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ONE Championship sued by Boxing Association of Thailand for perverting Muay Thai

A political backlash is brewing in Thailand after “entertainment fighting” has led to a loss of visibility and prestige for traditional Muay Thai.

ONE Championship “Dawn Of Heroes” In Manila, Philippines Photo by George Calvelo/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Don’t call it Muay Thai if it’s not really Muay Thai.

That’s the lesson ONE Championship may learn the hard way after the Boxing Association of Thailand has filed a lawsuit against the promotion alleging the combat sports promotion is violating the Boxing Act of 2002.

ONE Championship is a bit of a rarity in the landscape as it regularly features all manner of fights using all sorts of rulesets at its event. Mixed martial arts (MMA), kickboxing, Muay Thai, submission grappling and boxing bouts have all been seen during ONE events. But, apparently if you are going to call a match Muay Thai, it needs to follow very specific rules and regulation, otherwise it’s just, “Sparkling Kickboxing.”

People in Thailand are just as serious about the brand and identity of Muay Thai as businesses in Champagne, France. And now the Director of Boxing, Palat Suwannametakorn, has taken legal matters to stop ONE from calling its fights and Muay Thai championship belt “Muay Thai.”

In a Facebook post, Channel 44 Chef Boontham posted “This matter, I confirm again, is to protect the art of Muay Thai, which is a national treasure of Thailand, of Thai people, that we are Thai people. We must preserve it for our children.”

“Upon inspection, it was found that Boxing ONE does not follow standard rules and regulations for Boxing Competition (No. 2) 2013, Region 4 ... I’ll give you an example to see if in this regulation: Muay Thai fighters must pay homage to teachers, wear auspicious clothes, and dress up to be neat like Muay Thai that fight each other today. But ONE doesn’t follow the rules.”

The big question here is whether the Boxing Association of Thailand has backing in the current government, and if they simply want ONE Championship to stop holding Muay Thai fights or want to push ONE and/or MMA out of the country entirely. The repercussions could be huge at a time where ONE is trying to get a toehold in North America with its first United States show on May 5, 2023, in Denver, Colorado. Or this could just be an ineffective attempt that doesn’t gain any traction. We’ll keep a close eye on the situation.

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