(Updated 28 Oct 2018: MX Muay Xtreme has been stopped indefinitely.)
If you are planning to catch some Live Muay Thai action in Bangkok, let me share with you my personal experiences from a recent trip in November where I caught 4 events within a space of 6 days. For those of you not familiar with the sport but curious about watching an authentic Muay Thai fight just for the experience, read the article and I will share my recommendation at the end of the review. As for those of you hardcore Muay Thai fans, read on for information regarding each venue that will make your visit easier and more pleasant.
Brief Introduction to Watching Muay Thai
In traditional Muay Thai fights, each match is preceded by a ceremonial dance known as the Wai Kru Ram Muay (typically shortened as Wai Kru) which is a homage to one’s teacher, parents and/or the King. Each bout goes for 5 rounds with 2-minute breaks between each 3-minute round. So a match typically last around 25 minutes except in the occasions of knockouts. For the stadium shows, there are usually 7-9 match-ups with the first 2-3 fights showcasing the youngest fighters. The main event is scheduled for the 6-7th fight but it’s worth arriving early for at least the 3rd or 4th fight onward where the action really picks up. Of course, if you want to get your money’s worth, you should arrive before the first fight.
In traditional stadium Muay Thai, round 1s tend to be slow as each fighter tries to get a feel of his opponent’s reach and style. The action typically goes full-gear in round 3s and 4s, and slows down again in round 5 when the winner is more or less already decided.
Muay Thai rules are complex with an even more complex scoring system. It will take a full article to explain the intricacies of how a winner is decided but the fights are enjoyable enough for what they are.
Part of Muay Thai’s attraction for tourists is the enthusiastic presence of gambling at the events. There will be a lot of hand gesturing going on at the traditional stadiums (see the first 3 stadiums below), very similar to hand signalling in financial trading floors. These are the gamblers and bookmakers signalling the odds for each fight. Muay Thai in Bangkok is one of few venues where gambling is allowed and one of few simple pleasures of the working class. Very rowdy, very interesting to watch, and makes for a very atmospheric experience.
Here’s my review of -IMO- the top 4 venues to watch Muay Thai in Bangkok:
Rajadamnern Stadium (Ratchadamnoen Stadium)
One of the sport’s two most important arenas, as well as a historical landmark being the first Muay Thai stadium built in Thailand. The Rajadamnern Stadium his my recommendation for the top spot to catch the best Muay Thai fights. Not only is it more accessible than the famed Lumpinee stadium, it now hosts the best fights in the country since the move of Lumpinee to its new tricky location.
Petchyindee and OneSongchai are 2 of the biggest event promoters at Rajadamnern and they always put up the best shows. You can be sure to catch many of the best fighters in their promotions. Check the schedule via the Muay Thai 2000 events calendar to see the fight cards for the week ahead.
When the show’s over, or if you are feeling fatigue from watching too many fights, there’s a good selection of street food hawkers outside the stadium. Don’t forget to get a customary shot of yourself in front of the stadium’s fluorescent-lit sign.
When: Rajadamnern shows are held on Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays typically from 6-630pm onwards and end around 10pm. Drinks and food from outside are not allowed (and they will check at the doors) but a attendant goes around to take orders for drinks and snacks.
How to get there: If you are staying around the traveler enclave of Khao San road, then it’s about 20 minutes to walk here. Otherwise, taking a cab here should take around half an hour or less from the nearest skytrain stations (Phaya Thai, Victory Monument, or Ratchathewi) which will cost 100 baht or under.
Entry: 2000 baht for ringside seats and 1500 for second class seats (offer a better view since it’s a level higher than the ringside seats). Club class tickets cost 1800 with similar views to second class seats but probably come with some privileges. Many gyms in Bangkok are affiliated with the stadium so if you are training at any, check with your gym to see if there is any discount for ringside tickets. You can get your tickets from the Rajadamnern official website and you just need to show up with your email confirmation for entry.
Forget about third class at Rajadamnern as you might get an obstructed view due to the checkerboard ceiling lights. By the way, if you have fought here before, you will get a 2-year pass to the stadium where you can watch fights for free. Not bad at all.
How the mighty have fallen. Lumpinee used to be the number one spot for catching the best Muay Thai fights in the whole of Thailand. Strike that. Make that the whole world. Not only was it in a central location near to downtown, it hosted the very top fighters of the sport. This was a legendary venue where countless stars were made. A few years back, the powers that be decided to move the stadium to its current location along Ram Inthra road, near to the Don Muang airport. The location was not only far away from downtown, the trip to the stadium never fails to be severely marred by the notorious evening rush hour traffic as the fights begin at 630 in the evenings (weekdays).
Is it still worth going then? That really depends on who’s on the fight card. But for tourists and casual sports fans, Rajadamnern is a far better option, simply due to the accessibility. The sport’s elite athletes still compete here at Lumpinee regularly but if you just want to catch authentic Muay Thai fights in a stadium, then hands down, Rajadamnern for the win.
For those in the know, Lumpinee still hosts many of the best Muay Thai fights/fighters comparable to Rajadamnern. Personally, I feel that it’s worth getting stuck in traffic for an hour to catch the high-profile fights if you are into the sport as I am. You can start early with your journey before the peak hour traffic picks up or simply relish in the Bangkok Jam experience.
When: Lumpinee shows are held on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. The best shows tend to be during the weekdays but there will be the occasional big names or title fights on Saturdays. You can check the fight cards on Muay Thai 2000 a week ahead of the event. Drinks and food from outside are not allowed but a attendant goes around to take orders for drinks and snacks.
How to get there: Uber, grab or the trusted cab. To minimize getting stucked in the horrendous evening traffic jam, take the skytrain to Mo Chit or the MRT to Phahan Yothin, then transfer to a cab. Flag a cab and ask to be taken to Lumpinee at Ram Inthra road. You might get turned down but you will have no problem finding one who will take you eventually. The cab fare to Lumpinee should cost somewhere around 250 baht (including toll charges) and half that for the return trip.
Entry: 2000 baht for ringside. As with Rajadamnern, discounts are offered for people training in affiliated gyms in Bangkok. You may ask for second class or third class seats at the box office.
Channel 7 Stadium
The Channel 7 stadium is no longer the well-kept secret it once was and every Sunday, the matinees are packed with a good section of tourists amidst a majority Thai audience. Compared to the top 2 stadiums, this is so much easier to get to that word has gone around that this be THE place to catch some authentic Muay Thai action.
While the atmosphere is lively due to the enthusiastic local fight fans and gamblers, the stadium can be uncomfortably packed. The benches are unforgivably hard which affects the overall enjoyment to some extent. Most of the tourists who go to watch the show are often enticed by the free entry and its proximity to the Chatuchak weekend market. Just as many of them leave after only a couple of fights and it’s easy to understand why. For the casual viewer, Muay Thai, with its 5 rounds of unhurried action (especially in the first 2 rounds) may not appeal to everyone. The stiff seating, deafening shouts from the hoarse-voiced gamblers, and occasional blocked views don’t exactly make for a very enjoyable experience.
That said, the action at Channel 7 stadium is pretty top-notched and stars many up and coming fighters who would eventually make their way to the top 2. Fights here are as authentic as any other so for a (free) sampling of the sport, I wholly recommend this.
When: Channel 7 shows are held every Sundays and broadcasted on Thailand national TV. The shows start around 215pm but it pays to come 45 minutes to 1 hour earlier for good seats. Alternatively, arrive after 3pm where most tourists would have left after the 3rd bout and you have choices of reasonably good seats. Bring your own drinks and snacks. There’s a convenience store (7-11) right outside the main gate to the compound.
How to get there: Taking a cab is the easiest but if you are headed this way for a visit to the famous Chatuchak weekend market, it will be a 15-minute walk to the Channel 7 studio from the market or the nearest BTS station (Mo Chit) or MRT (Chatuchak). Walk down the road opposite of Chatuchak park with the huge parking garage on your right. Turn right at the road where you see the BTS headquarters building and keep walking for another 5 minute. You will see the security guards directing visitors and traffic at the studio. Just follow the crowd from there.
MX Muay Xtreme (GMM Grammy Studio)
(Updated 28 Oct 2018: Unfortunately, MX has ceased its operations as of September. No knowing if it will be back but it was good while it lasted.)
If you have just a passing interest for Muay Thai, or just want to quench your thirst for some blood sports, MX Muay Xtreme is just the thing for you. This weekly show is broadcasted on TV and is held at the GMM Grammy Studio that is situated in downtown Sukhumvit (along soi 21/23). The show’s slick production and intense action is sign of the times and may well be the direction in which the Thai national sport is taking. With a lively host, high-octane action and a high percentage of knockouts, this is one of the most popular Muay Thai shows among the younger generation.
The reason for the show’s high KO rate is due to the use of lighter gloves similar to the ones seen in MMA (around 6oz gloves). Fights here aren’t always well-matched (compared to the stadiums) and feature lower-tiered fighters, but many of them come from the top gyms in Thailand (Sitmonchai, FA Group, Yokkao etc.) so you can expect legit Muay Thai skills. One more thing to note: no ceremonial dance is performed at MX but is instead replaced by modern-style walk-in and loud music. My only complaint: excessive use of brain-numbing heavy metal walk-in music that gets stale very quickly. Could use with better and more diverse music but that’s just my personal preference.
When: MX is held every Friday nights at around 845pm. Plan on arriving around 815pm to guarantee a seat. Bring some drinks and snacks to enjoy the show but be nice and remember to clear up your mess.
How to get there: The GMM Grammy building is about 10-15 minutes walk from Asok BTS station or Sukhumvit MRT. You can access it via Asok road or Sukhumvit soi 23. The studio is on the 3rd level. Take the elevator and just enter the door that you will see when you exit the elevator.
Looking for Hotel in Bangkok?
If you haven’t book your Bangkok hotel yet, I highly recommend using Agoda to find the top hotels and deals – I use it to book the hotels for ALL my trips ANYWHERE and have never had a problem. You can check the hotel ratings, prices and other users’ reviews easily. Don’t forget to book your hotel through my link below (or click here). That way, you don’t spend any extra penny and I get a little commission from your booking that helps to keep this website running.
Whether you are a hardcore or casual Muay Thai fan, watching an authentic fight Live in the stadiums of Bangkok is an experience that cannot be missed. Bangkok is where you will find the sport and its athletes at the highest level. For the most authentic and top-level fights, Rajadamnern is my most recommended choice for everyone. Besides the 4 recommendations here, sporadic fights of smaller scale are held throughout the city in venues like Asiatique, MBK mall and even a go-go bar (Pink Panther at Patpong). But for an authentic experience, you won’t go wrong with the ones I have reviewed in the article. If you find this useful, remember to share it with your friends who are planning a trip to Bangkok. Have fun!