position you want. It worked really well! I landed the best right kick of my life, right in her belly – although I know I pulled it a little bit and if it had been full power it would have been truly great. Still awesome and it felt good. And my hands were working really nicely, allowing me to actually use combinations. More than anything though I felt the impact of my movements in this fight, more than ever before. I felt aggressive and determined to stay close, but when I would block and she fell back, or I’d push her or hit her and she’d go flying, I felt it. I owned it: yes, I am doing this. I think that feeling, that recognition, more than anything is what allowed me to be so free in this fight. When I clinched up with her I just spun and spun while I kneed and she had nothing for it. She was really strong in the clinch the first time we locked up, but once I got my lock on her I heard this sound of despair (I’ve heard it in others) when she realized she couldn’t get out, and then she started to panic and her breath became shallow. It’s like dragging someone down into the deep waters. The less they breathe, the more still they become – like drowning. After the fight the promoter, who had been in my corner but I didn’t realize it was him until I asked for a picture with him, didn’t seem overly pleased with my KO. I don’t know if he’d bet on a different kind of knock out, or he wanted something else out of me. Kevin noticed the seeming disappointment far more than I did, so it’s a bit of a mystery, but with money on the line you never know where the issue might be. Maybe he just didn’t bet enough; maybe the side bet could have been bigger. I immediately asked him if he had an opponent for me the the next week, which was a card he’d offered me a while ago when we first booked this one. His eyes got wide in surprise, I think he never expected me to want to fight again immediately. He said he’d look for me. That’s a chance for him to make more money though, which changes whatever he might be feeling about this fight tonight.
I took Jaidee outside and there was a young dog that probably lives at the stadium that followed us out. Jaidee got to play with her while these three little gromit kids (they were in my corner; I see them in the video but had no idea they were there at the time) followed me out and asked if I speak Thai. When I said I do they turned it into a game of “ask the farang a million questions.” They were sweet little boys, very excited about everything and asking me what Thai dishes I like. When Jaidee would drag me to a different spot because the dog he was playing with (not on a leash) had tried to get him to chase, the boys would all get up and follow me over as well. My favorite moment was when they found out I’m American and excitedly asked if I know [insert some word I can’t understand]. I had to ask them to repeat it a few times but finally figured it out, “do you know Iron Man?!” I laughed. “Yeah, of course I do. And the Hulk, too.” They howled with glee and then asked if I know Batman. “No, he lives in a different part,” I said, inward nerd adding, “it’s a completely different universe, guys.” When we got all our stuff together and were leaving for the night, the boys once again followed us out, all the way to our car. When I put Jaidee in the car they all waved and tried out their English in a little chorus, “bye bye, take care!”
I sent a message to Pi Nu that I’d won by KO. When I got back to the gym he was bragging about me and then told me that my opponent’s name, Ochin, was a famous Japanese fighter back in the day when Pi Nu was fighting. “Must be his daughter,” he said. I don’t think this girl was Japanese, I offered, but he thought it was impossible that she just coincidentally had the same name. Maybe she is named after him – lots of fighters have their names in honor of the previous generation – but it was cool to see him so excited about it. The reporter on female Muay Thai for the Muay Siam magazine had watched my fight on the live-feed of my page and immediately contacted me to ask my opponent’s full fight name so he could add it to the next day’s news. It was with this fight that I got my most favorite nickname: สาวนักเลงเขา sao nakleng khao, which is “Miss Gangster Knee.” Fuck yes!