Australian Muay Thai legend, John Wayne Parr, has long been a fan of MMA and the UFC. And he came up with a brilliant and super-violent way to marry the two together: Caged Muay Thai. The ten-time world champion's Caged Muay Thai promotion takes all the stand up action from Muay Thai, puts the fighters in a cage with four-ounce MMA gloves and eliminates any action on the ground. It's a carnage-seeking fight fan's dream. Skilled stand-up technicians with smaller gloves to ensure more action and a high volume of knockouts.
Parr, 38, calls it the "perfect scenario," and said he originally got the idea while training in grappling, during the time he was "contemplating" competing in MMA and trying out for the The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) Australia vs. Canada television series. He ended up snapping one of his fingers in half while rolling and in a time of frustration afterward, the first thoughts of CMT had spawned.
"I was laying in bed thinking 'man I so want to fight in the cage. I so want to do this, but I don't want to learn the ground game considering I've already had a couple of lessons and I've already broke my finger and I never had any injuries in Muay Thai,'" said Parr, who owns the Boonchu gym in Burleigh Heads on the Gold Coast in Australia. "That is when I came up with the idea of doing Muay Thai in the cage with MMA gloves on. That helped me get that cage thing out of my system. That is how my promotion came about. All from a broken finger."
That, and the fact that he was growing a bit envious of the attention that MMA fighters often receive.
"I'm a massive UFC fan," said Parr, who at 19-years-old moved to Bangkok, Thailand and trained and fought for five years under Sangtien Noi at the Loomingkwan Gym, before returning to Australia.
"I'm addicted to it," he continued. "I buy almost every single pay-per-view. As a Muay Thai fighter I got to this stage where I was very jealous of them fighting in a cage. I wanted to prove myself as a warrior, just to show I am just as tough as MMA guys are. I decided to get the cage and host an event. I did a little bit of research on Youtube and I seen a few Muay Thai fights in a cage, but they were wearing traditional gloves. And it looked wrong and really peculiar. If I wanted to get the same respect from the fans as the MMA guys get, there is no way I could have fighters going to the arena fighting with boxing gloves instead of MMA gloves. I thought, 'If I am going to do this, I am going to do this 100 percent.' That's why I decided for the gloves and the cage. Keep it Muay Thai rules exactly the same as MMA except for when it goes to the ground, you stop and stand back up again. Every single UFC fight that they call 'Fight of the year,' is the ones where they stand the whole time. I'm giving the fans exactly what they want to see."
The rounds in CMT are three minutes long as opposed to five-minute rounds in MMA. Parr proudly mentioned that Firas Zahabi, who trains Georges St. Pierre and other UFC notables, said he is "crazy."
"I spoke to Firas and he said 'holy shit. You are just going to stand there toe to toe and trade with little gloves on. You guys are nuts. In MMA we can take each other down. We can hold each other down for four and a half minutes and we don't get that hurt from hammer fists. To stand there and punch on for a whole round, you guys are nuts.' If the MMA guys think we are crazy, then we are doing a good thing," Parr said.
The fifth fight card that Parr will be putting on, CMT 5: Lidon vs. Badato, takes place on December 6, 2014 from Logan Metro Sports Center in Logan, Australia and streams live on GFL.tv at 3:30AM ET. The main event pits France champion Yohan Lidon (79-32-1) against Australian champion Michael "Bad Ass" Badato (31-16).
"Yohan is a 9x world champion and has fought the who's who of the world," said Parr. "I think he has had 130 fights. Michael Badato, he is a very strong competitor and very famous here in Australia. In the ring he is a certain fighter. Put him in a cage and he turns into a beast. He just knows with the little gloves, he can just hurt people. He is exciting too. His game plan is 'I'm going to knock you out in the fastest time possible.' Against Yohan, it's going to be a difficult fight, because he is so calculated and strong and he has no fear because he has fought everyone before. It is going to be a challenge for Badato, but at the same time it is a golden opportunity to put himself on the world's stage."
"The Gunslinger" as he is known said his business plan was to "get an international fighter for every event," and he has succeeded in doing do for the first four fight cards he has put on: bringing in Lidon at CMT 4, New Zealand standout Jordan Thai at CMT 1, Thailand champion Porsanne for CMT 2 and Marko Pique from Holland at CMT 3. Par won decisions over Pique and Lidon and knocked out Thai in the fourth round at the first CMT event. For CMT 5, he will be bringing in multiple international fighters.
"Every time I bring in a national fighter, that country is talking about the show," Parr said. "This show we have raised the bar once again, now we have three internationals: Yohan Lidon from France, Andy Howson from England and Tony Manohoran from Canada. So hopefully three countries will be talking about the event at once this time."
Parr's knockout vs. Thai at CMT back in June of 2013 was to be his retirement fight, but the Australian said he began to get "itchy knuckles" not long after and was back in action about ten months later. The ten-time champion won all of his fights after he came back before losing his last one by technical knockout in the third round to Tobey Smith on the Powerplay Promotions 24 card in Melbourne, this past June.
"I still believed I had a few fights left in me," Parr said. "So, I came back and I've had six fights since I came back and I won them all until my last fight. I got elbowed in the face and cracked two orbital bones and now I have nerve damage on the left side of my face, so I'm just waiting for it to heal. There is a good chance I will back in the cage in March or April."
