I spent the first six weeks of 2020 in Thailand, and half of that time was devoted entirely to mixed martial arts (MMA) and Muay Thai training.
Two of those weeks were spent in the island paradise of Phuket at Tiger Muay Thai, one of the best MMA gyms on the planet. Once in Phuket, I met up with SB Nation video producer Case Harts, and we went to work on capturing the experience of training at an elite level in a foreign country.
Over the course of three weeks, Case and I recorded a ton of footage. Primarily, the focus of all this recording was training and martial arts related. For the first two weeks, I trained at Tiger Muay Thai every day, experiencing as much as I could of what the massive facility and dozens of coaches offered. Then, we relocated to Bangkok, where I visited several different academies.
Let’s dig into the fourth episode:
Episode Four: I probably sparred with a few dozen athletes while at Tiger Muay Thai, so there had to be at least one weirdo in the mix. In addition, we take an inside look at Tiger Muay Thai’s monthly BBQ Beatdown!
Behind-The-Scenes: Since I already explain and complain a fair amount (maybe too much!) about the dude without a mouthpiece who wanted to brawl in the doc itself, let’s talk BBQ Beatdown.
When I first arrived at Tiger, there was apparently a sign-up sheet at the front desk to compete at the BBQ Beatdown. I didn’t realize, but as mentioned in Episode One, I was way too jet lagged and overweight to really commit to the concept of competing at that point anyway.
The event is really cool, and we were lucky our dates overlapped. True to its name, two $30 tickets gave us access to a lot of Thai food and a dozen amateur scraps. The bouts were a mix of everything: amateur Muay Thai, grappling, boxing, and even MMA. The competitor base consisted almost entirely of visiting athletes from the many gyms on Muay Thai Street and around Phuket.
In general, the fights were ... not high-level. I’m talking punching from the bottom while mounted-type fights! That’s okay though; anyone who has ever seen a regional amateur event knows that fights can be plenty fun regardless of skill level.
There was one major exception, and it overshadowed everything else by a mile. In the lone professional bout of the night, 12- and 14-year-old Thais faced off in Muay Thai. Both had over a dozen professional bouts to their name, and the two brought the action. It was the most exciting bout I saw while in Thailand, as the two adolescents battered each other, the momentum shifting sides with each clean cross and cutting elbow.
Previous to BBQ Beatdown, I had visited the prestigious Rajadamnern Stadium in Bangkok for live fights, and none of those 10 adult bouts were quite as exciting as this one. I don’t mean to imply that children should be brutalizing each other, nor am I condemning a Thai cultural institution.
All I’m saying: those kids can f*cking fight.
Next time, I promised semi-organized bar fights ... and that’s finally next. Stay tuned for plenty more!