August 12, 2014 – Sanam Luang (Royal Field), Bangkok
This fight is dedicated to Adrienn Neset
Her Majesty the Queen of Thailand’s Birthday is the biggest day of the year for female Muay Thai. The Art of Eight Limbs has always been part of celebrations and patronage for the King and royalty of Thailand (the King’s birthday is a huge day for Muay Thai) and the birthday of Her Majesty the Queen promotes female fights more than probably any other time of the year. There are shows in honor of her birthday for the week prior to her actual day, the 12th of August, but fights held at the Royal Fields and on the 12th of August in honor of the Queen’s Birthday are known as the “Queen’s Cup,” and has been promoted by the giant OneSongChai for decades.
I’ve fought on cards up north that are “in honor of” the Queen’s Birthday, but it’s always been a dream of mine to fight in Bangkok on this day. It’s more officially part of the celebrations. When I found out I was fighting not only in Bangkok and at Royal Fields but actually on the OneSongChai Queen’s Cup card and against one of the best fighters in the world at my weight, former world champion Saya Ito of Japan… well, I freaked out. It was like finding out I’d be playing at the Superbowl. I wrote about what the Queen’s Cup means to me prior to the event, you can read that here.
This fight was booked through Master Toddy, who is a highly recognized name but who I had the chance to meet and train with because of my friend and fellow female fighter/blogger Emma of “Under the Ropes.” I had asked Emma if Master Toddy could find me a Bangkok Queen’s Birthday fight, and they came through with a fight match up I would only dream of. However, because Master Toddy didn’t have any fighters on the card he couldn’t firmly offer anyone to corner for me. My own gyms weren’t coming with me – Kru Nu’s look of despair when describing the crowds at Royal Fields on the Queen’s Birthday made it clear that convincing anyone to corner for me might be a task to itself. But when I asked Kru Nu to make it clear that I would be paying my corner out of my purse I immediately got confirmation from Modt Ek, who I previously privately nicknamed “Fancy Man” and is not a paid trainer at the gym but does come by and hold pads for some of the boys because he likes to. He’s a former champion with tons of fights and even though he’s 44 years old his torso looks like he’s 25 – like a shredded 25.
My relationship to Modt Ek in the gym somehow didn’t get off to fast start in the first few months at the gym. He’s very traditional Muay Thai, giving the lone female hitting the bag the non-acknowledgement – I’ve gotten a lot of this in Thailand from Old School Muay Thai guys. I’d always tried to be respectful to him, wai-ing when I see him, but we’d never spoken. At one moment when it looked like the relationship might thaw, he’d offered to hold pads for me in the afternoon when Kru Nu’s new son was only a couple days old and not yet home from the hospital, so Kru Nu was sleeplessly drifting between the hospital and the house and not training. Unfortunately I’d been unable to take Modt Ek up on the offer just then, as I was packing up to leave in a slightly urgent manner. I had just got a phone call to go to Phetjee Jaa’s gym while there was a film crew there. It seemed to sour the relationship between Modt Ek and me to have rejected him in the first moment he had extended himself. It was odd because we’d not really had any relationship prior but it was definitely colder after that. So getting him to corner for me at the Queen’s Cup fight was a very happy chance to make that right. He told me a hundred times to pick him up at 4:00 AM on the morning of the fight to make the weigh ins at Royal Fields at 7:00 AM. We would be spending 2 hours in the pre-dawn darkness driving to Bangkok, Kevin and the dog in the back seat, and then all of the day and the whole event together. We could get things right.
Leaving Before Dawn
And so there were maybe two hours of sleep in me when we got up at 3:00 AM to get ready. Jai Dee is a champ on the motorbike, he absolutely loves driving around with us, but he hates the car. Hates it. So we spent most of our prep time walking him around outside trying to get him to expel everything out of his little body for the long drive – similar to how I’d spent the day before getting all the water out of me to hit the 46 kg. weigh in mark.
