The criteria and thinking behind this list
Female Muay Thai has always been in need of positive rankings. In the history of the sport as far as we’ve experienced it, orgs have taken turns becoming the relative arbiter of excellence for female fighters. It was the WMC, lacking in accurate rankings and their turn of titles about 10-15 years ago. Then the WPMF attempted to create more updated, performance oriented rankings, but the task proved difficult, very hard to remain current, and (likely) driven by connections and politics, as often rankings are. Now the WBC has taken the reign, their rankings here. Their attempts feel robust, and focused on creating organized title fights. Given the economics of female fighting, and the travel demands of World travel, this is a very difficult, but worthy project.
The problem with any ranking system is that it is only as good at its inputs, especially in the early going. Once ranked fighters fight each other things should start working themselves out. In light of the WBC attempt to bring focus to female fighting in an organized way, it seemed best to update my own writings on the best female fighters in the world.
Because so few “ranked” fighters fight each other regularly, these kinds of lists feel like they need to be qualified at a much deeper level. It can’t just be one or two, or 5 people saying: I think this fighter would be that fighter. With P4P rankings relying on efforts of imagination become even more pronounced. For this reason it seemed best to create a wide swathe of criteria that overall would describe fighter excellence, and then transparently show subjective (but still rational) scores under each criteria for each fighter. In this way underrated fighters might show themselves stronger than they might otherwise appear, and overrated fighters might sink down to a more fitting level.
Including Sylvie on This List
In my past rankings of female fighters I’ve always left my wife Sylvie off of such lists, but it really has gotten to the point where any such list is incomplete and actually wrong without her on it. What makes her absolutely unique in the world of female fighting is just how frequently she has fought – possible the most prolific fighter in the world, in any combat sport, over the last 8 years – and her quite stark ability to not only fight far above her weight class, but also win. No female fighter has fought more quality opponents in the history of the sport. In her 268 career fights she’s fought 131 fights vs internationally ranked fighters, local Thai stadium champions, or World Champions. It’s just an unparalleled accomplishment. She deserves to be on the list. Below is just a graphic glance at some of her opponents laid upon the original WBC rankings (which have changed). As with any fighter on the list, if there is objection to where they are ranked, the objection should be taken to the criteria scoring. I’ve made a concerted effort to be as objective as I can on all fighters.
While there has been some subjectivity in picking the top 15 to score, once scoring them individually in the criteria was done somewhat blind. I did not anticipate the order, and in fact was somewhat surprised that Sylvie scored so highly in the total. Given that as it was, the overall order of fighters in their ranks feels ballpark correct to me.
- an important note is that no fighter has been ranked who hasn’t fought a nominal Muay Thai fighter in the last 3 years
- The most promoted names in female Muay Thai actually fight in “entertainment Muay Thai promotions” or other formats, but this is a traditional Muay Thai list. Traditional Muay Thai has a very different skill set that is required.
- This list is a jumping off point for discussion. We could discuss ratings of particular fighters or the inclusion of particular criteria.
- I know European fighters far less than those fighters who fight in Thailand, so my reference points have some skew.
- A fighter’s career accomplishments do have some weight, as they should. This is reflected in the criteria.
- There may have been some inaccuracies in the fight accomplishments of some of the fighters, or matchups. I did the best I could with research.
- Some very good female Muay Thai fighters were left off this list. It is arguable that someone like Saya Ito should be on it, or a young fighter like Phayahong. Maggie Hongthong has had some strong wins, or the WBC Flyweight champion Lara Fernandez who I have not seen fight yet.
If you’d like to give feedback on the list, you can respond to my Twitter post, or my Instagram post. I’d love for this to evolve into a meaningful measure of female Muay Thai excellence that runs parallel to the work that International organizations do.
The Criteria as I saw them
- Eye Test – Just first blush impression of excellence
- Speed – Handspeed, closing speed, defensive quickness
- Endurance – End of fight fortitude, recovery from depletion
- IQ – strategic adaptability, tactically controlling the ring, managing fight narrative
- Uniqueness – just how distinct or personalized her muay is
- Grit – toughing through difficulties, overcoming odds, resolve in fighting from behind
- Fights Up – few female fighters fight up, less win up, its the mark of greatness in male fighters.
- Big Wins – Winning against top names & achievers
- Technique Beauty – just how beautiful techniques are
- Fight Frequency — how active you are as a fighter, how many opponents you take on
- Full Rules – How many of your accomplishments have been achieved in full rules traditional Muay Thai
- Killer – when you have the advantage, how intensely do you go for blood
- Experience – number of fights, variety of opponents, years in the sport adding to your knowledge
- Aura – The Thais call it Saneh, a charisma or charm to your fighting person and style (whatever it is) in the ring.
- Strength – how physically strong are you, ability to impose yourself through strength
- 2 YR Performance – wins and losses, to some degree strength of wins, in a two year period