Champions come and go, titles change hands fast, and nothing last forever in the world of Muay Thai. Thai boxing is a sport where athletes peak around 20 and with most retiring from the ring not too long after their peak. As a national sport, Muay Thai is also fiercely competitive in its native country. Stardom is brief for many of the best fighters. But in every era, there will always be a handful of elite Nak Muays who stand out higher above the rest. Here’s my choice of the top Muay Thai fighters to watch now:
Superlek Kiatmoo9 (Superlek Wor Sangprapai)
Fighting out of the Buriram Kiatmoo9 camp known for churning out champions (twice winning the gym of the year award), Superlek Kiatmoo9 is incidentally, the nephew of another Muay Thai legend, Singdam Kiatmoo9. Superlek is a great fighter to watch, very technical, and also very deadly. He is 3x Thailand champion, 2x Lumpinee Stadium champion, 2016 WBC 130lbs world champion, as well as the recipient of the prestigious Sports Authority of Thailand Muay Thai Fighter of the Year award in 2012. He was ranked the top fighter in both Lumpinee and Rajadamnern in the super featherweight class in 2016.
Like his uncle, Singdam, Superlek is also a member of the YOKKAO Fight Team and will soon make his debut fighting at YOKKAO 27 in the UK.
Yothin FA Group
Yothin FA Group has big shoes to fill after Petboonchu’s retirement from professional fighting to become a full time trainer in Evolve MMA (Singapore). Yothin is a Muay Khao, a clinch-knee fighting style for which the FA Group gym is famous for. After an impressive 13-fight winning streak, Yothin had to move up a weight class due to a lack of opponents which resulted in 2 back-to-back losses. However, he has since broke the brief spell with a recent win at Rajadamnern. Among the stable of fighters at FA Group, Yothin has proven so far to be the fighter to watch out for. As far as knee fighters go in the current stadium scene, he is right up there among the top.
The top reason for making this list: Being Buakaw’s protégé. Superbon’s style in the ring is reminiscent of his mentor: strong punches and kicks with plenty of KO power. He is currently ranked number 1 (70kg) in the popular Chinese promotions, Kunlun Fight where he has been competing since 2016. Like Buakaw, Superbon only rose to prominence after his move to international fight promotions outside of Thailand, most notably in the aforementioned Kunlun Fight.
Superbon participates in amateur bouts on the side, in the IFMA (International Federation of Muay Thai Amateur) tournaments with championship titles for the past 3 years. That is hardly surprising, given the experience he has, having fought some of the best Muay Thai fighters in the world.
Sittichai is one of the most known Thai kickboxers among western fight fans due to his appearances in Glory Kickboxing. As of 1 May 2017, he is ranked the #1 lightweight in the world by Combat Press. Sittichai trains and fights out of the famous Sitsongpeenong camp with an array of titles to his name that includes multiple Kunlun Fight and Glory Kickboxing championships. Add to that a 2014 Lumpinee Stadium Welterweight belt and you know he deserves the spot here up with the best of the moment.
Sittichai started fighting in international bouts at 18 years of age, when most Muay Thai fighters peak. His claim to fame was winning a four-man tournament in France back in 2010 when he defeated arguably the best farang fighter of the day, Fabio Pinca. He has not shown any sign of slowing down and remains active in international promotions such as Wu Lin Feng and Kunlun Fight, as well as Glory.
Nong Rose Barnjaroensuk
If you are an avid social media user, you would have no doubt, seen the sports bra-clad Nong Rose in one of her many fight videos being shared somewhere. Nong Rose has received a lot of attention of late by being the first ever transgender fighter to fight in Rajadamnern stadium in her staple pink sports bra. But there is a lot more to Nong Rose than her choice of combat gear, the 20-year-old has already accumulated over 300 fights to her name. There are plans for her to fight abroad in Japan later this year and things are looking bright for her.
Nong Rose has to be the most famous transgender fighter to emerge after Nong Toom’s retirement. The latter, is of course, well known as the “Beautiful Boxer” for which the movie was based on. A sequel starring Nong Rose, perhaps?
Yodwicha Kemmuaythaigym (formerly Yodwicha Por Boonsit)
Standing at 1.8m, Yodwicha towers above most of his opponents in the ring not just height-wise, but also with his fighting ability. Yodwicha’s tall stature and long reach makes him ideal as a knee fighter and Muay Buk (attacking boxer), but some contest that he is an all-rounded Muay Femur. None of that really matters. To know how good he is, all you need to do is check his fight history. The 21-year-old has wins over Singdam Kiatmoo9, Nong-O Kaiyanghadaogym, Petboonchu FA Group and even Saenchai! Yodwicha is a legend-killer!
In the past couple of years, Yodwicha has started fighting outside of Thailand, mainly in France and China. Yodwicha now fights out of Kem Muay Thai Gym (owned by Kem Sitsongpeenong).
In terms of Muay Thai accolades, Panpayak is unrivaled by being the only fighter in history to win the Sports Writers of Thailand Fighter of the Year award 3 years in a row! Panpayak’s most notable records include 2 wins over Sam-A Kaiyanghadaogym including a first-round head-kick KO. He also holds wins over many top fighting peers such as Superlek, Superbank, Saeksan, Pranjanchai, Wanchalong and last year’s Sports Writer award winner Petutong Or Kwanmuang. Panpayak has quick punches and kicks that he uses with great effectiveness in the ring. The 2-time Rajadamnern and 2-time Lumpinee champion is only 21 years of age with a fight record of 256 fights, 220 wins 36 losses and 3 draws. It would be interesting to see if he can take his career further into his 30s.
This is a list that reflects the impermanence of Muay Thai stardom. In a few years’ time, it’s hard to know if these fighters will still be active in the ring, or even fade into obscurity. But for now, these are the elite fighters, and perhaps legends in time to come. Are there other fighters you feel should be on the list? Leave a comment and let us know.