I weighed exactly 46 kg on the scale across the way from my apartment, on which I’d been monitoring my weight during the night. I drove so that Kevin could sit in the back with Jai Dee and try to keep him calm and comforted on the drive. We picked up Modt Ek at the gym and then headed out on the empty highways, all the way to Bangkok. Navigating the highways and tollways into Bangkok got a little tricky with a lag in the GPS we were using and when we were getting closer I asked Modt Ek if he knew where we were or where we were going. He had a vague idea which direction we should be heading but kept apologizing that he hadn’t been to Royal Fields in about 15 years. Finally we went Thai style and pulled over to some guys waiting at a bus stop to ask for directions (in Thailand it’s the men who ask for directions!) and the guy happily told us to just keep going a long time down the road we were on. “Tee nooooooon,” he said while pointing along the way under the huge cement overpass above us. In Thai you make the “oooo” longer to emphasize distance, the way we might make the “waaaaaaay over there” long.
It was impossible to miss the Royal Fields once we got close. Huge photographic portraits of Her Majesty the Queen, at various points in her life, framed by gold filigree frames and endless flowers dotted the medians in the road. As we went over a canal the road split and I didn’t know whether to take the round-about on the inside or the much larger one on the outside. A kindly Tuk-Tuk driver looked confused at me when I asked and a passenger, an older lady with about a hundred bags of vegetables crowded around her in the back seat, pointed me in the right direction. Once we reached the fence a pair of traffic guards guided us into the parking lot.
my video update when we arrived at Sanam Luang
Astonishingly, we were early. Weight check was scheduled for 7 AM and it was probably 6:30, so we sat and meandered and I wandered around a little bit in my nice jeans and a Queen’s Blue colored button up shirt. In Thailand you dress up for weigh in on big fights. I even brought running shoes to be more proper, rather than in case I had to lose any weight. We were parked right next to the ring, which was still being set up. There was a hammock underneath the stage and a baby sat in that with a little dog tied up near him. Jai Dee was utterly uninterested in either party and instead obsessed over the birds that swooped around above him as he stood on the grass of the field. I’m not sure he’s ever seen birds like this. Royal Fields is actually two enormous grassy fields that on this day were divided by a stage with lots of seats for officials on it and a huge portrait of the Queen as the backdrop. Behind the stage, under a canopy, about 200 monks were eating breakfast as I walked around. Seeing monks all together, all uniform with their shaved heads and autumn colored robes is truly remarkable. I’ve seen it quite a lot in the time I’ve been here, for various blessing ceremonies, but it always takes me by surprise.
Unfortunately it seemed that not everyone was as punctual as we were, so we were told that weigh in was pushed until 8:00. I saw a young Thai woman running in a sauna suit. I smiled big at her as we crossed paths and I recognized her as Ning from Jitti Gym. I’d seen her fight a few months ago on a Banchamek (Buakaw’s gym) card and she was great. She wasn’t on the poster for the Queen’s Cup but I figured if she was cutting weight she was definitely fighting. Turned out there would be two rings and two separate events that night. One was the OneSongChai Queen’s Cup and then maybe 150 meters away was another ring that had an all female, all Thai card by the Muay Ying Association. Ning was fighting on that card.
While we’d resigned ourselves to wait nearly another hour for weight check, once my opponent arrived it seemed that everything came together quickly. Saya Ito had her hair braided into lots of braids, not quite cornrows, and blue ribbon twisted in. I had thought to do the same thing with the Queen’s Blue in my hair and was unable to find ribbon the correct color in time. I was happy we didn’t show up with the same hair (how embarrassing) but I was a little “miffed” (as my mother would say) that she’d succeeded in the idea where I’d failed. She was with what seemed like her father and looked pretty lost all the time. It was early, she doesn’t speak Thai, probably doesn’t speak a lot of English. Understandable to have that expression and actual experience. But we got everything together for weigh in very quickly and were on and off the scale with a bunch of photos taken by 7:30. I felt quite relieved having actually seen Ito in person. She was very unassuming. Now, I’ve had the experience pretty consistently in Thailand that the girls who seem a little shy and smile at you will tear your f*cking head off in the ring. So I didn’t let myself underestimate my very experienced, very highly skilled opponent just by how she looked at weigh in. With the agreed weight at 46 kg I weighed in at 45.5 and Ito was at 45 kg. The Ittu vs. Ito fight was a go.
