Muay Thai is definitely one of the essential skill sets for any mixed martial arts fighter, but it’s an ancient and respected martial art on its own with roots that go back several centuries in Thailand where it was both a sport and part of military training. Muay Thai is a highly versatile style of fighting that incorporates the use of the arms and legs; in fact there are eight contact points – the feet, the fists, the elbows and the knees. Throughout the years, there have been many prominent practitioners of Muay Thai, and here are just a few of the best ones.
Back in the 1770s, the King of Burma invaded Siam and captured many troops, including Nai Khanomtom. Khanomtom was told he must fight the best Burmese boxer in an exhibition match. As he entered the ring, Khanomtom mesmerized the crowd with a ceremonial dance, and then he charged his Burmese opponent and defeated him quickly. Believing the dance to be black magic, the king told Khanomtom that he must fight nine more opponents because he cheated by using magic. So Khanomtom, with no breaks between fights, defeated every one of the nine Burmese boxers. The king was in awe, freed Khanomtom and even offered him several Burmese women as wives. Today, Thailand still celebrates Khanomtom’s victories on National Muay Boran Day which falls on March 17.
Fast forward a century or so and you have the career of Apidej Sit-Hirun to consider. Sit-Hirun is perhaps the most powerful Muay Thai kicker in modern times. If you are a disbeliever, simply ask Sompong Charoenmuang. During a memorable bout, Sit-Hirun broke both of Charoenmuang’s arms, forcing him to retire. In addition to that, Sit-Hirun was perhaps the most prominent Muay Thai fighter of the 1960s and was also a highly respected instructor of the sport. The reigning king of Thailand called Sit-Hirun the “Fighter of the Century,” and you can find highlights of some of his bouts online.
If you love Muay Thai and would like to catch some of the world’s best bouts, take a trip to Thailand and visit Lumpinee Boxing Stadium, which is considered by many to be a worldwide symbol of Muay Thai. For Samart Payakaroon, winning one championship at Lumpinee was just not enough of an accomplishment. Payakaroon won four championships, but even more impressive, they were all in different weight classes. His overall record includes more than 129 victories and fewer than 20 losses. In addition, he is an award-winning singer and even has acted in a few films.
If Lumpinee is Madison Square Garden, the Rajadamnern Stadium is its twin brother. A win at either of these prominent Muay Thai stadiums is akin to winning a major bout in the UFC. Jomhod Kiatadisak has won at both of these arenas and in two different weight classes; he’s also been crowned victor 14 times at the WBC Muay Thai Championships. With more than 300 fights in all, Kiatadisak the “King of the Ring,” has lost only 24 of them, which is impressive all by itself.
Muay Thai is a huge part of MMA and there are many highly skilled and versatile fighters with mad Muay Thai skills, not the least of which is Anderson Silva, who has black belt in Muay Thai. It’s just part of his black belt collection, actually, as he also has earned them in Judo, Tae Kwon Do and, of course, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He may also be a Jedi Knight, but that is unconfirmed. At any rate, there are a few other highly ranked MMA fighters with strong MMA skills, including Cristiane Santos, who also has a black belt in Muay Thai as well as brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.