Thai Boxing

Photos by Bauzen: “Muay Thai at the Mecca” – Muay Thai at Madison Square Garden RESULTS

As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. And nothing I write in this article right now will do Take On Productions and MSG Sports “Muay Thai at the Mecca” any justice. It was truly an amazing event full of electricity and emotion. Every fighter in the ring that night knew what a solid performance meant in the long run. They were part of history. It was the first time a Muay Thai event would ever be held at Madison Square Garden. In front of a sold out crowd of 3000+ fans, the city of New York would once again be making combat sports history. And for Muay Thai fans, fervent and some would say religiously devout to their sport, it was a beautiful moment to see that, for once, our sport…a true traditional martial art built specifically for combat, was on display in its purest form including the traditions of fighters wearing the mongkon, prajoud, and performing the wai kru before the bout. The fights were not contested in a cage, or as part of some MMA event, but all on their own. And while the event did not have the likes of Kevin Ross, Fabio Pinca, Buakaw Pro Pramuk, Saenchai Sor Kingstar, or any other Muay Thai greats you can think of, stepping into the ring that night; It is but a first step in a long journey to bring Muay Thai to the forefront of the combat sports craze here in America. And on this night, young up and coming amateur talents such as Prairie Rugilo, Nick Vaughn, Freddie Cheung, Rudy Felix, and many more had their moment to showcase why they too can and will be the future stars of our sport. And for up and coming pros such as Brett Hlavacek, Brian Collette, Sean Hinds, Rigel Balsamico, Ryan Madigan, it was definitely either a highlight of their young and burdgeoning pro careers or a beautiful and appropriate way to say goodbye to the sport they love and have devoted their lives too.

With that said below are the results and few photos taken by our good friend Steve Ferdman a.k.a. Bauzen showcasing the historic action that took place this past weekend. Enjoy! Also if you did not get a chance to catch the event you can always catch it on demand at GFL.tv Read More

Julie Kitchen speaks with Muay Thai is Life about the MPL, being “The Queen of Muay Thai”, and more!

We just recently had the honor of speaking with non-other than 13x Muay Thai World Champion, Julie Kitchen as part of our ongoing series of phone interviews titled “Muay Talk – Interviews with Muay Thai’s Champions”. If you are an avid Muay Thai fan or practitioner than Mrs. Kitchen needs absolutely no introduction. Hailing from Touchgloves Gym in Penzance, Cornwall, UK, Julie is a veteran in the sport of Muay Thai with over 50 fights and a title belt in just about every important Muay Thai organization you can think of. Now, if you are a fan of Muay Thai is Life then you know that I have a somewhat unhealthy obsession with anything and everything from the UK.

I’m a sucker for English Premier League Football (Soccer for the yanks), dry English Humor, and probably wouldn’t survive if I didn’t start out my day with a “healthy” English breakfast. With that said, when Julie accepted our request for an interview, I became giddy and nervous for a multitude of reasons. One, given the fact that Julie’s nickname is “The Queen of Muay Thai” (and for good reason!) I became nervous as I know that all encounters with any form of royalty have to follow strict guidelines and protocol. I was distraught because I didn’t know whether or not I had to bow my head when we spoke or if I had to address her as “Your majesty” or “Your Royal Highness of Muay Thai badassery”.

My second dilemma was that, unbeknownst to Julie, I have a completely platonic and schoolyard crush on her. This was disconcerting because knowing that we would be seeing each other through Skype, I was consistently wondering if my hair was stylishly disheveled or if the lighting in the room was soft enough to accentuate my good side while hiding my flaws. In the end as I look back, I definitely know that I probably looked like a total scumbag, so I’m really sorry Julie and I hope my interviewing skills made up for my unpleasant appearance.

Last but not least, because Julie is from Penzance, during the interview I had to consistently fight the urge to breakout in song and sing “I am the very model of a modern Major General” from Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance. Now if you don’t know what I’m talking about, the song is hilarious and has been parodied on many occasions…plus it’s awesome…and if you don’t believe me, see for yourself

Anyway, regardless of the diatribe I just subjected you to, the fact still stands that Julie Kitchen is the #1 ranked female Muay Thai fighter in the world. She has not lost a single fight since 2008 and is currently enjoying a very healthy 15 fight win streak. She recently fought Martina Jindrova at the Muaythai Premier League’s inaugural event in Long Beach, California and will be fighting for the MPL again on November 6th in The Hague, Netherlands. Before you check out the video below we have to apologize for the sound issues during the interview, the Skype connection was less than ideal for some reason but we hope to rectify that when we speak with Julie again after her bout in November. A big thanks to Julie for being a trooper through the technical difficulties!

Chike Lindsay vs. Malaipet – Pictures from M1 Grand Muay Thai Championships

Another batch of pictures from Muay Thai is Life’s resident photographer, Galen Okazaki. These are from the bout between Chike Lindsay and Malaipet which took place at Stand Up Promotions’ M1 Grand Muay Thai Championships this past Sunday August 14th, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.

UK’s Simon Chu discusses his upcoming bout with Ky Hollenbeck at “Battle in the Desert 3”

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.

TBA Muay Thai Classic Event Review + Photos

I have to preface this entire review of the TBA-SA Muay Thai Classic by saying that this event is, with no equivocations, the best amateur Muay Thai event in the United States. I also have to say that it is important for media outlets such as Muay Thai is Life and other Muay Thai news websites to cover these amateur tournaments since they are integral part to building up the sport of Muay Thai in the United States.

