Tiger Muay Thai is one of the most well-known Muay Thai gyms in the world.
Located on the southern Thai island of Phuket, Tiger Muay Thai has built a reputation as the country’s eminent one-stop martial arts training resort. The gym sees over 500 visitors dropping in to train on a daily basis during peak travel season.
If you are planning to visit and train at Tiger, this is the perfect review article for you. Let’s learn all about the gym and see if it lives up to its reputation.
History of Tiger Muay Thai
Tiger Muay Thai is a household name in the world of Muay Thai but you may not know of its very humble beginnings.
It all began with its founder, William McNamara, an American teaching English at the Darasamuth Catholic School in Phuket.
McNamara was a Muay Thai practitioner who one day, bought over a small one-ring gym so he could train with his Muay Thai trainer. The gym soon started to see drop-in guests and then even more guests when the peak travel season arrived.
He was soon approached by investors to open a bigger gym in the area (Chalong) and decided to “create a gym unlike any in Thailand of the time”.
Tiger Muay Thai officially opened in 2003 and McNamara soon found his right-hand man, Piyanat Chaimanee, better known as Kru Phet.
The two worked together, creating a training curriculum that would cater to foreigners and all Muay Thai levels of practitioners. More classes were added over time including MMA, to cater to the growing number of visitors.
After a decade, Tiger Muay Thai & MMA became the gold standard for Muay Thai gyms in the Thai tourism sector. Many of the initiatives started at Tiger are now exported to other gyms both locally and around the world.
McNamara is a pioneer as one of the first foreigners to start and run a gym in Thailand, but in 2015, a Thai billionaire bought over the majority of the shares. The gym is now completely under Thai management.
The board also brought in new managing director, Viwat Sakulrat who had a wealth of experience in hospitality and running Muay Thai gyms in America.
Tiger expanded exponentially under Viwat’s leadership. The massive camp now provides a one-stop martial arts & fitness vacation with a wide range of classes, on-site accommodation, catering service, and even traditional bamboo tattooing.
Tiger opened a second gym in 2019. They call it the Tiger Muay Thai Seaside as it supposedly overlooks a scenic Chalong bay. The camp has no intentions of slowing down.
Tiger Muay Thai Review
Now let’s go into the review proper where I will cover everything from the facilities, the trainers/training quality, customer service, food & accommodation, prices and finally round up with a pros vs cons.
Tiger Muay Thai Facility
The entire training facility is massive. Tiger covers a total area of 9600m² (over 100,000 square feet), housing 12 boxing rings (!), a full-size MMA cage, weights room, a yoga studio, plenty of mat training area, accommodation and even an in-house tattoo parlor.
It is airy and the cleaning staff makes a point to clean the training area and equipment after each session. Overall, the equipment is well-maintained and the cleanliness is on par with most gyms in Phuket.
Muay Thai training is the bread and butter of the camp and there is no lack of trainers here. The gym is home to around 40 experienced Thai trainers at any given time, led by head coach, Kru Phet. The trainers conduct group classes as well as private sessions.
You will find Lumpinee, Rajadamnern stadium champions, WBC world champions and retired fighters with hundreds of fights in the coaching team.
Each trainer is also supervised and taught how to coach by Kru Phet who is experienced at imparting knowledge to all levels.
Tiger also hosts guest trainers and Muay Thai seminars where they invite legends and champions. Look out for such information on their social media channels.
Training (Pros vs Cons)
Training quality is the most important factor to consider when deciding on whether to train at a gym.
Firstly, the pros. The diverse and jam-packed schedule is the best thing about training at Tiger. You will find daily classes for Muay Thai, boxing, BJJ, CrossFit, Yoga and MMA. There is something for everyone. If you come with a partner or family, this is a fantastic option if they don’t want to train Muay Thai.
Muay Thai classes are divided into four different levels for beginners, intermediate, advanced and fighters. This is great especially for beginners as it is less intimidating.
On the other end of the scale, professional competitors get to train alongside some of the best martial artists from around the world. There are regular sparring sessions here where you can spar with high-level fighters which is a great way to level up.
Now the cons of training at Tiger.
The massive group classes can get very crowded during peak seasons. This can dilute the quality of the training as the trainers’ attention can get overwhelmed. The alternative is to go for private classes where you will receive full attention and also where you will learn the most if you are a beginner.
