The first ever fully dedicated mixed martial arts (MMA) show will be taking place in Pattaya later this month. Scheduled for Saturday March 26 at the Pattaya Centre Hotel ‘MMA, The Beginning’ will feature fighters training in Thailand and Singapore.
While Muay Thai is very much king when it comes to fighting sports in Thailand MMA is growing rapidly in popularity elsewhere. The sport combines elements of Muay Thai alongside wrestling and grappling techniques. As well as traditional methods such as a knock out or judges decision fighters can also win by submission, putting their opponent in a choke or hold from which they are forced to ‘submit’ or risk losing consciousness or sustaining serious injury.
The rapid growth of MMA has been a triumph of marketing largely driven by the success of one promotion, the Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC). Formed in the US it has expanded to put on shows all over the world which consistently sell out 15,000 plus capacity stadiums and are bought by hundreds of thousands of people on pay per view.
Although there has never been a dedicated MMA show in Thailand before, a number of Muay Thai camps here are looking to cash in on the new found popularity of the sport by offering MMA training. Tiger Muay Thai in Phuket is probably the best known and some of the UFC’s top fighters have trained there in the past.
Legacy Gym near Ubon Ratchatani, 301 Muay Thai near Hua Hin and the Bangkok Fight Club all also offer MMA training and will have fighters on the card at ‘MMA The Beginning’. MMA has not exactly taken Thailand by storm, largely due to the fact that boxing and Muay Thai are already well established here and televised regularly, but could well prove popular amongst the tourists and expats who make up a significant percentage of the Pattaya population.
There are a number of established MMA shows in the Southeast Asian region including Legend FC in Hong Kong, URCC in the Philippines and Martial Combat in Singapore which is broadcast to 24 Asian countries by ESPN Star Sports and has featured a number of Thai and Thai based fighters.
Two of the most notable Martial Combat fighters are Ole Laursen, who owns the Legacy Gym, and Ray Elbe, who runs the MMA program at Tiger Muay Thai. They have become household names in Singapore as a result of their participation on the show and Laursen, who made his name as a Muay Thai fighter, was even featured in FHM Magazine.
Although neither will be in action in Pattaya they will both have students on the card. Justin Governale from Tiger Muay Thai will be taking on Thai fighter Mardsing Suriya while Martial Combat and Legacy FC veteran Alex Niu who trains at Legacy Gym will be up against Krzysztof Hajtalowicz from the Golden Triangle Gym.
Promoter Bobby Gerrits teaches MMA at the Ultra Fight gym in Samut Prakarn. He thinks that Thailand will learn to love the sport and hopes that the show in Pattaya will be the first of many,
“MMA is my passion, it’s my life, I’ve fought professionally myself and I have spend the last 12 years of my life training in all the elements of it. I think there’s a real gap in the market in Thailand because, while all over the world people are getting into MMA, awareness here is still low. Also Muay Thai is 50% of MMA and there are so many fighters here who are so naturally athletic, if they could incorporate all the other elements they could be very successful,” he said.
Making money out of the sport of fighting is notoriously difficult and it will be interesting to see whether Thailand’s first ever MMA promotion will stand the test of time. With an increasing number of people travelling to these shores to master mixed martial arts it makes sense to provide a platform for them to test their skills, the question is whether can be weaned off their traditional diet of Muay Thai and boxing.
‘MMA The Beginning’ takes place at the Pattaya Centre Hotel. Tickets are available priced at 500 Baht and 1,000 Baht and doors open at 6.30pm.
For more information about MMA in the region visit: South East Asian MMA