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Thai cave rescue: Undefeated MMA fighter sprang into action to help save trapped soccer team

Pongsiri Mitsatit ONE Championship

I remember when I signed up to play soccer as a kid and my coach was like, “For today’s practice, we’re going to work on penalty kicks, but instead of using a grassy field, sunlight, or an actual net, we’ll head two miles below the earth and try not to drown.”

So of course I was able to empathize with those Thai teenagers who got stuck in what almost proved to be their subterranean tomb. And I wasn’t alone, as undefeated ONE Championship strawweight phenom, Pongsiri Mitsatit, sprang into action to help last weekend’s rescue efforts outside the Tham Luang Nang Non cave system beneath Doi Nang Non mountain range.

Mitsatit is a member of the Pingnakorn Rescue Chiang Mai volunteer group, assisting Navy divers as they worked around the clock to free the team (and its coach) from rapidly rising cave water, just days before the monsoon season threatened to send them all to a watery grave.

“We drove to Chiang Rai in the early morning, worried about the children. But I knew our team was very capable, and I knew we would do everything we could to find them,” Mitsatit said. “In my mind, I wanted to find those kids as soon as possible. Then to see them strong and doing well, it motivates me to be as strong as them. I feel incredibly blessed to be able to help find these kids alive.”

Regrettably, one diver was killed last week as part of the rescue effort. Having dove in freezing, barely-visible conditions, I can assure you it only takes one break in concentration to become completely disoriented. And that was without darkness, close quarters, and minimal air.

Scary stuff.

Mitsatit (9-0) returns to mixed martial arts (MMA) on July 27 as part of the upcoming ONE: “Reign of Kings” combat sports event inside Mall of Asia Arena in Manila, Philippines, where he battles Baguio City’s Joshua “The Passion” Pacio of Team Lakay.

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