Getting cut in a muay thai fight

A Dumb Reason to Have a Muay Thai Fight

I was reading through one of my favourite blogs yesterday, Muay Thai PROS, when I came across this post. I advise you to read the post yourself, but basically the post lists 5 reasons why you should have a muay Thai fight. Reason #1 on the list is “Your Trainer Thinks You Should”. Now, I’m not going to beat about the bush here – that’s the worst reason to have a fight. I’m sure Steve has his own reasons for stating this, and maybe I’ve taken it out of context. But the post brings up a very important point, regardless. Let me explain.

Trainers, Thai or foreign, don’t always have your best interests at heart. In fact, if your trainer does have your best interests at heart then you’re doing OK for yourself. The fact is, as Steve mentioned in his post, every Thai trainer wants you to fight – regardless of your skill level. I’ve lost count of the amount of bums I’ve seen get knocked out in Phuket stadiums, or seen two totally unskilled “fighters” hopelessly swinging at each other. Those people shouldn’t have fought at all. But did their trainers want them to fight? Of course!

Let’s be honest, it’s ridiculously easy to get a muay Thai fight in Thailand. When I first came to Thailand, I made the mistake of thinking that my trainer actually had my best interests at heart. If he told me to jump, I jumped. I let him dictate my training and fight schedule to suit him and his pockets.

In Thailand, a foreigner with the potential to fight is a walking ฿ sign. The Trainers won’t give a crap if you get KO’d in the first minute or not, as long as they get their cut. You see, you shouldn’t feel “flattered” if your trainer wants you to have a muay Thai fight. He’ll be saying the same thing to anyone who walks through the gym doors who has two arms and legs. They’ll be your best friend if they think they can convince you to fight.

Time to get sewed up after the fight

What I’m trying to say is, a trainer telling you that you’re ready to fight doesn’t mean s**t. Here’s an example; every gym I went to in Bangkok, bar one, bent over backwards to try and get me to fight in Lumpinee stadium. Why? Because the Lumpinee promoters can get away with paying foreigners a meager 4,000 baht for the privilege, and the gym will pocket a bigger percentage. Why would a foreigner accept 4,000 baht for fighting on a weekend, non-televised show in a half-empty stadium against another potentially unskilled foreigner, with a very good chance of the fight being a mismatch? Because they were “flattered”, that’s why. And that’s the same reason that person will go home with a broken arm and a desire never to fight again.

Note: not all Thai trainers have this mentality, but the majority of the ones that I’ve come across in numerous gyms do. I’m not saying they’re bad people, I’m saying that there’s a big difference in culture. Once you’ve lived in Thailand for a while, you’ll begin to understand the Thai mentality, although you’ll never completely understand it.

As for western trainers wrongly trying to persuade you to fight, it’s not usually so much about making money. It’s usually either lack of knowledge i.e. they actually think that you are ready to fight when, in fact, you’re not. Or, they are on an ego trip and want to train a group of fighters, perhaps because they didn’t have the balls to fight themselves so they now want to live their dream through somebody who does. Either way, you have to have your wits about you in the fight game.

You may think I’m making a big deal about nothing, but there’s a few good reasons why you shouldn’t accept a muay Thai fight “willy nilly”. One reason is, as I stated above, you may have such a bad experience that you never want to fight again. I had an amateur kickboxing fight in the UK in 2006. I wasn’t ready to fight and I got my ass kicked. I didn’t think I had what it took to be a fighter after that fight. I was demoralised and didn’t have the right people around me who were experienced enough to council me after the fight. I quit. I didn’t fight again until 5 years later. I wasted 5 years of my life because I didn’t believe in myself after such a beating. Fact is, I thought I was ready for that fight, but I wasn’t.

So how do you know when you are ready for a muay Thai fight?