Rest and Stomping Grounds
We got back in the car and headed back onto the highways around Bangkok to reach Master Toddy’s Gym. Emma had been kind enough to organize some rooms for us to rest in during the day (so we didn’t have to try to catch some sleep on mats laid on the grass of the fields for 13 hours) and Master Toddy was kind enough to invite us to stay in the rooms free of charge (he was very kind to us). So we drove back to Master Toddy’s which is about 20 minutes from central Bangkok. Just as the road along the underpass began to look familiar to me from our last visit to Master Toddy’s Gym, Modt Ek suddenly started telling me that he used to run here. I was surprised. I knew he must have lived in Bangkok at some point during his long fighting career, but Kru Nu had said he was from Khorat. Not so, he actually grew up right here where we were driving, the area becoming more familiar to him the closer we got to Master Toddy’s. (Actually, he’s been a fighter all over Thailand, from Bangkok to Chiang Rai in the north, to Khorat and other areas of Isaan. He’s been everywhere.) He knew the actual neighborhood and started talking about how he would stop to get a drink from a vendor on this corner, or how the motorcycle taxis at the time he was a teenager were only 1 Baht on that corner (they’re 20 Baht now, generally). It was quite wonderful to see him light up as we got closer and closer to his old stomping grounds, literally where he would run every day. He would point to a building and say that hadn’t been there, that everything was still empty lots of grass when he was running. We had accidentally brought him back to his old turf where he ran those monotonous, endless hot kilometers for years as a young fighter. It was very cool.
We crashed pretty quickly after getting into our rooms and I slept hard for about 3 hours. After a quick trip out with Emma for lunch and getting my hair braided by a wonderful Ethiopian woman who did my hair for free and with swift, butterfly hands, I went back up to the room to rest a bit more and listen to my Mental Toughness MP3.
my video update when I arrived at Master Toddy’s
Mental Training – Something had to Change
My fight before this one was a huge bomb, almost entirely because of a mental choke on my part. What’s funny is that it was only 4 days prior, so in that very short amount of time I knew I couldn’t train my body to do anything particularly different but I also didn’t need to, necessarily. In that amount of time you can make a difference in your mental game. So I spent a few hours researching online to find a program that looked like it fit what I wanted and needed. I’ll write about the specifics of this program more at another time because I want to go into it, but for the purposes of this post I’ll just say that it has taken me a long time to come around to 1) accepting mental training, even though my brother is a Ph.D. in Sport Psychology; and 2) actually incorporating mental training as training, rather than just a sporadic way to make me feel better. Despite previous frustrations I had to do something. This was the biggest fight of my life and my fight a few days ago had me in a serious low.
Kevin was very agitated already when I entered the room from being downstairs to get my hair braided. He had read a blog post from another female blogger that had attacked me and criticized my GoFundMe campaign, ultimately accusing me of being “inauthentic”. Kevin was furious. There was nothing I could do about it and I hadn’t read it, nor did I really want to be thinking about it, so I stayed calm while Kevin went off about how there are people who want me to fail in this fight. I just couldn’t – I’m not one of these persons who is driven by other people doubting me; I’m not motivated to “prove them wrong” or whatever – so I just put on my headphones and started breathing to the mental image of waves. I put whatever thoughts or feelings I had about the “haters” in a glass bottle in my mind and let the tide carry it out farther and farther until I couldn’t see it anymore.
This, in itself, was a huge victory for me. Kevin says now that he knew I’d won that fight right then and there, when he came back into the room (he’d wisely exited while he was still all upset and I put on my headphones) and saw that I was completely calm, quietly focused. I can be a real headcase, so for as much trouble as my mind gave me in my last fight and caused me to choke so hard, the work I put into making strides in only a few days in that particular aspect of my training paid off. And I’ve been dedicated to continuing on with it since. By far biggest difference between this fight against a very experienced opponent, and my fight 4 days prior against a very experienced opponent was mental.
