This fight was 5 days after my loss to the World Champion Thanonchanok, going from urban Chiang Mai to a festival fight in the middle of Isaan. This is the amazing thing about how I’ve been able to fight in Thailand. You can be fighting surrounded by bars, and be facing a world champion, and then in fields, facing another experienced fighter just a few days later. There are wonderful distinctions to fighting in Isaan, like the kind of unassuming but very skilled opponent who you just can never guess how they fight by looking at them, and the referees tend to let the clinch go more than in stadium fights. Letting the clinch develop, as they do in the Isaan style, is a big advantage for me even against these bigger opponents. This was a rematch against Nantidaa, who I had beaten 4 months prior, when she was a last minute replacement for an opponent who was significantly bigger than the promoters had been told. When I go fight in Khorat, there is money put on my fights that I have nothing to do with, so that’s not my call to make. But I’d won that fight in a hard scrap to a very exciting gambling crowd and certainly a rematch would have some money on it as well. I knew she was going to try to clinch me, and use her size advantage, as she had done the first time.
This promoter notoriously doesn’t give me detailed instructions for where these fights take place. They’re rings set up in the middle of fields, usually somewhere near a landmark – like a school or a temple – but they can be very tricky to find without that information. Kevin and I were lost on these dark roads and I couldn’t understand the promoter on the phone, so we pulled over to a small shop that looked like it was closing. These are shops that are basically the front of someone’s home, and there were some little girls sitting outside. They ran in and got their parents, who didn’t know where I was asking to go but when I called the promoter and had them speak with him, they nodded and said they knew where that was. Instead of just pointing down the road and telling me directions, they got in their truck and guided us through these potholed, dark roads to a little lot just on the border to Chaiyaphum. They wished me luck in my fight and drove off; people are so nice.
Inside the “stadium,” which is a lot of land with sheet metal forming a circumference so that they can charge an entrance fee, there were fighters scattered around on their mats. We found a spot and sat down, but within a few minutes our mat and our legs (and Jaidee) were covered in ants. Biting ants. The ground was basically a fine sand/dust that got on everything and we probably still have some of that dirt in the woven mat we use at every fight. I kind of love that you can keep things like that. The fight card was long, with over 20 bouts listed on it. I was scheduled as the 4th one, but they make up the order as they go and I kept getting pushed back and back. There were two incredible female fights throughout the night – one was young women about 44 kg, one of whom was an Isaan champion, and the head of that gym came and took a photo of me and his girl as if he was thinking about having us fight; the other was young women around 57-60 kg and it was crazy exciting. I was swooning over how much more exciting the female bouts were from the rest of the card. I ended up fighting at maybe 2 AM, the very end of the fight card to hold the gamblers. It can be rough fighting that late, but it can also be a kind of “second wind” to amp yourself up after lying around for tons of hours and watching fights. I’d grabbed some kids off of the mat next to ours to ask them to corner for me and they were happy to have something to do, since they had to wait all night to get paid at the end by the promoter anyway.
The full fight can be seen above, or at this link, without my commentary. But if you’d like to watch it with my insight into the experience, how I was thinking about tactics and responding to this challenge, you can do so here: My Fight 177 with Commentary
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Post Fight Video Update
How I was feeling after the fight, it was a long day and night but I was pretty happy.