The placing of the mongkol

If you are in any doubt as to whether you’re ready or not, you’re probably not. But you should consult a senior fighter in your gym whom you trust. An experienced fighter should be able to tell you if you have the basic skills down and the mental aptitude for fighting. Either one of these attributes (technical skill and mental stability) can be nurtured, but the mental attribute is a takes a lot more work.

Of course, these fictional trainers I’m talking about exist. Believe me, they are everywhere. But not all trainers have the same traits as these. There are obviously some great trainers who produce world champions. These said trainers have the physical and mental skills required for such a job, but there are too many trainers out there who have neither. Fighting is NOT  a game, and shouldn’t be treated as such.

I’m not saying you should never have a muay Thai fight. I’m saying you should do it for the right reasons, and not because your trainer told you too!

Have you ever had a bad experience with a trainer? Do you think my synopsis is correct? Drop me a comment.

Don’t forget to download the FREE ebook 20 Tips For Training in Thailand to make the most of your trip.

About Aaron Jahn

Aaron is an active muay Thai fighter and coach from the UK. He holds a BSc (hons) degree in Strength & Conditioning and is currently studying a Sports Therapy Master's degree in Leeds, UK. Aaron has fought over 20 times in Thailand and has spent years training at different muay Thai camps all over the country.

16 comments

  1. Agreed. This is huge and often overlooked or completely unknown to foreigners making their way over to Thailand to train. It definitely effected choices I made and in retrospect, I’m happy for them, although at the time it was hard to fight against my own ego and expectations.

    To add – I’ve known of trainers known for putting fighters in the ring who may look good to the gamblers, then bet against their own fighters. Trust your intuition people.

    • Thanks for the comment. The gambling issue is a great point. I’ve actually been in that same situation where I was getting trained for a fight by a guy who was planning to bet against me. I agree though, it’s something which foreigners preparing to travel to Thailand aren’t usually aware of, but what’s even more worrying is that some of these people are still unaware of what’s going on after months of living in Thailand and after accepting numerous fights.

  2. Gozer the Gozerian

    There’s shit MT coaches where I’m from by the bucket load. You should see these guys… thinking that they’re next Freddie Roach training the next Pac man but yet they are so inexperienced when coming up with general strategies to defeat fighters from other gyms.
    I say caveat emptor when dealing with coaches

    • It’s everywhere mate! I honestly think the westerners who do it are really insecure and have low self esteem. It’s an ego thing and, as I said, they probably never had a muay Thai fight themselves so they are living it through somebody else. But you’re right, never trust any trainer unconditionally.

  3. And here I was thinking that my trainer saw something in me lol. I was wondering how he could possibly think a newbie who’d never trained Muay Thai could be ready for a fight in one month. After reading this article I know that the promoter was eyeing me up only because I look muscular and thought it’d be an interesting fight.

    A little disheartening that trainers would do you like that though. I kind of envisioned a real tight trainer, trainee bond where my best interests as well as his rep as a trainer would be the most important things. I guess I watched too much karate kid.

    • Hi Nikki, I can’t speak for any of the people you mentioned, and I don’t know what camp you’re at, but if you’re muscular and you look the part then there’s more chance of gamblers betting on you and losing their money. Therefore, big money all-round for all those involved such as trainers, gym owners and promoters. Sorry to hear, if that was the case!

