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!
Alex Berrios speaks to Muay Thai is Life about his upcoming bout at Friday Night Fights on July 22nd
Alex Berrios recently spoke with Muay Thai is Life about his upcoming bout with Rigel Balsamico at Friday Night Fights in New York City. The fight was originally scheduled for June 10th but an ankle injury forced Alex to reschedule the bout for July 22nd. Take a look at what Alex had to say about how he got into the sport, being considered one of the top guys in U.S. Muay Thai, and Muay Thai in the U.S. as a whole.
By Stephen Strotmeyer
MuayThai is no doubt a physically grueling sport. Nakmuay require a unique combination of anaerobic and aerobic fitness. They must withstand the punishment inflicted by an equally conditioned adversary. But MuayThai is more than mere physical weaponry. An often overlooked component of the fight game is your mind. Regardless of physical prowess, the time will come when you are tired or injured, yet must continue fighting. The option to quit never enters the mind of real fighters. Rather, real fighters fight regardless of the circumstances they face inside the ring.
MuayThai is NOT an easy sport. Fighter conditioning consists of running hills, sprints, and torturous intervals, mostly solo, outside the gym, as it is generally not a team sport. Intrinsic motivation is critical and it must compel you to keep training whether preparing for an amateur tournament or a professional world title. Ultimately, it is your desire and intensity that will drive your physical training, it is your mind that controls how you train and how you perform. Sure, trainers provide extrinsic motivation, but even the elite trainers in the world are only as good as the students they train. A fighter has to have a mindset hellbent on success, where MuayThai consumes your thoughts, becomes your obsession and your life. If you adopt a laisez faire approach, rest assured that someone else will be passionately pursuing championship dreams. Remember, this is not a sport you “play”; this is a sport where you can get knocked out.
MuayThai is a sport for warriors, those that are strong both mentally and physically. You are often alone before your fight as your trainer may have multiple cornering responsibilities, so you try to relax, envision the fight in your head. Many fighters break at this point – doubt themselves, question their conditioning, and ask that “AM I READY” question. Remember, you are not alone, rather one of many fighters who face similar internal battles prior to the actual fight. You have to work on actively controlling these racing thoughts and anxieties. Be a stoic, remain calm, and show nothing visually. When fight time comes, these thoughts will quickly vanish and you rely on your training and fight your heart out. This is a major reason why MuayThai is a hard sport, because beyond the physical demands, the mental can break those with a weak mindset. The mind can play tricks on you. It can convince you to doubt yourself and your training. For this reason, you must train the mind to work for you, not against. You must use your mind to give you confidence. Achieving this state of mind is through experience and hard work and spending efforts to develop mental toughness. Experience teaches you how to overcome these nervous, anxious feelings, and comes from actual competition.
You must fight and continue to learn. If you lose or get knocked down, you must make the decision to get back up and fight. When a fighter loses, many are hypercritical and pass judgment, failing to realize that MuayThai takes time to learn and master the techniques. Part of the journey is learning from losses and living to fight another day. Whether or not you succeed is your decision. You can instill the mental toughness and perseverance required of a champion. Dig down, deep within yourself to hone these attributes. Train hard and believe in yourself. Through hard work, you gain confidence in your training. MuayThai is a sport that does not involve luck; rather MuayThai is a sport that rewards those that work hard and overcome obstacles.