The Queen’s Cup
We were asked to come back to the ring by 5:00 PM, even though the fights don’t start until 8:00. I figured nobody would actually arrive back that early and we took our time leaving Master Toddy’s, but we still got back on time. There were more people now. Lots of people on mats, picnic style on the lawn and a dozen or so kites flying high in the air above. There were Muay Boran and traditional weapons demonstrations, as well as a game I’ve never seen before in which a circle of players try to launch a ball into a basket that’s suspended a good 20 feet above ground. They volley the ball between players in a hacky-sack style, with no hands permitted, but “shooting” the ball into the basket seemed to be done only with their heads and by players who wore a cloth “bumper” on their forehead, specifically for this purpose. It looked like the kind of thing my brother Gabe would be into.
my update upon arriving back and Royal Field
Jai Dee was less enthused about the crowd than when he’d been to wander around the park when it was empty, but we had to find him some water and look for a bathroom for me. Unfortunately the only restrooms were these giant trailers that seemed to be for staff only. I was getting quite frustrated by being turned away at every door and having each person turning me away tell me to go in a different direction from the last, crossing the long green grass again and again, with none of them really knowing at all where “civilian” bathrooms were. Finally I discovered some portables behind the lines by the ring, probably specifically for fighters. Unfortunately they were squat toilets, which is fine for me but in an out-house fashion a squat toilet is terribly unbalanced and when you step up on the edges of the bowl the entire plastic stall rocks. From the inside it’s horrifying, thinking it might tip over; from the outside it’s hilarious, like someone is working real hard in there.
I did have the chance to meet the daughter of OneSongChai – the original promoter – and she and her brother now run most of the promotions. She was very nice to me, said Master Toddy had called her and asked her to “take care” of me and that she was looking forward to my fight. I thanked her for the opportunity and asked if I should wear my own shorts. She said that they will provide the shorts but the top is up to me; I was the red corner. The area behind the ring was already quite hectic, even this long before the fights started. It was a long card of fights and I was near the end of it. I was told that probably I wouldn’t go on until about 11:00 PM, so I got a bowl of food from the nice folks offering it to the fighters and went back to sit with Kevin.
Rain and Candles
We sat on our mat and I kept a look out for Modt Ek, who had wandered off on his own when we first arrived back at the fields. The sky looked heavy and Kevin swore a storm was blowing in, but while people got up and left the lawn in one wave after a few single drops of water fell from the sky, quite a few remained seated. So we did too. A couple kids walked around and handed every person a yellow candle, something we would hold, lit, while the royal anthem played at 7:00. But about a half hour before this, just as daylight was dimming, the sky just opened up. The marching bands that were circling the fields had been idle for a while but they were all still standing on the roads and tons of people all around the ring and the lawn had literally no cover to run to. Kevin and I picked up the mat we were sitting on and tried to hold it overhead – the difference in our height making this totally comical – as we ran for the car, all the way around the field. Halfway there Jai Dee decided he just couldn’t handle the rain and put the breaks on. “I found you in the garbage!” I thought, “How can you not be able to handle getting a little wet from rain?!” But outwardly I just scooped him up and ran with the poor drenched puppy in my arms until we got to the car. We crawled in back and put the key in the ignition to run the air. Poor Jai Dee wedged himself as tightly as he could into my body and fell asleep. A few minutes later I saw Modt Ek’s silhouette behind the car, maybe he was uncertain if we were there or if it was the right car, so I opened the door and told him to get in the passenger seat. He jumped in and we all sat there in the dark of the car, the blue light from the dashboard inside and the yellow lights that filled all the trees through the fogged up windows, outside.
The Support from Everyone
After 30 minutes in the car or so the rain let up and we made ourselves across the soggy field to the ring. While I was standing to the side of the stage before the show started a tall guy approached me and very politely introduced himself as Paul. I immediately connected him to someone I’d talked to online a few days prior, who said he might be at the fights. He’s been training in Bang Phli (just outside of Bangkok) and happens to be from New York and the gym Chok Sabai, which is owned and operated by Kru Nat Fuz, with whom I trained and fought for about a year just after my first trip to Thailand. It was cool to have a connection with someone I’d never met before and Paul was kind enough to give me a Hulk T-shirt and a donation to my GoFundMe from him and his fiancee Stephanie. It’s a moving gesture, to have this triangulation of having spoken with his fiancee online from a donation she had made to the campaign, then to talk to Paul before the fight and then have him there and in person to support me at the event with even more support and kindness with the shirt and second donation. I feel that there’s a very large community around my 8limbs.us website and I meet some pretty amazing people online through it – it’s just even more amazing when you get to meet these people in person, in Thailand, and at the biggest fight of my career. I feel very grateful for that kind of opportunity. Thanks again, Paul and Stephanie.
