February 13, 2016 – Rajabhat University, Mahasarakham (40,000 Baht Sidebet) – video above
“How can we avoid what happened last time?” Kevin asks me, as I’m sitting on our woven mat outside the ring at a university gym. He means the sudden, “surprise, you’re next!” approach to the fight my corner took at this venue, when I was rushed to get into the ring and then stood in there for 10+ minutes for the big presentation of all the promoters and tons of announcements. The thing is, I can’t really avoid this. I don’t have control over any of it. My best offer was that I could ask Madam Khem when I would be fighting. My name was on the program, but in many cases the card is kind of made up as they go along, like a DJ feeling out the crowd but keeping the gamblers interested rather than keeping drunks dancing.
And the same thing happened. Madam Khem said she’d call me when it was time for me to start getting ready, which was fine. I sat around for the first few fights, then climbed up the steep stadium bleachers to watch two young women fight – one was near my size, the other was a good 6 kg bigger and definitely not training for very long… but feisty. It was round 2 and Madam Khem appeared at the base of the bleachers, waving for me to come get ready. I figured that meant I had time to wrap my hands, get the massage and warm up a bit…but of course not. It was a slightly less rushed version of last time, being hurried into the ring and then a long presentation before our fight.
I’d fought Jomkwan before, but not at this stadium. She’s bigger than I am by a few kilos, she’s a bit taller, and she’s strong. The first time we’d fought they tried to hustle me, telling me she was no good… she’s not only good, she was on a 16 fight winning streak then – including a high-profile win in Japan against the then world champion Rika – when they tried to pass her off as a slouch. I had no idea who she was and it wouldn’t have made a difference even if I had, so they were thrilled when I said, “sure, no problem.” Then I beat her and the hustle was mine. So this time around I knew they’d be eager to beat me, and I remembered how strong Jomkwan was in the clinch; just physically strong, hard to move, and knowledgeable about how to work angles.
This time she stayed away from me a bit more than she did the first time, showing off a kind of cocky style from the first bell. I wasn’t worried about it, I knew that I just had to steadily climb with each round, which is exactly what I did. My corner wasn’t freaked out, they pretty much just told me to keep locking and kneeing her. There is one moment in the mid rounds where the ref broke a clinch lock in the corner where I was very dominant and scoring, and my corner and gamblers in the crowd believed there was some strong bias in that break, but that’s okay, I was climbing a hill. She started to drain, I started to get more control, and the fight was getting close. But I had to win round 5, decisively, you have to show story arc. I moved hard and she was tired enough that it was showing; she tried to keep her dancing-away, cocky style, but she looked tired… which looks good for me. I was catching her and kneeing, my corner was screaming with excitement, and when I had her in the corner and kneeing away she slipped an arm under my knee and flipped me to the ground. It was at that moment I lost the fight. Not by hitting the mat, but because my response had to be “fuck you, I’m coming at you,” but instead I kind of hung back a bit too much. I admitted how good of a move that was in my body language and the fight was over. If I’d charged her, even if I had landed a couple knees and run away from her, it would have been a possibility for me. But I dropped it. It’s hard to be aware of every moment like that in a fight and the fifth round in Thailand is, as I’ve been saying lately, an art to itself. I’m still learning in practice how to fight a fifth round and I’m way behind the curve from the top women I’m facing, but I’m catching up. This was a good learning experience.
I hated losing to her, despite understanding all the reasons why that happened. My corner and Madam Khem (who lost money because of my loss) kept telling me it was okay, no problem, but I felt that I could have fought much better. If I’ve fought to the best of my abilities, then okay… no problem. But I could have done better. I could have pushed harder and you don’t get to go back in and make the correction in the same fight that you made the mistake in. You have to fix it in all the fights after. Kevin and I had a big argument after this fight because I had a shitty attitude. I felt bad, which I think is reasonable, but I also felt sorry for myself and that’s what pissed him off. I see that now, with a little distance I can shake my head and think the same thing I think about the fight: when you know better, you can do better. Now I know better, so now I just have to do better.
Post Fight Video Update
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