WIth the decline of K-1, which once held the who's who of kickboxing and Muay Thai from all over the world, Parr said "there is no real pinnacle for us Muay Thai fighters, no big stage or no chance to get world famous anymore." When asked if GLORY had reached out to him, he acknowledged they had, but said the money is not the same that he would make fighting in the land down under and at his age he doesn't want to travel anymore to fight either.
"The prize money that I make here in Australia compared to what they were offering was very little," Parr explained. "I'm very fortunate and very humbled and very blessed that I make quite a lot of money from fighting here in Australia. When I was younger I fought all over the world. I fought in Japan 16 times, I lived in Thailand for five years and I've fought all over Europe. Now I'm at the age where I'm making so much money here in Australia, that I don't really have to go over seas anymore. I'm already established worldwide. Everyone knows who I am. My theory is: why should I go somewhere and have jet lag, when someone can come to me and suffer. I just did seminars in England and it's a 35-hour flight. When night turns to day and day turns to night and you are trying to stay awake and wash your face with water before you walk out to the ring, it's not a pleasant feeling."
With a career spanning almost twenty years, the Aussie was asked if there was one moment in his fight career that stood out above all others. Many fighters are asked this question in the latter part of their careers and they usually have a few or they say they can't pick just one, "The Gunslinger," didn't hesitate and said without question it was winning the S-1 World Championship eight-man tournament in Thailand back on March 20, 2004.
"It was an eight-man tournament in a stadium called Rajamangala," Parr recalled. "It is like the next Lumpinee. It's a big one. It's the ultimate. I fought three gentlemen. I fought a guy from Russia, a guy from France and then I fought a gentleman from Thailand that beat me three times in the past. I sort of shit myself when I saw I had to fight the Thai again, but it just happened to be my night. I ended up beating him on points. I won a million baht, which equates to 35 thousand Australian dollars. I also won a world title and a trophy from the prime minister of Thailand, all live on Thai TV. I made all the front covers. It was a live event on channel five over there. It was the first time in Thailand where I walked down the street and the Thai's were running up and asking me for photographs and I was talking to taxi-cab drivers and kids. After living there for five years it was like the ultimate dream come true that I finally made it.
"For a westerner to win it, it was so devastating. I remember doing a radio interview. I can speak Thai, so we are doing the interview and they are saying 'congratulations on the win. It was great. You fought fantastic.' Then they put my Thai trainer on because they wanted to talk to him. And they abused him, 'how dare you teach our Thai secrets to this foreigner. Now he's taking our Thai currency out of our country into his own country. You are a disgrace.' My trainer said 'what am I supposed to do? He's been living with me for five years. I treat him like a brother. Of course I'm going to show him stuff. I can't not teach him stuff. He's like family to me.' It's pretty funny how the Thais are."
Parr also fought in the K-1 World Max in 2005, a 16-man tournament, where he made it to the quarter finals before losing to Albert Kraus.
"The K-1 one was nuts too. That was on a different scale because of how professional it was run and every single person in the tournament was a superstar. Walking into the tournament and seeing Masato, Mike Zambidis, Albert Kraus and Buakaw staring at you, it was a good rush."
The former pro boxer with a 10-3 record is a fan of Manny Pacquiao and said "it's almost a crime" that he hasn't fought Floyd Mayweather yet. In Muay Thai and kickboxing, his favorite fighter to watch is Yodsanklai Fairtex, a man he has fought three times. "I definitely like watching him dismantle other human beings," he said.
And in MMA, his favorite is the former UFC welterweight champion, Georges St. Pierre. Parr first met "GSP" while traveling in Canada for his seminars, and was later invited up to Tri-Star to help prepare him for the UFC 167 fight vs. Johnny Hendricks. He had only high praise for the now, semi-retired fighter.
"I went and trained with Georges St. Pierre for two weeks," Parr said. "He invited me to Canada to train. Not only is he my favorite fighter, but I consider him a good friend because the way they adopted me up there in Montreal the time that I was with him. He is such a gentleman and such a humble human being. He is so ridiculously famous. I can't believe someone can be that famous. When I was walking the streets with him it was like walking around with Elvis. For the first three days it was really cool, because I'm like 'I can't believe how famous you are.' And then the fourth or fifth day you realize that it doesn't turn off. It's like every single second of every day. Even when we pull up at a red light in the car, people are screaming his name. It's like 'man, I don't know how you do it. I don't know how you can constantly smile and shake everyone's hand.' I wouldn't like to be in that position where it's too awkward to walk down the street."
"The Gunslinger" will be back in the ring or cage in 2015 and he will turn 39 in May. With well over a hundred fights under his belt, and over 80 wins, and still having the competitive fire, it's a safe bet you will most likely see him fighting into his forties. The world already knows his career has been a success, and he is hoping that the CMT promotion follows in the same foot steps.
"I'm trying to give the crowd something they've never seen before with the best vs the best," he said. "I want to try to steal everything I can from the UFC's business plan and just raise the bar and give the fans the most exciting fights that can possibly be given. Everything is thrown with full intention and people are really trying to hurt other people. That is what the crowd wants to see. I don't know if it's going to work or not, but fingers crossed that the crowd appreciates the time and effort and the money that I'm spending to bring these quality of fighters here to Australia so we can get the best view possible."