Emma Thomas and a group of her teammates from Master Toddy’s Gym had headed over to the Royal Field to watch my fight. They’d been given a bunch of VIP tickets to sit on the stage and watch the fights but because there were two rings, which few people realized, – the OneSongChai event and the Muay Ying Association event – there was some confusion and they ended up at the other show. Emma and I texted back and forth until we figured out the confusion and they headed over after having seen a few female fights. When they arrived over at our mat it was pretty remarkable to note how so much of the group was comprised of fighters and the group as a whole is all people who know each other through Muay Thai. Emma has been a cornerstone for me in the past year or so that we’ve been communicating online and it was only a week before this fight that we’d met in person. Now there’s this whole group here to support me, some of whom I have been in touch with through my page over time and some of whom I met just today. I don’t know that I’ve ever had such a big group of supporters at any of my fights before.
And the group got larger. Just a short while before starting to get ready to go in the ring another female fighter from Brasil (above), named Juliana Rosa, appeared with two friends and we all got to chatting. I follow Juliana’s page on Facebook and she’s truly inspiring. Her attitude toward hard work, loving what you do and fighting is something I look to when I’m feeling frustrated or down. She’s no less amazing in person. Very sweet, very sincere and positive. I felt humbled that she and all these fighters and Muay Thai lovers were all here at my fight. On my way into the ring I would see Linsey Newhall of Fightland’s “An American in Thailand.”
This particular show was… well, particular. OneSongChai is always in charge of the Queen’s Cup and this year they worked in conjunction with a Chinese promoter and the show was billed as a celebration of Thai/Chinese relations. All the fights on the card prior to mine were Thai fighters versus Chinese Fighters (there was one westerner, I think French, fighting for a title on the card; but I think he represented Thailand) and they were almost all only 3 rounds and S-1 rules, so no elbows and very little if any clinch. Even though the fights were all 3 rounds and many of them ended early by KO, I still had a ton of time to sit around and relax before I even had to start getting ready. A young Thai girl who was working for the event came by and pointed at my name on the program – I nodded and she handed me the pair of yellow M-150 shorts I would fight in. They were already wet from being worn by another fighter. Not my favorite, but it also indicated that I wouldn’t get to keep them as a memento. So I put them on the edge of my mat, a bundle of sweat to be enjoyed later.
As time passed Modt Ek was keeping an eye on the program and fights. Finally he came up to me and said it was time for my massage. (He’d wrapped my hands maybe an hour ago, methodically placing little patches of tape around the thumb like an artist. Some of the best wraps I’ve ever had – I can see why he wanted so much time to create his masterpiece.) I laid down on the mat at the edge of the sidewalk and relaxed against the familiar gathering of gamblers and fight-watchers. From the massage to getting gloves on and preparing to go into the ring was a pretty short stint.
There were some glitches backstage. We were waiting to be called onto the “on deck” seats on the stage as the women before us got into the ring. I’d wanted to watch their entrance because I hadn’t actually seen any up to this point. I didn’t know if there was a portrait of the queen to which we should bow or whether you stand and shadow for a second before walking out to the ring. Every TV production has something in particular. I didn’t get to see the women go out and my opponent was called up to the backstage area first, and I was actually never called. Modt Ek told me to go up after a few minutes and put me on the side of the stage that I’m pretty sure was for the opposite corner. He told me to sit down. One of the guys from Ito’s camp walked over to her and explained something about turning around before walking out. I tried to gather what that might be but I wasn’t sure at all. I was far more nervous about making a gaffe in the walkout than I was about the fight itself.
