November 9, 2015 – Udon Thani – full fight video above
A man at my gym who I really like, who Pi Nu calls “Small Man,” (his name is Bpiak) had booked this fight for me a while back and I hadn’t heard anything else about it until reading my own name in the weekly Muay Siam magazine, announcing upcoming fights. That’s how I got my opponent’s name, as well. Turns out I’d actually seen a fight of hers on YouTube not too long ago when I was looking up a different opponent – they fought each other, so I saw this fight on YouTube. Muay Siam said her father was a former fighter and when I saw this super handsome man speaking to her before the fight I figured that was him. He had that ex-fighter swagger that you’ll see quite often.
The venue itself was at the athletics department of a university. There isn’t always admission charged for these outdoor fights – the night before had been a temporary ring set up in the street and the festival flowed around it; no admission charge there – but sometimes they’ll put up these aluminum walls all around the ring and make an enclosure that way. That’s what was going on here. Udon is about 8 hours from Pattaya by car, in a kind of ideal traffic scenario. It took us maybe 9 hours with a few stops along the way and then some additional time doing the “traditional Thai” practice of asking people on the street for directions to the exact location. This place turned out to be really hard to find. I think it’s because there are two universities in the city itself and the one we were looking for is right on the highway, so you basically have to leave town, come back in to town and make an immediate U-turn back onto the highway and you’re there. I felt like Rambo a couple of times, like they were just driving us to the bridge out of town and dropping us off.
So we get to the ring about an hour before the fights are supposed to start and my corner, Mod Ek, is supposed to be fighting on the card as well. He’s 46 years old and hasn’t fought in probably three or more years, but there he was as the very last fight on the card. We were supposed to be meeting “Small Man,” or at least that was my understanding, and Mod Ek just told me to go in and he’d come in later. My forehead was open from a cut re-breaking the night before and I had no stitches, so I spent most of my time leading up to the fights cleaning it and taping it together as best I could. I had super-glued it in the morning.
My opponent was obvious the moment I spotted her. There are a lot of young women who come to these fights, kind of in packs, because festivals and events like this are very social. Imagine the “state fair” for young people in the 30’s and 40’s in America and that’s kind of the social scene for young people here. But the young women don’t behave like they’re getting ready for a fight. My opponent did. She looked so huge from a distance – like she was maybe 5’8″ or something. (I’m 5’2″ in a generous estimate.) But she looked confident and strolled around with a friend like she owned the place. And she was local, so she kind of did. But we weren’t fighting until maybe the 7th fight on the card and there were no KO’s, so the night was long and we had plenty of time. As the 7th fight, you have about 2 hours from the start of the show before you go on. Mod Ek took his time wrapping my hands and giving me my massage. Tons of people stared at me because there were no other westerners around (one Italian guy, who happened to have trained at my gym Petchrungruang before) and, of course, my tattoos. I was pretty laid back though. I’d fought the night before and spent the entire day driving up to this fight; I hadn’t eaten much but still felt really good. Like, kind of tired-buzzed. I felt good.
And when I got in the ring, I felt the greatest “I don’t give a fuck” relaxation I’ve ever felt in any fight, ever. I’m not sure if I actually didn’t care, but I think it had to do with having won the night before and I was just kind of getting a little booster shot on that feeling. It’s kind of like when I had my wisdom teeth out. They gave me these pain-killers and they didn’t actually blot out the pain – I still felt it – but they made me not care about the pain. That’s what this felt like. I wasn’t nervous at all, but not overly calm – just kind of disconnected from outcome and focused on the task. I’d say that’s what “the zone” feels like and I probably fought more freely than I have in most of my other fights.
In my last few fights I’ve been doing very well with teeps, especially in the later rounds when I have a lead. This is the result of Pi Nu’s “slow cook” method and has largely been uploaded into my arsenal without a lot of conscious thought and effort. What that means is that he forced me to train it by chasing me in our final round of padwork for months and forcing me to practice that teep as a defense, without ever really saying anything about it. Now I’m pretty comfortable with it and he presents quite a lot of pressure because he’s so much bigger than I am, so I’m super comfortable and it has good power against fighters closer to my own size! Previous to this I have been a forward-only fighter, from bell to bell, which can present a risk in later rounds. The “chaser” late can look like they are behind, aesthetically, so in a close fight I’m a little bit of a disadvantage late. I’ve lost some very, very close fights against top fighters late this way. Lately though my teep has allowed me to pull away in last rounds.
The second thing that was stellar about this relaxed experience was that the fight slowed down in front of me and I landed my hands with the focus and efficiency I’ve never had before. That’s thanks to Sifu over at WKO. With even just the short time I’ve been taking Karate under him (about a month and a half all together), he’s really changed my punches. It has almost nothing to do with Karate vs. Muay Thai because the punching is the same – he focuses on power and speed, getting body weight behind the punches – so it isn’t particular to once discipline over the other but rather is universally effective across any punch you ever throw, ever. So, Karate hasn’t changed my punches: Sifu has changed my punches with his particular approach. And it’s in a Karate class that I’m practicing them. Anyway, in this fight I could actually see my hands having effect – my brain actually recognized it as it was happening, like “holy shit, this is the third punch in this combination that’s landing!” It was incredible. It felt amazing and the more calm I get and the more I believe in those fundamental movements, the more power I’ll be accessing and these opponents will be dropping from my hands. I believe it.
I’ve had a great response from readers about my last fight video, offered with audio commentary, so I’m doing it again. At top is the straight video of the fight, and below is the same video with my commentary on watching it for the first time:
About the TKO of this fight, I think the ref was a little quick for a few reasons. This fight was a kind of “comeback” party for this very well-known fighter. She had been away from fighting for 6 months, I had read, and this was her comeback. She was the fighter who was being highlighted here, in the promotion. She already had an eight count, and was fading fast. It was clear she was going to have even more problems with my clinch. When my hands combination landed it just was only going to get worse, and there was no need for that. This is a difference between Thai refs and western refs. Because fighters fight so frequently any sign of not being able to defend or not wanting to fight can end a fight. She was very tough and I know she was game, but not losing face by being physically knocked out took priority here. Though a light TKO it was my 50th in Thailand, and other than 3 times by cuts I’ve never been stopped.