  4. wow, wow, wow, wow, WOW!!!!!! ABOUT TIME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Christ-man , well said…well said indeed!!!!…I thought I was the only one who felt this way about “being ready to fight” and ” why you should fight”…..Most people that Ive met fight for the wrong reasons…and end up getting hurt, doing poorly and embarrassing their camp or all of the above….and continue to do this as they go along….what I DID notice , however, is that the ones who do crapy are the same fighters who don’t like to train….they’re lazy and think just because they do a few training sessions a week for like 1-2 hours that they’re good to go…come fight night, they’re gassed by the first round…ive seen it happen to many fighters here in the states ( poor technique to be included )…a lot of the guys/gals i’ve seen who have awesome technique and stamina are the ones who actually train hard ( practicing their technique on a constant basis) and have fighting LAST on their list….too many people put fighting First on their list………I’ve tried having this conversation with other people and they’d look at me like i’m a nut for training hard and not fighting?…..I treat fighting like sparring…I ( and I think other people should too ) only sparr when they feel like should test out a new technique that they put into practice over a 100-times already…other wise your just wasting time ( in-sparring) throwing punches and kicks with bad form just to land a hit…completely missing the point about sparring…..( I see this all the time to)—-ppl want to sparr everyday but not want to train and practice technique…this is the most backwards thing i’ve ever heard of and seen and its perpetuated among most camps that train in combat sports.—-i’m gonna do my best to spread this link around among others because this article can be very helpful to many and could save someone from getting seriously injuried.

    • I would like to add that too many people like to use appearance ( physical -fitness-level ) a reason to fight….someone can be in awesome shape,….but are they in FIGHT shape?…( mentally and physically capable of getting into the ring and execute ?)…..I feel like most coaches are more concerned with making their camp look good.. instead of the safety of their fighters..

      • Exactly. Many people have read this post and think I’m some kind of pussy for telling them not to fight before they’re ready ha ha. The thing is, a lot of people are blind to their own skill level until they improve a whole load and look back on how they used to move.

        • ” a lot of people are blind to their own skill”—i agree with this to an extent…its either they’re blind, or they’re well aware and don’t want to admit it so they keep fighting……because ” Not-Fighting” is not an option (maintaining Ego is )…….There is also this under the table peer-pressure when it comes to fighting…they see all the guys in-camp taking fights on a regular basis..so they feel like they should to regardless of their current conditioning level…….I fell victim to that very same thing and suffered the consequences of not performing like I did on my previous fight—-Thankfully i didn’t’ get seriously injured…

          No you’re not a pussy, and the people who said that to you are likely aware of that as-well…it was their Ego-talking ( the “Macho-men” they wear as a mask )-hiding their true-self…..its really difficult to NOT see the logic in your article–

  5. My trainers never asked me to fight, I had to go to them and tell them I wanted to fight. At my gym unless you are really good its up to you to go to them if you want to fight which puts it on you because once you commit to a fight its on.

  6. Sorry just come across this post I know its old,

    think your absoloutly spot on, When I went over Thailand I trained for a month there (already going there in really good shape, never fought in the UK as 99% of local shows Thai and K1 fights mainly consist of a !minimum of 1 fighter only knowing how to wing wild hooks, usually both of them) and was instantly asked if I wanted to fight by the head trainer at the gym, I ended up breaking my wrist 2 weeks later so didn’t fight there, but am very glad I didn’t fight as you said I wasn’t fighting because I wanted to at this point but I was blown away by the head trainer of this muay Thai gym in Thailand has asked me to fight for his gym ( I’m from a small Thai gym in south London) so was a huge shock for me,
    But after coming away and seeing videos of people from the gym a lot worse than me and a lot less fit than me fighting out there and it makes you see its not so special at all and you do have to be very careful what gym you train at and who is training you. Its just as big a risk fighting out there as it is here in being matched up with some muscled up guy with a heavy right hand, but Thailand has the added bonus that you may face a very dangerous experienced former thai champion which I think a lot of people forget may happen to them if they to are blown away by the “compliment” of being asked to fight. So gotta be very careful and don’t get caught up in your ego

    • Yeah, you’re right mate. It’s easy to get sucked in to all the bullshit that some “fighters” spout when they’re over there because they know that people don’t know any different unless they’ve spent a bit of time in Thailand.

      The truth is that there isn’t really any standard to speak of when it comes to fighting in Thailand, though some bloggers and social media warriors will tell you different to make themselves out to be something they’re not.

      I can definitely understand why some people would want to go there to get a short cut to a pro fight but, at the end of the day, if they’re not ready for a fight in the UK then they’re not ready for a fight anywhere else either.

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