Muay Thai is Life’s photographer, Galen Okazaki is an artistic dude. He decided to shy away from taking the usual fight pictures and go for something with more soul, more grit, and more overall feeling. He decided to say, “Fight pictures with color? That’s been done to death!” and then proceeded to get some epic black & white shots of Lion Fight Promotions’ Battle in the Desert 3 this past Saturday, August 20th. One of his shots -an incredible shot of Joe Schilling knocking Brandon Banda into an altered level of consciousness- made photo of the week; not only on our website but also on the website of our friendly rivals at Muay Thai Authority. Here are some of his top pics from the event. I don’t know if these are all of them since Galen is a mysterious ninja-like character that keeps a lot of things secret from me, but either way they just reek of badassery and you would be a fool not to agree. Enjoy!
Lion Fight Promotions
I had the opportunity to meet Simon Chu when during the filming of Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations in Bangkok, I was asked to spar Kiatphontip Gym’s resident trainer and ex champion, Jompop Kiatphontip. The sparring/mock fight was shot for entirely comedic purposes, but to also showcase the skill of the Thais even when faced with a larger, heavier opponent. Contrary to what people saw on the show after editing was done, Jompop and I did in fact fight for 5×3 minute rounds where Jompop proceeded to school me in the ways of Muay Thai for every single round, much to the delight of the young fighters in the gym and the millions who would eventually see the show.
Although I didn’t speak to Simon during the shoot, I do remember him as part of the crowd that was laughing hysterically as Jompop used me as his 230 lb. punching bag. However, while at the gym, I was told that there was a British champion training at the gym with his equally talented sister, Maria Chu. I saw Simon train with Jompop and the other trainers at the gym and instantly saw why he was a champion. Simon is a fast and explosive fighter with a lot of power and great technique who will now be bringing his talents stateside as he looks to forcefully strip the USA’s Ky Hollenbeck of his WBC Interim World Middleweight title. The fight is set to take place at Lion Fight Promotions “Battle in the Desert 3”, which will be held on August 20th in Primm, Nevada.
Muay Thai is Life was able to speak with the five time British Champion as he prepares for his upcoming fight.
MTL: Thank you Simon for speaking with Muay Thai is Life, we really appreciate you taking the time out of your busy training schedule to speak with us. So for our US readers that don’t know of your accomplishments, please tell our readers a little bit more about yourself such as: where you train out of, how many fights you have, and some of the titles you have won?
Simon: I train out of the Kiatphontip UK Gym in Leeds, England. I have had 35 fights with 29 wins, 17 wins coming by KO. I am a two time European and five time British champion.
MTL: I had the opportunity to train at the Kiatphontip Gym facility outside of Bangkok and as I understand you, Jompop Kiatphontip, and your sister Maria Chu, who is also an accomplished Muay Thai fighter, decided to open up a satellite gym in the UK. Tell us a little bit about how the gym came to be. Also, having done a little sparring with Jompop myself, I am aware he is quite the hard trainer! So how is training going?
Simon: Yes, we are a sister gym to Kiatphontip Bangkok, Jompop and my sister are married and all three of us are Muaythai fighters although Jompop is retired now. Jompop is one of, if not the best Thai trainer in the UK right now and it’s great training with him every day. As you guessed, the training regime is very hard and based on how we train in Thailand. My preparation for this fight is going very well and I am feeling very strong now.
MTL: So you are set to set face U.S. nakmuay Ky Hollenbeck on August 20th at Lion Fight Promotions’ “Battle at the Desert 3”. This will be your first ever fight in the U.S., so how do you feel about fighting stateside?
Simon: Yes, I’m set to fight Ky Hollenbeck in Las Vegas in two weeks time. I can’t wait to fight stateside especially as it is in Las Vegas.
MTL: Your opponent, Ky Hollenbeck, is considered by some to be among the top Muay Thai fighters in the U.S. He has a pretty aggressive and sometimes unorthodox style, have you seen any of his fights and if so what do you think about how you guys match up stylistically?
Simon: Yes, I know Ky is a good Muay Thai fighter and can be unorthodox at times. All I can say is that I train very, very hard and am looking forward to tearing it up over there, and the fact that he has his WBC title on the line makes it even better. It’s hard to say exactly how our styles will match up really, I guess you will have to be there to see!
MTL: What advantages and disadvantages, if any, do you see yourself having in this fight?
Simon: The advantages I have in this fight are my overall Muay Thai experience and as always my power and speed.
MTL: Changing subjects, the UK has quite the active Muay Thai scene in comparison with the United States, but we are glad to say we feel Muay Thai is starting to really pick up steam here in the U.S. Your participation in this upcoming event is a testament to that growth. From what you have seen (fighters, events, etc..), what is your opinion about the growth of U.S. in the States?
Simon: Yes, the UK has a very active Muay Thai scene with many fighters living and fighting in Thailand for long periods of time. This in turn has helped build the high level that the UK has in Muay Thai right now. The level of MMA in the States is some of the best in the world but it’s great to see that Muay Thai is starting to make an impact over there too. America has some very good talent coming through right now and the fight cards are including some of the best Thai and foreign fighters in the world.
MTL: So aside from your upcoming fight here in the U.S., what else do you have scheduled for 2011?
Simon: I try to focus my mind on one fight at a time so I have no fights confirmed yet, but there’s talk of me fighting in France in October.
MTL: So, before we go Simon, what are your predictions about your upcoming fight with Hollenbeck?
Simon: My predictions are that it’s going to be a great fight!
MTL: So that’s it folks! Thank you again Simon for taking the time to speak with Muay Thai is Life! We wish you the best of luck in your U.S. Muay Thai debut!
Simon: You’re more than welcome and hopefully I see you there mate!