Along with martial arts such as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Judo, the combat sport of Muay Thai is an essential training component for anyone wanting to become a mixed martial arts fighter. However, on its own, this is a popular sport worldwide, especially in Thailand where the sport developed over the centuries. It was an excellent form of combat using eight specific areas of the body to attack and defend. These eight points are the elbows and knees, as well as the hands or fists and the feet. There have been many excellent Muay Thai practitioners throughout the year including the following.
Nai Khanomtom, while not a modern fighter, deserves a mention because his story is the stuff of legends. Khanomtom was captured by the King of Burma in the late 18th century and ordered to fight the Burmese’s top champion boxer. Using his Muay Thai skills, Khanomtom quickly overcame his opponent. Disbelieving of this feat, the king ordered Khanomtom to fight nine more champions and he handily defeated all of them. As a reward, he received his freedom and a few wives as well. His accomplishment is celebrated each year in Thailand on March 17, which is called either Boxer’s Day or Muay Boran Day, in deference to the earliest form of the sport.
Heading into more modern times, one should consider the accomplishments of Apidej Sit-Hirun who held seven Muay Thai titles at one time and was a highly prominent fighter during the 1960s. His kicks were so powerful that he once broke both of the arms of an opponent during a bout and ended his opponent’s career. The current King of Thailand named him as the Fighter of the Century, and after he retired, he became one of the sport’s top instructors.
In Thailand, winning a bout at the Lumpinee Boxing Stadium is like winning a gold medal, the UFC heavyweight championship and about five other championships all rolled into one. This stadium is absolutely the symbol of the sport of Muay Thai, and to win here once is a huge accomplishment. Of course, if you are Samart Payakaroon, winning once wasn’t enough. He was the champion at Lumpinee Stadium in not one, but four different weight classes. Overall, his career included 150 professional bouts, and only 19 of these were losses. Oh, he’s also a famous singer in Thailand and an actor with more than a half-dozen movies to his credit.
If Lumpinee is Madison Square Garden, the Rajadamnern Stadium is its twin brother. A win at either of these prominent Muay Thai stadiums is akin to winning a major bout in the UFC. Jomhod Kiatadisak has won at both of these arenas and in two different weight classes; he’s also been crowned victor 14 times at the WBC Muay Thai Championships. With more than 300 fights in all, Kiatadisak the “King of the Ring,” has lost only 24 of them, which is impressive all by itself.
There are many more examples of amazing Muay Thai fighters, and there are certainly some great MMA fighters who are highly skilled in Muay Thai. One of the best is Anderson Silva, who holds the equivalent of a black belt in Muay Thai, along with his many other black belts in Judo, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Tae Kwon Do. Fabricio Werdum and Cristiane Santos are a few other notable MMA fighters with strong Muay Thai skills.