December 18, 2015 – Hua Hin Grand Thai Boxing Stadium – full fight video
When we walked into the stadium in Hua Hin and put our mat down on the floor, I saw the Por. Muangpet Gym over to the side, with their signature table and rack of Muay Thai shorts that they sell at fights. I smiled at their trainer, Kru Lek, and gave a nod to Gaewdaa, who I’ve fought five times now. I may have betrayed my suspicion a little bit in doing so – I wasn’t 100% convinced that I was really fighting Loma, who I think is the best female fighter anywhere near my weight in Thailand, this night; I suspected that perhaps they’d just throw Gaewdaa in there with me at the last minute. I really wanted to fight Loma, so as we sat on our mat, some tourists and gamblers walking past toward the seats, I listened intently to the announcements over the PA of the lineup. Loma was fighting under her other fight name, Ganda, which over the speakers sounds very similar to Gaewdaa. Not as helpful as I’d thought, so I kept looking over at their mat until, finally, Loma arrived. Awesome.
The Aura of Loma
I’ve fought Loma twice before and as I said I consider her the best female fighter in Thailand, and probably the world, under 50 kg. (Now that Phetjee Jaa is weighing around 44 kg, the time for these two to fight will come around and I’m quite eager to see how that turns out!) The first time I fought her, I was very excited for the opportunity, and that’s remained the case each time we fight, but the chances to face her are almost always these unexpected events – like, “Surprise! Loma isn’t here!” or “Surprise! You’re fighting Loma!”. The first time I was suppose to fight her, at great expense I drove all the way to, and stayed the night in Isaan (Northeast Thailand) under the absolute and repeated promise that I was fighting her. It wasn’t until we literally got to the ring and were standing around for 30 minutes that I learned that she wasn’t going to be there, and in fact had cancelled days before. It was a huge disappointment. I drove home without a fight. The second time, the first time we actually fought, involved last minute changes: again driving to Isaan, having to make weight, but then I learning the night before as we were in the hotel that she called off the weight check – when she finally showed up at the venue I was surprised. And then the third time was on Songkran when I was asked that day, at about 11 am: “Hey, you want to fight today?”. Unknown opponent. That day she fought under a secret name nobody knew was her’s. It wasn’t until I got to the ring and saw her that I knew that I was fighting the World Champion – only in Thailand, called to fight in a few hours, and oh, she happens to be the best fighter in the world at your weight. She’s like a phantom and I’m good with that; Each time I fight her I get better, closer. I basically just have to keep improving and solving her advantages as a general part of my training, rather than ever “training for” a fight against her. She’s like the test that just appears. I train with her in mind because even though I often find that I’m dominant in the clinch against Thai opponents, her clinch awareness is at another level – the only other female fighter in the world who might be like her in this is Phetjee Jaa, who I trained with for over a year. I can get away with mistakes (hip position, over-turning, feet close together) with others in training and in the ring, but these are mistakes that Loma takes advantage of – so she represents a standard of excellence I’m reaching for. A victory against her would mean that I’ve really grown as a fighter, far better than any belt. She is the best at what she is. To the western eye it may look like she isn’t really fighting, that she’s just grabbing, or running, but this is high-level stuff. It’s a huge challenge. And each time I fight her I never know if I’ll be able to fight her again, because she’s so ephemeral.
On this night there was another female Thai fighter there who looked roughly the size of the women I fight, who I gradually figured out was Gaewdaa’s opponent. We ran into each other in the restroom and she gave me this huge smile and a wai greeting, which I thought a bit odd but very sweet at the time. It wasn’t until long after this night that I realized I’ve fought her before! Her name is Sao Khon Khaen and I’d really been impressed with her when we fought each other more than a year ago; and I was impressed with her again in this fight, but Gaewdaa just blew the fight up in the last two rounds and took the win. I watched that fight ringside with another American, Laielle, who had been training and fighting in Hua Hin for a while. She’d fought at the stadium just a few days prior and this pack of Thai men behind us were trying to match her up with a young Thai woman from their camp. They didn’t speak English, so I was kind of acting as translator between the group of men and Laielle, and it was a bit exciting because it really seemed like there was going to be a fight out of this. I don’t think it ultimately happened, but it was a fun sideline activity while watching two former opponents (and honestly, I’ll likely fight Gaewdaa again) fighting each other in the ring. It was nice sharing that experience with Laielle as well, who I’ve spoken with briefly here and there over the past year on Facebook but we’d never met before.
The process of getting ready when the fight was eminent was a bit rocky. I always come to Hua Hin without a corner. The promoter, who owns the gym that shares the same space as the stadium, always asks one of his students to help me. Tonight it was these two Thai men who were also working the bar, so they kind of appeared and disappeared between their tasks with me. I never knew where they were, and when the fight was almost on it felt like a scramble – like, where’s my corner? They appeared last minute and gave the honors of removing my Mongkol to Nai Ple himself – that was the first time he’s ever come to my corner. In Loma’s corner was the familiar face of Kru Lek from the Por. Muangpet Gym, but mainly another man who I later found out was her father. They ran a tight ship. But they all know she’s this incredible fight genius, so I imagine they mainly just told her to keep doing what she was already doing in the fight, maybe suggesting she elbow here and there. My own corner eventually saw that I was getting stymied and tied up in the clinch, so they told me to “stop locking,” but I didn’t have the wherewithal to know think about what to do instead, so I just got stuck. At this point in my development my lock is my go-to move, so when pressure is on, it’s what I do. Looking at it now, I should have taken one step back and punched. I’ll know that for next time, but this time I basically demonstrated exactly how you lose to Loma and became more and more simplified in my approach as the fight went on. I’m not embarrassed about it though – she’s brilliant at keeping the fight exactly where she’s comfortable and I just didn’t have the right plan… yet.
Full Fight Video With Audio Commentary
I was calm between rounds, which felt good because the last two times we’ve fought I was beside myself being upset that I was being tossed around or looking like an ass. Maybe this time I knew and was prepared to be put on my ass, so it just didn’t bother me as much. Like, “yes, that’s how it goes.” And that’s just part of getting to improve through facing Loma – she’s just so smart and so skilled that I could fight 10 different opponents who all show me the same weaknesses she exposes, but they’d be tiny snippets, moments of a point scored, and I could probably “get away with” those mistakes. You can’t get away with it with Loma, you just have to change. And that’s why I already look forward to fighting her again, even if all my work between fights just shows small adjustments. The things I need to improve in order to do better against Loma are things I need to improve in order to be better overall. Things like balance and composure, being able to change course and make small adjustments within the fight. That’s high-level shit… and that’s exciting for me.
After the fight Nai Ple told me, “it’s okay,” even though he lost money by betting on me, but he told me I need to be more smart in the ring. I agree, but that’s also a process. Ring IQ is a skill and it’s acquired just like very other skill: through deliberate practice and commitment to pushing through the failure of it. It’s not that you’re either smart or you’re not, which has been my self-deprecating attitude for a long time, it’s that you’re either Trained or Untrained. And my strategy is currently under-trained. But it’s getting better. I’m getting better.
I wanted a picture with Loma afterward and her father, very proudly, told me she’d won Gold in the Thai Games the day prior. Those fights are padded, but it’s still impressive to become the national Gold Medalist and then go have another fight the next day, its how I like to fight. I also really love the photo we took, as it expresses Loma’s energy very well. She’s a confident and cool cat, basically. I’m a fan, haha. But I’m going to smash her next time.
You can see all my Audio Commentary Fight Videos here.
And video all my fights here.