The fight before ours was crazy. CRAZY. The Chinese fighter was incredibly strong and the Thai fighter was much taller, playing the “you’re not bothering me with your flying teeps,” performance game. But with only three rounds the constant flying teeps and bizarre throws (Judo throws, actually; I don’t know why that was legal but the modified rules must have permitted them) totally drained the Thai fighter. After the second round the stage hands frantically told both me and Ito that we needed to go down into the crowd as we would be entering the ring from the corners rather than the catwalk. We watched the final round of this fight from the corners of the ring and were pushed up into place with barely enough time to let the fighters out first. As I stood in the corner, facing Modt Ek, to get my Monkol placed on the referee came by to let us know there would be no Wai Kru/Ram Muay. I was pissed. I hate when it gets cut for time and I know Saya Ito has a really nice Ram Muay also, so I was bummed for both of us. I only understood later that our fight only barely made the allotted time for the broadcast and if we’d done the Ram Muay or the fancy entrance into the ring it might have cut off the broadcast mid-fight.
What’s very nice for me is that I’ve been fighting in Thailand for a little over two years now. In that time I’ve come to find that something always goes wrong. Someone forgets one hand wrap or the Mongkol; your fight gets moved up and you have no time to get ready; your opponent isn’t who the promoter said it would be; your opponent’s camp tries to make an “agreement” with you personally (not your trainer) that there should be no elbows… lots of chaos around fights. And I’ve learned to roll with it. I get upset by some things (like suddenly facing a giant 60 kg opponent) but mostly I think it’s funny when it gets crazy like this. But then, that’s another benefit of my recent mental training. Having so many people around me to chat with certainly made the lead-up to the fight much easier, but I did have a few very negative thoughts – the kinds of things I think before fights quite often and they can be really damaging to my confidence. But this time I was able to kind of brush them off instead of giving them weight and space inside my head. I’d just say, “that’s a thought,” in my head and let the negative sentiment pass. My friend Robyn used to ask me biographical questions about my dog (“How old is Zoa? When’s her birthday? If she’s three now how old will she be in five years?”) in order to get me out of my own head. That was her particular trick for forcing me out of it, but at this fight I was doing a really great job of keeping myself out, just staying in the moment. It was enjoyable.
On the way to the ring, snaking down through the dense crowd on the far side of the ring, I had to push through a little barrier area to meet up with where Kevin and Emma were already waiting by the ring. As I passed this little metal barrier there was a Thai man sitting on top of the fence. His knees were about at my shoulder level and as I approached he looked down at me and saw my Sangwan Rahu sak yant tattoo on my chest and nearly fell backwards off the fence. He shouted something that I didn’t fully understand but his face practically melted off his skull and the message of his shouting was pretty clear – he was freaking out as though I was going into the ring brandishing an ax and everyone was in danger. Folks who understand and believe in the power of sak yant tend to be really hardcore about it. And Rahu isn’t generally regarded as a protective deity – but I think that’s a huge mistake. With the moon huge and full in the sky, I felt like I was wearing a suit of armor getting into the ring with Rahu on my chest.
The Fight – Fighting the Muay Thai Genius Saya Ito
I had heard of Saya Ito for most of the previous year mostly through Robert Sargent of mmarising.com who covers Japanese fighters, and through Charlie Jewett on Twitter who also blogs on the female Japanese fight scene. Ito is a young Japanese phenom with almost 100 fights to her credit (amateur). She had defeated the Thai fighter Pizza (also affectionately called “female Rambo”) the year before in this same event. Pizza is very good, and probably the best fighter at my weight in Thailand. Pizza both lost to and then beat Little Tiger, the reigning WPMF champion at 100 lb. Pizza for now has retired from Muay Thai to concentrate on a boxing career I have heard. If Saya Ito had beaten her for the championship a year ago at only 14 years of age she was VERY good. I knew nothing much about her, other than her prominence and promise as a fighter, there were only a few highlight clips. I expected someone who could handle heavy hand combinations because Japanese fighters like to punch, I expected someone who was calm and cool.