In U.S. sports, the term “amateur” has somewhat of a negative connotation. People assume that an amateur event is either going to be improperly or poorly put together or that the athletes are “absolute beginners” with “little to no skill”. In the case of Muay Thai in the U.S., this cannot be further from the truth. In combat sports, the term amateur, simply means you are not getting paid to fight or earning any money from your participation in an event. This does not mean that amateurs cannot fight in events where they are not required to wear protection, such as headgear or gloves. Or that they can’t fight in bouts where the rounds are just as long as those who fight pro, or that the rules (save for elbows being thrown) have to be any different from their pro counterparts.

Because the U.S. Muay Thai scene is still in it’s infancy, many of the so called “amateurs” at national amateur tournaments can sometimes have even more experience than those that fight professionally. They fight anywhere and everywhere, whether it be here in the United States or in Europe or Asia. It is for this reason that many times during tournaments such as this past weekend’s TBA, you can also see some of the best Muay Thai in North America.

Now, while the TBA-SA required all of its participants to wear protective gear (shin pads and headgear), the fighters that participated in this event showcased Muay Thai skill that far exceeded that which is commonly associated with the term “amateur”

To start things off, let me discuss the overall organization of the event. This years TBA-SA Muay Thai Classic had over 400+ registered fighters. Previously, when attending events that had a large number of participants, the registration and weigh-in process was an absolute nightmare. However, this would not be the case at the Muay Thai Classic. In the weeks leading up to the event, the TBA-SA allowed fighters to schedule weigh in appointments. Each weigh-in appointment block was about 15 minutes in length and was open to about 8-10 fighters. Fighters would not be allowed to weigh in until their specific weigh in time. And those that failed to schedule an appointment would have to wait until the entire process was done in order to weigh in.

The plan was effective and the weigh-ins were effortless. My only qualm with the whole registration process was the rules meeting complete with a high school style roll call. The roll call served two purposes: Check to see that fighters did in fact attend the rules meeting and give each fighter their fighter pass. Now, I do agree that it should be mandatory for fighters and trainers to attend a rules meeting to avoid any problems later during the competition but to stage a roll call in order to check if everyone is there seems like a waste of time. However, in defense of the TBA, it seems like the roll call is a necessary evil until the U.S. comes up with a unified set of pro and amateur Muay Thai rules that each and every sanctioning body must follow, thus making these rules meetings a thing of the past.

When it came to fight time, the event really did go off without a hitch. All large brackets were set to fight first. Fights were numbered in sequence and the venue had 3 rings where any and all fights would take place.

Save for a few intermissions and a minor unforeseen hiccup, the event ran smoothly and the fights didn’t go too far into the night. Well, maybe a little. The TBA officials we spoke to said that due to such a huge turnout they are looking into possibly making the event 3 days rather than 2. This could be a good and bad thing. Good, because the event should be able to run smoother than it already runs; Bad because weigh-ins would take place on Thursday, which would mean participants would have to take an extra day off from work and purchase an extra day at a hotel. I guess fighters, trainers, and officials will cross that bridge when they come to it.

One thing that I appreciated about the TBA and something I believe the IKF should consider doing, is dividing the competition into A,B, and Novice divisions. If you have 3 fights or less, you can choose to compete in the Novice division. 3-9 fights puts you in the B Division. And 9 fights or more puts you in the A Division. Now the A Class is open to fighters with any record if they choose to challenge themselves, but if they want to see how they stack up against similar competition than they can improve their chances by joining a division with fighters that match their respective skill level.

As for the competition, as I had mentioned previously, many of the fighters that attend the TBA have a skill set that far exceeds what many would consider “amateur”. In the A class, you can find fighters with over 50 amateur Muay Thai fights! Some of their amateur fights come from competing at the IFMA World Championships in Thailand, where the word “amateur” is loosely defined and has more to do with the fact that protection is worn rather than the fact that you have fought professionally elsewhere. Therefore the level of skill that you see from some fighters at the TBA exceeds that of even some of the pro fighters I have seen in the U.S.

Adding to the level of skill present at the tournament were our always tough neighbors to the north. Yes, Canada. Say what you want about Canada. You can say that their beer sucks, that their accents are funny, that hockey is the only sport they’re good at, or that their entire country is like a loft above a really great party. However, what you can’t say is that Canada’s Muay Thai scene takes a backseat to that of the U.S. Because honestly it doesn’t.

9 teams from Canada participated at this year’s TBA: Southside Muay Thai, York Muay Thai, Krudar Muay Thai, Mike Miles Muay Thai, Samir’s Combat Reaction, Pound 4 Pound Muay Thai & MMA, MAS Academy of Martial Arts, Warrior Muay Thai, and 8 Limbs Muay Thai. Making it seem like, as one coach jokingly put it, the “Canadian National Championships”.

I may be off on my statistics here, but I think that more than half of the titles at this years TBA went to Canada. They’re that good.

But besides that, their were obviously tons of teams from the United States that showcased some very solid Muay Thai, way too many to list obviously, but you can be sure that they made the U.S. Muay Thai scene proud.

Overall, I was incredibly impressed with all of the teams that participated at the event. And if all of these fighters represent the future of Muay Thai in the United States, or North America for that matter, then let the whole world be put on notice. We are no longer going to continue walking in Europe and Asia’s shadow.

Below are some pictures I took of the event. I wanted to take more shots than this but being a competitor, corner, and photographer, all at once, turned out to be far more difficult than I had anticipated.

For more information about the TBA check out www.thaiboxing.com and for more information about the TBA-SA Muay Thai Classic check out www.tbasanctioning.org

Also, if you were a competitor at this weekend’s event, we would very much appreciate if you took some time to complete this Muay Thai Fighter survey. The Muay Thai Injury Surveillance during Fight Events study is an innovative research study investigating injuries incurred during MuayThai fights. If you are 18 years of age or older, please share your experiences in our approximately 10 minute online survey by visiting: www.survey.pitt.edu/muaythai