Muay Thai kickboxing is very well known around the world and has millions of dedicated fans in Thailand and elsewhere. Many people that come to Phuket on holiday have never seen a real fight up close in person, so it’s an enjoyable activity for those that want to witness the traditional sport that Thailand has become famous for. There are Muay Thai stadiums and training camps all over the country, especially in the big cities where the audiences can be large and the fights are frequently televised. Even much smaller tourist towns such as Hua Hin have a few Muay Thai gyms and stadiums.
Muay Thai is the national sport in Thailand and remains extremely popular with local Thais as well as tourists. The sport’s fierce reputation and frequent exposure on TV and in films has contributed to its increase in popularity especially within the last few decades. Perhaps the most famous modern day fighter is Thailand’s own Tony Jaa (real name Tatchakon Yeeram) who stars in the Ong Bak series of films, that have enjoyed some international acclaim and success. Watching the action in a movie is great but you can’t beat a real live match. At an event with a big crowd the atmosphere is electric and you have to sympathise with the fighters every time they endure a powerful roundhouse kick or a hard knee strike to the stomach from their opponent.
In Muay Thai eight contact points are used, namely the hands, feet, elbows and knees, to inflict the maximum damage and win points. This contrasts with most contact sports and martial arts which tend to use just the hands and feet, making Muay Thai a somewhat faster and arguably more exciting experience. There is a well known saying in Muay Thai which is “kick loses to punch, punch loses to knee, knee loses to elbow, elbow loses to kick” which emphasises that every technique must be learnt to become a truly competent fighter. Thai kickboxing moves have also been incorporated into related modern sports such as MMA (mixed martial arts) and K-1 (a Japanese variation of kickboxing).
The Local Scene
In Phuket, organised fights are held at prominent locations and there are many dedicated gyms and training camps scattered throughout the island. Leading up to fight nights, open pickup trucks drive around and publicise the details by deafening loudspeaker (quite hard to miss) and promoters hand out flyers around places like Patong Beach. The trucks usually have a small posse of fighters on the back posing and trying to drum up attention.
So if you’re looking to attend a match in the centre of Patong then you won’t have any trouble finding out where to go. One interesting aspect of the local scene is that, since many tourists come to Phuket to train and improve their techniques, some matches feature foreigners (sometimes known as Nak Muay Thai Farang or foreign Muay Thai fighters) which makes an especially fun evening. Will you support the Thai or foreign fighter? It can be tough to decide!
A local Muay Thai match is definitely a recommended and interesting experience on any visit to Phuket to appreciate this highly skilled, energetic and artful sport. Even if you aren’t a fan of traditional boxing or contact sports, you’re sure to enjoy the thrills and spills and the amazing atmosphere on fight night, as long as you don’t mind the violence!
Fights are usually five intense rounds that last for three minutes each, with a short break in between each bout. Before the match begins, the fighters always pay respect to their teachers by performing a short dance routine known as a wai khru (respect the teacher) while decorative flowers might adorn the neck. You’ll notice that they also wear a traditional braided Thai headband called a mongkhon (sometimes spelled mongkhol) for good luck, which is removed before the fight. This practice is unique to Thailand as the Burmese and Cambodian Muay fighters don’t wear such attire. Just as in western boxing matches, each fighter will either be assigned to the red or blue corner.
During the fight all body areas are considered valid targets, and besides the eight main contact points any part of the body except the head can be used to attack your opponent. Common blows include elbow thrusts, uppercuts, jabs, roundhouse kicks, and high kicks to the neck. Punches are not used as frequently as you might expect as they are one of the least effective moves, and often used just to gradually wear down the opponent.
Despite the furious pace and the devastating attacks, a Muay Thai match can be surprisingly elegant to watch as a spectator. The fighters dance around graciously at times and perform some very impressive moves. Most matches finish with a knee or elbow strike, which is testament to the power and effectiveness of those particular moves.
Muay Thai Boxing Stadiums in Phuket
There are a couple of Muay Thai boxing stadiums around Phuket, but the main ones are in Patong Beach as that’s where most tourists are based. There are usually different price options for the seats, such as VIP, ringside seats, and just normal stadium seats. The VIP tickets usually include waitress service for drinks and snacks, but eating and drinking there can be quite expensive (for example 100 baht for a small beer). The entrance fee for a foreigner is normally over 1,000 baht, but apparently Thais are allowed in for much less so if you’re there with Thai friends or a girlfriend then remember to enquire.
Nearly all the gyms in Phuket send their fighters to represent them at the stadiums, as they have a chance to win several thousand baht just for taking part (which is many times the average daily wage in Thailand). On fight nights stadiums may have ten or even more bouts, and the evening starts with the youngest Thai fighters and continues up in age and weight classification. The more professional and experience combatants (and foreigners) are held later in the evening. The opponents are usually well matched in weight and ability but sometimes there are mismatched fighters, which results in some relatively easy victories and so it’s likely you’ll see a few knockouts during a typical evening.
Even though betting is illegal in Thailand, gambling is prevalent in the stadiums and not very discreetly either. You can place a bet, normally in multiples of 1000 baht, and if your fighter wins you’ll receive back your original layout and an additional 1000 baht. Sounds easy doesn’t it? Having a little flutter on the match really adds to the excitement, with everybody cheering on their favourite fighter.
The main Muay Thai stadiums in Phuket are listed below. Many of the gyms also hold matches on their premises albeit with much smaller audiences.
Bangla Muay Thai Boxing Stadium
Located just behind the JungCeylon shopping centre, this is a large upstairs stadium that holds fights several nights per week. Prices are between about 1,500 and 2,000 baht.
Patong Boxing Stadium
Probably the best known and most highly respected stadium in Phuket, the Patong Boxing Stadium has fights every Monday and Thursday from 9pm until late. A ringside seat will set you back 1,500 baht, and a regular seat 1,300 baht. There are also other activities to do on site here such as ten pin bowling or even a bungee jump!
Address: 2/59 Sai Nam Yen Road, Patong Beach
Tel: +66 (0) 76 345 578