When talking about the greatest muay thai fighters of all time, it’s impossible to have any conversation without mentioning Sagat Petchyindee. For those unfamiliar with the sport, Sagat Petchyindee is a living legend! A fighter so great he inspired an iconic street fighter character.
Sagat Petchyindee born as Wirun Phonphimai on November 30, 1957. He comes from Nakhon Ratchasima in Isaan. Sagat was a peaceful child and enjoyed hanging around with monks. However, his brothers were already on their journeys in combat sport. His older brother Saksout was a well respected nakmuay.
He started his combat sports journey with boxing at the young age of 11. Sagat entered his first fight only two months after he began training. He won that fight by a knockout and won his first prize money of $0.30
Aside from training with his brothers, Sagat also trained with Buddhist monks who helped improve his craft even further. For those that are unfamiliar with the sport, Buddhism plays a very important role in Muay Thai.
From the ceremony before fights known as the Wai Kru, the Mongkon (headband), and Pra Jiad (armbands), all come from Buddhist tradition. According to legend, many forms of Muay Thai were practiced and taught by the monks. Some fights are also hosted by Buddhist temples.
Sagat really enhanced his skills under the tutelage of the monks and they’re input has been vital to his success in Muay Thai. He perfected the Tiger Style uppercut from the Buddhist monks which helped him knock many of his opponents out. In fact throughout his career he won nearly half of his fights through KO!
Sagat Petchyindee Combat Career
Over his legendary career Sagat managed to amass a staggering 317 Muay Thai fights. Out of the 317, he won 266, lost 40, and drew 11 times. In 151 of those victories Sagat won by either KO or TKO.
Even though he stood at 1.65m (5 ft 5 inches) his strength and mastery of technique meant that his punching power was feared by all of his opponents. His prodigal talent meant that he won his first stadium championship at the age of 18!
While his stadium titles are much more in number, his major titles in Muay Thai are as follows:
1976 Rajadamnern Stadium 118 lbs Champion
1984 Rajadamnern Stadium 140 lbs Champion
1985 Lumpinee Stadium 135 lbs Champion
1988 Lumpinee Stadium 135 lbs Champion
Holding multiple titles in both of Thailand’s biggest stadiums is a staggering achievement. Aside from winning these titles, Sagat fought in the greatest era of Muay Thai and faced a staggering level of competition.
If you’ve engaged in discussions about the greatest of all time then you’ve probably heard the names Samart Payakaroon and Dieselnoi Chor Thanasukarn. Sagat was active during both these fighters career and fought both in their prime.
His fight against Dieselnoi is arguably one of his most impressive. While Sagat stood at a very modest 1.65 m, Dieselnoi on the other hand was an imposing 1.88 m! Even the bravest fighters would fear away from this challenge but that’s not the cloth from which Sagat was cut.
In one interview, Sagat remembers being scared before the fight because everyone wrote him off because of the height difference. However, once he was in the ring he asked himself “Sagat, why you scared?”.
He proceeded to be one of the only fighters to knock Dieselnoi down and narrowly lost a decision. Even though he ended up losing he gained many fans and a lot of respect. Aside from challenging himself in Muay Thai Sagat wanted to test himself beyond in other combat sports as well.
As a result he fought multiple times in boxing. He had a total of 14 professional boxing fights and ended up with 12 victories and 2 defeats. Unfortunately he came up short in WBC’s world Super Bantamweight championship bout against Wilfredo Gomez. The fight was marred by a tragedy as the stadium collapsed, leading to 10 deaths and 300 injured.
On top of his boxing endeavors, Sagat also went to compete in kickboxing in the USA and Japan. He even knocked out the legendary Pete “Sugarfoot” Cunningham to win a kickboxing title. It was a great showcase of his mastery of technique and ferocious punching power.
Sagat’s career wasn’t without its challenges though. When he turned 25, Sagat suffered nine losses in a row. After his ninth loss in a row, Sagat was in a bad place and he was considering retirement. Unlike other sports a row of losses in combat sports is incredibly detrimental towards your health as well.
Before making his ultimate decision, Sagat went to get some advice from the monks. They told him “Don’t be seduced by fame when you are rising, don’t give up when you fall. Keep going”. That’s the exact push Sagat needed to turn his fortunes around.
He immediately went on a tear through the competition, racking up 9 knockout victories in a row. At a time when the standard of muay thai was incredibly high, Sagat’s power really stood out. It led to him winning knockout of the year in 1977. He managed to KO his opponent in four seconds.
Another aspect of Sagat’s career that really stood out was his very impressive Wai Kru. His graceful dancing skills helped him earn the “Best Ram Muay” award over the next ten years. The Wai Kru’s a ceremonial Buddhist dance that fighters engage in before a Muay Thai match.
Post Fight Career
Once he called a curtain on his career, Sagat transitioned to being a muay thai trainer and coach. It’s a decision that came naturally. Thanks to his experience and expertise many fighters that train under him have gone on to achieve great things.
Among one of his most influential students is Firas Zahabi, the man who went onto co-found the incredibly successful Tristar Gym. Sagat was Firas’s Muay Thai trainer.
Aside from just helping train the next generation, Sagat has also been actively involved in helping grow the sport and promoting Muay Thai. From making experiences at different events, to participating in exhibition matches, Sagat does what he can to grow the sport he loves.
Training with Sagat
Sagat is one of the best muay thai instructors for both beginner and seasoned fighters. However, it’s slightly challenging to access him as he’s travelling constantly. One of the best ways you can book a private session with Sagat is through the brilliant Sylvie Von Douglaas.
Not only is Sylvie documenting some of the most legendary Muay Thai fighters, she’s also serving as a sort of liaison. She helps facilitate foreigners in booking private sessions with these fighters.
You should definitely make an attempt to contact her so you can organize a private session with Sagat. The last I heard, he would charge 3000 baht for a 90 minute private class. It’s definitely worth the money if you want to enjoy a masterclass in Muay Thai.
In conclusion, Sagat Petchyindee’s journey from Isaan boy to Muay Thai legend is a testament to his indomitable spirit. Overcoming setbacks and facing towering opponents, he became a champion, winning titles in prestigious stadiums.
Sagat’s commitment extended beyond the ring; transitioning to coaching, he shaped the next generation, with notable students like Firas Zahabi. Actively promoting Muay Thai post-retirement, he remains a global ambassador for the sport.
Sagat’s story, enriched by Buddhist influences and a dedication to growth, exemplifies resilience, mentorship, and a profound love for Muay Thai. His legacy inspires enthusiasts worldwide, solidifying him as a revered figure in the martial arts pantheon.