I would say that I’m a pretty happy-go-lucky guy. You’ll always see me with a smile on my face, even when I’m having a horrible day. I’ve always been this way, even before I started Muay Thai. If you’re looking for me at the gym, just follow the sound of my laugh. I think it’s one of my most distinguishing features, apart from my height. Despite all the ups and downs in my life, I’ve learned how to stay positive and smile through it all. I’ve learned how to be tough and resilient, even after 12 straight losses.
I started Muay Thai at 9 years old. I was training at home with my friends from my neighborhood, coached by this guy who vaguely knew Muay Thai. We would run a lot and punch and kick makeshift heavy bags. We didn’t learn any techniques; it was as if we were making it all up as we went along. Barely a month into training, I decided to join my first fight. That morning, I went to the weigh-ins and saw my opponent. I found out that he had already fought Muay Thai many times. He was also older than I was. Later that night, I was nervous but I went for it anyway. My father was watching in the audience to support me but my mother refused to watch. I had no idea what I was doing. I remember just punching the guy and trying to grab him. Before I knew it, the fight was over. Apparently, he had knocked me down and won by TKO.
It was quite the learning experience but it didn’t deter me from wanting to pursue my dream. The next year, I moved to Sit-O camp, the home of many champions in Isaan. I figured that my becoming a Muay Thai fighter would be a lot of help for my family. They were rice farmers and their livelihood depended on the seasons. There were times when they couldn’t farm any rice at all. Money was always tight and Muay Thai would be my way of helping my family. Although I had an older brother and sister, it just wasn’t enough. My sister was working with my parents and my older brother had ran off and disappeared. I don’t remember seeing him more than three times in my life. Everything was up to me.
Life at camp wasn’t easy. I had to train 7 days a week, with no days off. On top of this, I had to study. Sit-O was a big camp, there were over 40 fighters and some of them were already superstars in Isaan. Because there were so many of us training, there were times when I could barely get any padwork time or direction from the trainers. I would kick and punch bags, just like I did back home. There were other fighters who required more attention and rightfully so – they were winning fights and I wasn’t. In fact, there was a time I lost 12 fights in a row.
You would think a person who’s lost 12 times would give up, but I didn’t. I still wanted to be a fighter. At that point, I have to admit, I was feeling really desperate. I was clinging on to my career with all the strength that I had left. It wasn’t a lot – I was depressed because I was the first person in Sit-O to be asked to leave. It was embarrassing. All the trainers were there at my 12th fight, they had seen me lose. They agreed that it would be all for the best if I left Sit-O. They said that my future didn’t lie in Muay Thai – I would never be a fighter. Disheartened, I packed what little things I had. I couldn’t stop crying. The next day, I was ready to walk out of Sit-O and the owner stopped me. He asked me where I was going and I told him that I had to go home because I had lost 12 times in a row. He contemplated for a while and told me, “You don’t have to go.”
The immense joy that I felt at that moment is a feeling that I can recall to this day. I immediately raced back upstairs, surprising everyone who had said their goodbyes. For the next two years, I trained practically on my own. I would shadowbox, kicking and punching the heavy bag because there was nobody to hold pads for me. When I was 14 years old, a new trainer came to Sit-O. His name was Pa Dang and he completely changed everything. He approached me and asked me why I wasn’t training. I told him it was because I didn’t have anyone to train me. He agreed to take me under his wing and because of this, I flourished. It was as if I finally had a reason to train. Pa Dang said that I should adopt the fighting style of the Muay Khao. He said that I needed to use my height and aggressiveness to my advantage. Finally, I found a fighting style that suited me and this gave me the confidence I needed. It was as if I had found my purpose and I focused all my energy on training this style.
When I was ready, Pa Dang took me to Lumpinee because my style suited it. There were lots of aggressive fighters at Lumpinee who put on exciting shows for the fans and it was perfect for me, according to Pa Dang. Because of my persistence, I won my first title fight soon after. I remember being really nervous about this fight, as there was a lot of pressure on me to win. Although I had won 5 fights in a row beforehand, I wanted to prove I was worthy of a title and that I was much more than my 12 losses. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine that I was going to be a champion.
My favorite fight of all time was when I fought Samkor Kiatmontep. I remember watching him fight when I was younger. He was from Buriram, Isaan, just like I was. He was a big star in our province and everyone knew who he was. When I found out I was fighting him, I was floored. This guy was my idol and to fight him would mean that someone considered me to be in the same league Samkor was in. Then it hit me; I had finally made it. We fought a total of three times. I won the 2nd fight.
Looking back to where I first started, I don’t think I could have ever imagined winning 3 titles and even Fighter Of The Year. All I wanted to do was help my family and fight Muay Thai. So many people doubted me, but I am happy that I’ve proven them wrong. Muay Thai has opened many doors for me – it gave me a career and means for providing for my family. It gave me the control over my own life. How hard I trained, how well I did in a fight determined my fate as well as my family’s. And now at Evolve MMA, I can continue to provide for my family, even past my prime.
Today, as a teacher, I share all that I’ve learned in my Muay Thai journey with my students. From all the glory days to all the hardships I’ve experienced, I think these have made me the teacher that I am today. Yes, I have a soft spot for my students who have a difficult time learning techniques. I remember how hard it was and how self-conscious I felt when I was in their shoes many years ago, so I help them out a lot. I want my students to start and leave my class with smiles on their faces. After all, everyone will eventually improve if they enjoy what they are doing.
Train with Muay Thai Legend Nonthachai Sit-O at