As Muay Thai progresses to keep up with the times, the sport has experienced a stripdown. The 3-round fights are increasingly popular as attention spans get shorter. The promoters at Yokkao UK, namely Brian Calder and Stefania Picelli, have decided to go against the trend by keeping the standard five rounds under traditional Thai stadium rules. And it has yielded outstanding results.
I had been hearing a lot about the Yokkao UK promotions for quite a while. Fighters, fans, even the promoters themselves were always raving about the Bolton shows.
While I have seen many of the Yokkao UK fight videos, the atmosphere doesn’t translate as well onto the videos that you watch on the web. The same reason why people still enjoy going to rock concerts.
On Saturday 23 March, I was able to experience the hype as I attended Yokkao 37-38 to cover the event in the town of Bolton. By the end of the night, as I craved for a late-night burger, I had become a true believer.
Here are 5 reasons why Yokkao UK is one of the best Muay Thai promotions in the world:
The fans maketh the atmosphere and the UK fans are some of the most passionate ones I have ever seen. These were people who were either there to rally behind their fighter or are simply genuine fans of the sport. Whether their fighters win or lose, the crowds show their love regardless of the results and just cheer their hearts out. It’s absolutely electrifying throughout the show!
UK is one of the most established and mature Muay Thai scenes outside of Thailand. The region has produced a number of solid fighters over the years, many of whom have fought, or continue to compete on the Yokkao events. Top UK names like Liam Harrison, Jordan Watson, Joe Craven, Jack Kennedy, Craig Coakley, Chris Shaw and many others frequently feature alongside the elite Thais in the main events. Many of these fighters have also built up followings of their own, who would always turn up to show support. Part of the promotion’s success comes from the support of this incredible community.
Despite the 5-round format, there was hardly any filler of the 11 fights on the main card. You don’t get the fluff that goes with many contemporary fight promotions; what you get is solid 5-round fights under full Muay Thai rules. Unlike Thai stadium fights where you typically get the real action only in rounds 3 and 4, all the fighters here go all-out from the opening bell with nothing left in the tank. This goes on for every single fight on the card, from round one to round five or till someone gets knocked out. It is intense.
To date, the headlining acts have featured numerous top names from the Thailand elite stadium scene. Some of the stars who have starred in the Yokkao UK main events include Saenchai, Singdam, Superlek, and most recently, Superbank. The shows will always feature top Thai stars, the fans know it and they travel from all corners of UK to attend.
Matchmaking is a real art that is lost on many promotions. While we all enjoy seeing our favorite stars bashing the hell out of their opponents, the true mark of a great fight -imho- is when both fighters are equally matched. This makes a KO all the more unpredictable and hence, sweeter. There are many factors to consider when you put two people in the ring and Calder has done a consistently great job at it.
Yokkao first brought its 8th official event to Bolton in January of 2014 where it has since become a biannual affair, and selling out on every occasion. It was now easy to see why the fans keep coming back. If you are anywhere in UK or Europe, I would highly recommend a trip to Bolton for the Yokkao shows. I guarantee you will not be disappointed.
Remember to come say hi if you ever see me at the show. I’ll be back.