May 2021 saw the first announcements for women to be allowed to, invited and booked, to fight at Lumpinee Stadium in Bangkok. Famously, women are barred from the Bangkok National Stadia, Lumpinee (Military) and Rajadamnern (Police), both of which are seen as the ultimate goal for young fighters all over Thailand. One of the first women to be invited to fight is Petthae Sor Sopit (or Teptong, above) and, in interviewing her, she expressed what I had already suspected but had not heard outright: this dream is one imparted on and dreamt in the hearts of fighters regardless of their gender; it was just only a possibility for the boys, as women have been barred outright from fighting, let alone the famous signs that tell “ladies” to “please not touch” the Lumpinee ring at all. You can read about why this is in other posts linked below.
I wanted to talk to Phettae about this remarkable opportunity because it’s important – and rare – to hear the voices of Thai women in Muay Thai. She also happens to be my last opponent, and I the very first time she has fought a Westerner. She is quite small, and has fought endlessly in provincial fights, and appeared on big televised cards as well. Her origin story is common, taking up Muay Thai at 9 because her father loved it (learning from an uncle or one’s father is common for female fighters), but she’s extraordinary in that she’s been fighting for 16 years now and estimates her number of fights to be 400. At 25 years old, most of Phettae’s peers have since retired (retiring at age 16 or 17 is common), although Thai female retirement age has changed a bit over the past few years with top names like Sawsing, Chommanee, and Loma finding fighting opportunities into their mid-20s and Lommanee, who is 30. She notes in this interview that this chance to fight at Lumpinee came to her when she doesn’t have much time left, she reckons she’ll fight only a few more years and then retire into being a kru – but this change creates a previously thought-to-be-impossible future for female fighters who now might extend their careers, and for Thai female fighters as a whole who have an entirely new station to hope and dream for. It gives anchorage and opportunity that never had been before, and may allow female Thai fighters even more of a chance of becoming excelling at their National sport.
As a note: Phettae more than once expresses her desire that female fighters in the provinces get more of a chance to show their skills on the larger stage. As someone who has fought in the provinces many, many times, and on big televised cards as well, I can attest that the best fights in Thailand are in the provinces. The fighters are all so experienced and skilled, and the refs let the fight go in a very classic way. There are so many great female fighters in Thailand’s provinces that we seldom get to see. Phettae is a great example of this. So highly skilled and experienced. Thailand has the best female Muay Thai female fighters in the world and many of them are largely unknown outside of the country.
The very first pair of women that have been announced to fight at Lumpinee are Sanaejan and Buakaw, a scheduled fight which hasn’t happened yet due to Covid delays. But even without the first fight having taken place, Phettae and her younger sister have been told to “train as if you have a fight” without any certain date in place. It means Thai women are being sought and booked, it’s not just a one off. That’s perhaps the most exciting part, that it’s looking like a change, rather than a trial. And this change means a great deal for the nakmuay ying of Thailand, not only at this moment but for their futures, and the future of Muay Thai.
Other Articles on the Thai prohibition of women at National Stadia and the bottom rope: