Fighting events are a dime a dozen these days, especially in Thailand where Muay Thai shows are held daily. But even with fight cards boasting the world’s best standup strikers, it’s a well-known fact that traditional Thai stadium shows are losing favor with young sports fans.
From matchmaking to publicity to the actual production, fight promotion is an increasingly complex undertaking than most people realise. Organizing fighting events these days has developed far beyond just matching fighters up for a brawl in the ring.
Famed promoter Sasan Ghosairi is someone who can claim to know more than a thing or two about the subject. His prolific experience in the field includes work on high profile shows like Thai Fight, Top King World Series, Kunlun Fight and the Buakaw-fronted series, All Star Fight.
Ghosairi, an Iranian with Kurdish roots, first arrived in Thailand back in 2002 to compete in Muay Thai amateur competitions. He returned again in 2004 as a professional fighter, competing until 2007 when he hung up his gloves due to a lack of fights as a heavyweight.
By then, Ghosairi had fallen in love with the country and its national sport. He has remained in Thailand to this day, where he wears various hats in the industry as a Muay Thai goods wholesaler, referee, matchmaker, gym owner and promoter.
Ghosairi quickly built up a reputation as the go-to guy in the industry with a well-connected network of gyms and fighters. In one of his proudest moments, he relished his pivotal role in convincing global Thai boxing icon, Buakaw Banchamek to take up the much-publicised “Fight of The Century” against Yi Long in 2015.
It took three months of persuasion before the Thai superstar agreed to face the “shaolin monk” in the ring. Ghosairi recounts,
“The organizers have been trying to make this fight for a long time. Buakaw is a devoted Buddhist and he would not accept the fight on the grounds that he would not fight a monk. I was able to convince him that after 2-3 months, talking to him almost daily.”
About 100 million viewers in China tuned in to watch the fight live. Buakaw took home a resounding victory via unanimous decision. This is one of the biggest fights in standup history but alas, a precious and rare success for kickboxing sport.
There is still some distance to travel before Muay Thai and kickboxing sport achieve the international popularity it deserves – a status that is on par with mma or boxing.
Taking a cue from professional wrestling giant WWE, Ghosairi believes that the recipe for success lies in dramatic storytelling. He wants fans to become personally invested in stories with characters they love and care about.
“Pro wrestling offers amazing entertainment that attracts all types of viewer and makes more money than real fight sports. I am trying to grow the sport of Muay Thai in the same way.”
With his latest project Martialism Square (MAS), Ghosairi has taken a step towards realizing his vision. Held last November at the The Venetian in Macau, the new promotion raised many eyebrows with its headlining act featuring Yi Long against Korean giant Hong Man Choi.
Ghosairi brought back no-holds-barred matchups reminiscent of UFC’s early years when weight classes were thrown out the window. At 5’9” vs 7’3”, the David vs Goliath visual appeal cannot be more apparent.
MAS’ unique format ruled that each bout be competed in a nine-minute round that can only be won by knockout. There’s a referee, but no judges to score the fight. You either win by KO or the fight ends up in a draw. It is brutal but also highly entertaining.
The debut show received mixed reactions but it certainly caught the attention of the fight community worldwide. MAS has been picked up by Fox Sports Asia and Ghosairi is already working on the follow-up show. A much-rumored million dollar clash between Buakaw and Yodsanklai could also finally see light sometime in the near future on MAS. Fingers crossed.
There is no stopping Ghosairi who is intent on making Muay Thai a sport as successful as WWE and UFC. Taking inspiration from concepts of filmmaking, he discourses,
“You need a good writer. Without a good writer, you cannot create anything original. Then you also need a director to run the show. Promoters and matchmakers are in charge of casting. With the right production team, the events can be brought to life.”
Ghosairi’s efforts may not be backed by billion dollar funding but he has ideas, experience, great networking skills and a real passion for the sport. There is a growing need to keep up with evolving preferences for fight events. With well-crafted plots and the right production teams, perhaps someday, Muay Thai or kickboxing sport might just enjoy the worldwide popularity that it so rightfully deserves.