With such a big gym and huge number of trainers, there will be the occasional hiccup. Trainers are friendly and knowledgeable like all gyms in Thailand catering to tourists but some do occasionally screw up. However, Kru Phet takes it very seriously and he adopts a three-strike system for his trainers.
Overall, you will find something here regardless of your level and experience.
Tiger is renowned as the top weight-loss and martial arts destination in Thailand with a very social atmosphere. You will meet people from all over the world so if that’s your thing or if you are a solo traveler, this is definitely the place for you.
A quick note about the Tiger fight team for those wondering about the camp’s credentials.
Tiger Muay Thai houses its own team of Thai and international fighters who compete in Muay Thai as well as MMA.
George Hickman is the head MMA coach over at Tiger Muay Thai. Some of the most notable members of the Tiger fight team include UFC champions Valentina Shevchenko, Petr Yan, and Alexander Volkanovski, as well as kickboxing champion Anissa Meksen and UFC’s first Thai fighter, Loma Lookboonmee (above).
The gym also sees renowned world champions dropping in to train from time-to-time, most notably the UFC legend, Georges St. Pierre back in the days.
This seems to be an area where the gym needs to work on.
Tiger sees hundreds of visitors daily and customer service at the reception has been inconsistent depending on who you get. As a world-renowned establishment, this inconsistency is unacceptable, in my opinion.
If you are here knowing what you want or just to train and leave, then it will be a smooth-sailing experience. Those who fail to do their research and come with a bag of questions may leave frustrated.
The online correspondence is often lacking as nobody really answers the emails. You will just receive a generic email response most of the time. For private sessions, you are better off showing up at the gym to book in person.
So if bad customer service bothers you, you need to be mentally prepared.
Food & Accomodation
There is a wide selection of accommodation provided by Tiger both on-site as well as along the street where the gym sits. All off-site accommodations are around a 1- to 10-minute walk away from the gym.
The food at Tiger (Tiger Grill) is actually pretty tasty but you will find cheaper options and more variety if you venture outside. The stretch of road that Tiger Muay Thai sits on, is peppered with plenty of healthy eating restaurants and cafes. You will be spoilt for choices.
There are seven accommodation sites including a hillside villa, affordable standard options and deluxe rooms. I can’t speak more about the accommodation since I have not stayed there. So I went through hundreds of reviews by actual guests and here’s what some of them have to say:
“The accommodation was basic, but super clean, comfy and came with free cable TV.”
” I wouldn’t recommend staying at the Tiger camp accommodation unless you can get a room on the camp itself or really close by. There are so many other much nicer hotels closer to the camp and I imagine they will be a lot cheaper! “
“Great and friendly coaches were very helpful. Accommodation was also very good. Camp 4″
“Camp 4 is great! We had pool access and very friendly cleaning ladies. The only downside: the mattresses are really hard.”
“The accommodation (Camp 4 – Deluxe ) was fine, a little hard to sleep on the mattress but besides that everything clean and easy to meet new people.”
“I also stayed in one of TMT accommodation and the room was spacious and cleaned daily.”
Prices are very competitive for Muay Thai training in Phuket as there is no lack of gyms to choose from.
If you are staying for a month or longer, many gyms also offer on-site accommodation or partner with hotels/apartments nearby.
You can find the complete range of training packages and costs on the Tiger Muay Thai website. Here’s a quick price comparison chart (in Thai Baht) for Muay Thai classes offered by the 5 of the most popular gyms in Phuket:
|Monthly with Accommodation||41,500 – 85,000||NA||40,000||40,000 – 65,000||47,600|
There isn’t a perfect gym that can meet everyone’s expectations since we all look for different things. There is also no shortage of Muay Thai gyms, world-class Muay Thai training or great-value accommodation in Phuket.
A hardcore gym is a beginner’s nightmare but a dream come true for those looking to compete professionally. Similarly, serious practitioners will shunt gyms that are catered towards tourists.
Tiger is a popular establishment and sees a variety of visitors with the majority being beginners and tourists. That said, the camp also sees plenty of returning guests and experienced competitors who train in the advanced classes.
Your mileage may ultimately vary. To conclude, Tiger Muay Thai is the place for you if you are:
- looking to lose weight;
- a solo traveller looking to make friends quickly with people from around the world;
- a beginner willing to go for private classes available;
- looking for a variety of martial arts and fitness classes
For intermediate or advanced Muay Thai practitioners hoping to compete, there are many options available on the island that can cater better to your needs. (Look out for a “Best Muay Thai gyms in Phuket” in the near future.)