Note: This article was originally published in Rough Asia on 27 July 2018.
From where I come from, it’s not everyday that you meet someone from the Navajo Nation. The idea of one fighting Muay Thai in Thailand makes it even more intriguing. After all, the Navajos were famed for being fierce warriors in their time.
The story of a Navajo Nak Muay in Thailand began as a joke for our hero of the day, Cy Silent’Walker. As mixed martial arts fans growing up in Chinle, Arizona, Cy and his cousin, Jeremy Vasquez often engaged in spirited conversations about fight sports. The 33-year-old recalls how his cousin first planted the seed in his head,
“My cousin joked about how it would be really cool if a Native American went to Thailand to fight Muay Thai, Brazil to do Jiu Jitsu, Korea to learn Taekwondo. He was the person who got me into doing all of this.”
That seed sprouted a few years later when Cy arrived in Thailand back in 2014. He took the popular route of getting his long-term permit by teaching English in the country. With his TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) certification in place, a local employer in Chiang Mai made arrangements for a work visa promptly.
Prior to his arrival, Cy already had 6 months of training in Muay Thai. He wasted little time and dived right into training at the Chai Yai gym in Chiang Mai. Not long after, he made his fight debut at Thapae Boxing Stadium. Cy had already accomplished what he had set out to do just barely 6 months into his journey.
All was not as rosy as one could hope for. Towards the tail end of his year in the northern Thai city, Cy’s cousin had passed away in a car accident back home. The loss fueled Cy further in his Muay Thai quest and there and then, he resolved to fight at the elite stadiums of Bangkok. He made the move south to the Thai capital where he has resided for nearly 4 years. He explains,
“I felt like it would be faster (getting to my goal) in Bangkok. I went down a list of gym and through word-of-mouth, my friend drew me a map of the FA Group gym. Like a treasure map. I found the camp and I loved it. I’ve been here ever since.”
It’s no longer rare to see farangs fighting in the ring of Lumpinee or Rajadamnern, Muay Thai’s most revered arenas. But that doesn’t mean it’s any easy. Cy expressed his intention of fighting in the elite arenas to his trainers but Mr Liam did not take up on the proposition. The FA Group gym’s founder and manager was adamant that his fighter showed consistency, heart, and work ethics first.
It isn’t uncommon for foreigners to go into gyms asking for fights but only to bail out. Many of them either fail to make weight or just vanished after the trainers secured a spot on a fight card. Over the years, some camps in Thailand have gotten used to such disappearing acts. And so it took Cy almost 3 years of training before the gym gave him his taste of glory at the age of 32. He tells Rough,
“I stayed here for a solid year, training everyday, 2 times a day and I had no fights. I didn’t care as I wanted to show them I was serious. My trainer got me a fight in the second year at Phuket, and another on Channel 3. I continued to train into the third year, training everyday and waiting for the moment. Finally, it happened.”
On 19 February 2017, Cy made his Rajadamnern Stadium debut. He lost the fight to a more experienced Iranian opponent via decision. In return, he received 3000 Thai Baht, a 2-year all-access pass to the stadium and 13 stitches for a cut on his scalp to remember the fight by.
Just being able to fight at Rajadamnern was in itself a dream come true for the Navajo Nak Muay, although he now hopes to take it another level higher.
“If I can get both stadiums on my fight record, that’d be great as I would be the first Native American to fight on both.“
For now, the grind continues as Cy clocks in daily at FA Group gym for training. He has also stepped up and took over duties as the FA Group’s foreign liaison this year. His daily tasks include managing the camp’s social media accounts and making sure visitors to the gym are taken care of.
For foreigners flying into Bangkok and hoping to have a shot at fighting in the top stadiums as Cy did, here’s his candid advice,
“Leave your self-entitlement and egos at the door. Embrace everything here: work ethics, religion, culture and learn to speak some Thai. Just do whatever they do.”
Cy’s odyssey as a Navajo Nak Muay in Thailand comes to an end in just a few months’ time. The Navajo cultural astronaut has already decided on the next leg of his martial arts journey. Some of you would have probably guessed correctly that he has decided on Brazil where he hopes to begin a formal study of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Cy says,
“The other goal that me and my cousin talked about was competing in Jiu-Jitsu and MMA in Brazil. And since I’m not getting any younger, I have to keep it moving and fulfill the last of the fight goals.”
A chapter ends, as a new chapter shall soon unfold for the Navajo.