The fight started right away because of forgoing the Wai Kru/Ram Muay – I don’t think we even sealed the ring. Immediately Ito’s experience and skill were right in my face. She landed kicks, punches, used her jab hand to push me off and delivered some long knees. At one point she backed me into her own corner and threw a 10 or more punch combination. Overwhelming is one way to put it, feeding the Hulk is another phrase for the same thing. Once she stopped with that bombardment – something that a lot of fighters (including myself in training, it’s so bad) do for no reason at all, just end the onslaught of strikes as if taking a pause – I stepped forward. That moment changed the fight. I’d felt what power she had to offer and I wasn’t worried about it; she’d given me the kind of work she gives an inanimate bag and I stepped toward her after. I think we both had a different assessment of each other after that.
Between rounds Modt Ek was very excitedly telling me that I must dern! (“walk”), so I nodded and figured that I ought to learn from my last fight’s mistake of waiting too long to go into “Hulk Smash mode” in the clinch and this time I should just go for it in round two.
The ref was breaking the clinch incredibly fast, faster than I had ever seen in Thailand. Maybe they wanted an action fight for TV, or maybe it was the neutral under arm grab I was giving, but the clinch break was definitely to my disadvantage. To his credit he completely changed his call in later rounds. And as the fight went on I just started checking the long kicks to close the distance and then drive my knees anywhere I could get them on the inside of the clinch. Ito started fading and I got her on the mat a couple times, landed a few knees to her face (not too hard, but nobody feels great about getting those) and as I ground her down from the knees and constant forward pressure it became easier for me to get in. I’d jimmied open the door with the crowbar and now I could just walk in without much resistance. As this started to be the case I could take more time in the clinch and finally – finally – in the fourth and fifth rounds I was getting my arms inside hers, rather than the double under-hooks I’d been doing previously, and I could land better, stronger knees and actually turn her more. If you watch Lawrence Kenshin’s video breakdown below, he perfectly illustrated the progression.
I felt like a monster. I felt more energized every round, ready to push harder and drag her deeper into my game. I’d fought her fight in the first round and we all saw how that was going. But my particular experience versus her particular experience and our intentions pitted against each other resulted in my intentions winning out. By the fifth round I knew I was doing the right things, but I didn’t want to pull back too early and give her a chance to start landing kicks or showing off her beautiful technique again. So I came out strong and when my corner actually called for me to back off and just dance out the rest of the round – something Thais will do when there’s a clear winner in the fifth round – I didn’t even hear him, so I just kept going and put Ito on the ground again in the fifth. This doesn’t necessarily look great in an ideal Thai performance, but I don’t think I lost anything by going this route. The crowd went absolutely crazy when I put her on the canvas the last time. Probably from that first round some gamblers had made some inexpensive bets on me and were cleaning up on the turnaround.
It felt really good to know I’d won when the bell rang, to be certain that my hand would be raised before the referee even had all the cards from the judges. It wasn’t until I was already out of the ring that it occurred to me that I’d won on the Queen’s Cup against one of the best fighters in the world at my weight. That was a secondary “holy shit!’ moment, and one that hasn’t ceased to excite me every time I think of it. It’s not a culmination, as I still have a long way to go, but I couldn’t have asked for a better experience and better people to share it with. Again, a million thanks to all those who support me, by following my Youtube, website, blog, Facebook, those who write to me in email and private messages, those who comment on my page and on blog posts, those who actually come to see me; and of course a very special thank you to Adrienn Neset, who donated to my GoFundMe campaign and to whom this fight is dedicated – as a mother and as a Muay Thai sister.
Above is the Lawrence Kenshin video breakdown of how I won the fight. My husband says that it really captures what the fight felt like to him, as he held the camera ringside.
This (above) is the the full fight video, husband shaky cam and all.
Photos from the Fight
These photos were taken by Tom Brown of muaythaiaction.com
Videos from the Day
driving up into Sanam Luang
Arrived at the Queen’s Cup, and update
fan and supporter from NY, Paul Payabyab-Cruz, finds me and presents a fantastic Hulk T-Shirt
fireworks going off before the fights
a little video outside the ring, waiting for my fight, showing the atmosphere
Complete Fight Record