May 27, 2016 – “The Verona” at Prachin Buri – the video above has some audio problems
This was one of the rare occasions where I got to fight with other fighters from my gym. I love that opportunity, it’s very rare for me, but it also creates a bit of pressure because there’s so much going on and even if it has nothing to do with me, the results of your teammate’s fights can affect the mood. We happened to have tons of fighters on this card, which meant we also had a really big entourage from the gym, which was cool.
Somewhere near the start of the show I was told that my opponent, Faa Chiangrai, hadn’t arrived yet and was still driving. That remained the information I had for a very long time and my fight just got pushed back and back in the card, with nobody ever saying whether or not she’d arrived. I started to doubt whether she was coming at all. I’ve had several fights canceled that involved fighters calling the promoter from the road to say that they are driving, only to never show up. It seems to be a thing. There’s only one entrance to the area with the ring and you have to go through a ticket table and two doormen who check tickets and give stamps for re-entry. On my way to the bathroom at one point I asked them if she’d arrived yet and none of them had seen her. It was disheartening.
However, in the bathroom I ran into an opponent I faced really recently, Gaengaew, and chatted with her for a minute. She wasn’t fighting on the card but was helping her “sister,” as she referred to the bigger woman on her team. I don’t think they’re biologically related but it’s rather a term of endearment. I did quietly think to myself that if Faa didn’t ultimately show up I could ask Gaengaew to fight me again, she’s a very good fighter, had fought the world champ Saya Ito to a draw.
Fight after fight on the card our gym was losing. The morale was sinking. Finally, I came back to the mat from another trip to the restroom (have I mentioned that I pee a million times before fights?) and Pi Nu told me that the fight was off, nobody had seen Faa. I started to relax into disappointment. And then 5 minutes later, out of nowhere he was like, “you’re next, get ready.” She was there. The restroom was a pretty good distance away, so I didn’t have time to grab all my stuff and head back there to change, so I just changed on the mat. I wear my undershorts under my sweatpants so that I can change into my shorts quickly and that’s not a huge deal, but I’ve never popped my shirt off to change into a fight top in public before. I’m wearing a sports bra, but having just taken off my pants and then doing the top, it was a bit of a frantic moment for me. I also had to slip my female groin guard on with the boys gathered around me, oil bottles in hand for my massage, and none of them have ever seen anything like that before so there was no polite looking away while all this took place. All in all it took about 10 seconds to change into my fight gear, but the proximity of the boys from my camp, my trainer and his brother… because it was an urgent situation it had to be done, but avoiding that in the future is definitely in my priorities. And then I wasn’t even the next damn fight afterall and I had to wait around for another 30 minutes or so.
When I finally got into the ring it felt claustrophobically small. The stairs leading up to the ring felt straight up, like a ladder, and so many fights had gone on before mine that the corner was just a puddle of mud, which I got to kneel into as I got into the ring. The gamblers were all in tiered stands behind my corner and pushed right up to the ringside. Kru Den, who is a trainer at my gym but not my trainer, was facing the crowd and looking for bets. I felt okay in the fight, a little out of it. I think that the whole night of thinking that maybe I wasn’t going to fight and then having the “go now!” moment, followed by more sitting around, had just kind of put me in a weird space of passivity. I fought pretty well, at least doing things that had worked for me before in our previous fights, and Faa was doing the things she’s always done. My response to those things was different though. I wasn’t cutting off the ring very well, so I ended up kind of chasing her a bit. The fight was very close from the fourth going into the fifth but I didn’t recognize that, I didn’t feel it in my own mind. So when she started dodging me in the fifth, I responded by thinking, “this is it, if I keep chasing and don’t catch her I’ll look like such an asshole.” So I kind of lost my mind and became defeated. Then Kevin yelled for me to “back up,” which he intended to be a way to alter the way the fight was going – it might have been better to yell, “change it up!” I was totally not on board with this instruction, because usually you have to land something significant and then dance, but as I said my mind was already made up that I couldn’t win. So I backed up and my entire gym made a collective what the fuck? expression. Because it wasn’t the right interpretation. Pi Nu believed I could catch her. He believed that with 30-40 seconds left in the fight, because it was so close, if I landed anything at all it would seal the fight. I didn’t see that; well, I didn’t feel that. So when I backed up instead it just looked like I’d given up, which it kills me to say I pretty much did.
Faa Chiangrai was understandably ecstatic to finally win against me and get to dance off the final round. My gym was confused and pissed off and Kevin and I were fighting immediately after I exited the ring. We figured it out, but it was very unpleasant. And it sucked to sit in that funk for the rest of the night (the entire team lost, at the end of it all) and for what felt like days afterwards. It was a stupid mistake to lose faith in myself in that fight and there were tons of times I could have caught it leading up to the fight itself, being more aware of my mental state and the myriad of things outside my control that were weighing in on my focus. That’s why mental training is so important. And yeah, sometimes you still lose even if you do everything “right,” it’s not about winning. It’s about doing my best and I didn’t do that. I cheated myself of my best. But it was a good thing to learn that lesson, with such a bad taste left in my mouth. And, ultimately it has improved my kick as well because Pi Nu only buckled down to work with me on my kick because of the embarrassment of losing that fight. So, that’s a good thing too.