Top 10 Muay Thai Fighters You Should Know

Firstly, this is not the definitive list for the best Muay Thai fighters of any era. This list features 10 Thai native fighters, past and present, that have come to shape the sport in various ways over the last few decades. To me, these are inspirational athletes, be it their skills or fighting spirit. You can also learn a lot from watching their fight videos and perhaps try to incorporate some of their fighting styles in your sparring or fights.

Top 10 Muay Thai Fighters

In no particular order, here are my picks for the top 10 Muay Thai fighters that you should know:

Buakaw Banchamek
top 10 muay thai fighters

Buakaw has probably brought more international interest in Muay Thai than any other Muay Thai fighters ever had. Not coincidentally, he was the first Muay Thai fighter I know of, even before I started training. And yes, that’s him kicking down a banana tree in the popular YouTube video that has close to 3 million views.

Buakaw’s fighting style is aggressive. He is known for his strong KO punches and powerful kicks, constantly moving forward which makes him a very exciting fighter to watch in the ring. At the age of 36, Buakaw’s dedication to training is apparent in his amazing physique and striking power. He may not be the best Muay Thai fighter technically, but his popularity continues to grow. He has mellowed down in terms of ring appearances but remains active in training and making occasional fight appearances. Whichever way you look at it, Buakaw is definitely one of the top 10 Muay Thai fighters of all time and certainly a Muay Thai legend in his own rights.

Check out Buakaw’s highlights video


Yodsanklai Fairtex
Yodsanklai Fairtex

The Contender Asia was broadcasted on our local TV station and that was when I came to know of this now famous fighter. The reality-based television series showcased 16 fighters, with elimination fights that led to the final where Yodsanklai emerged as the winner.

Yodsanklai is most well-known for his fan-favorite, powerful left roundhouse kick, on top of his mastery of Muay Thai techniques. His techniques are precise which earned him the nickname of the “Boxing Computer”. Yodsanklai announced in June 2017 that he would retire from fighting after being plagued with serious injuries but he has since returned to the ring with 2 appearances on One Championship.

A fight between him and Buakaw was one that everybody wants to see even if they may not be at their peak form. There is no chance of seeing them compete in a true match-up but fans can keep their fingers crossed for an exhibition match. 

Check out Yodsanklai’s highlights video


Saenchai PkSaenchaimuaythaigym
top 10 muay thai fighters

Saenchai is a legend of our times. Nobody fights like him and his style is entirely, uniquely his own. His short stature (1.66m) may make it seem like a disadvantage when it comes to clinching, but his incredible ability to throw down everyone is a true testament of his skills. He is not just one of the Top 10 Muay Thai fighters but also widely regarded as the greatest of all-time.

He is a technical wizard in all aspects of Muay Thai, and makes it look so deceptively easy in his fights. His arsenal of fast movements, crazy kicks, wild leg sweeps and the famous cartwheel kick makes him the most interesting fighter to watch in the ring. At an age where most Muay Thai fighters would have long retired, the living legend continues to fight on a regular basis, entertaining fans the world over. 

For the past few years, Saenchai trains and fight out of Yokkao Gym in Bangkok. He competes almost exclusively on Yokkao as well as Thai Fight promotions. (Related article: “Gym Review: Yokkao Gym Bangkok”)

See Saenchai’s highlights video


Namsaknoi Yudthagarngamtorn
Namsaknoi

Nicknamed “The Emperor” for his graceful Wai Kru Ram Muay and almost pristine career, Namsaknoi (NSN) holds one of the best fight records in Muay Thai, winning 285 fights out an illustrious 300-fight history. He also ran a 6-year undefeated campaign at Lumpinee between 2000-2006 that is unimaginable in a fiercely competitive sport like Muay Thai.

After a dispute with his gym over his fight winnings, Namsaknoi retired and returned to his hometown with no money in his pocket. In a wonderful turn of fate, he was recruited to teach Muay Thai at Evolve MMA Singapore where he remained for 5 years. Namsaknoi started his own Muay Thai gym on Koh Phangan (renowned for its full moon parties) but left after 2 years of operations.

The Emperor returned to Evolve MMA briefly after that and joined Rattachai Gym (in Phuket) as a trainer. Now he spends time in Bangkok (usually at Attachai Gym) and abroad as a trainer. 

Check out Namsaknoi’s highlights video


Petchboonchu FA Group
top 10 muay thai fighters

Petchboonchu FA Group is the clinch fighter par excellence. During his career, his clinching is second to none. Coupled with his deadly knee strikes, he has 14 titles under his belt, making him the most decorated fighter in Muay Thai history.

Petchboonchu formerly fought out of FA Group gym in Chatuchak, Bangkok, well-known for their emphasis on clinching training. He is a classic Muay Khao, who dominated his fight with superior clinching and aggressive knee strikes. The Muay Thai multiple-time champion retired from the elite circuit and taught Muay Thai full-time in Evolve MMA Singapore between 2016-2017.

The knee legend was training for One Super Series before injuries forced him to retire for good. He now works for One Championship, recruiting Thai fighters for the promotion and is based in Bangkok. He can occasionally still be found at his former home of FA Group gym.

Check out Petchboonchu’s highlights video


Sam-A-Kaiyanghadaogym
Sam-A Gaiyanghadao

You might have seen his YouTube video before, where he pad-kicked 50 times in 22 seconds without breaking a sweat. Yes, that’s the guy. His powerful and lightning-fast kicks have won him numerous championships and 2011 Lumpinee fighter of the year. Sam-A’s quick and aggressive style in the ring makes his fights very exciting to watch.

Sam-A formerly fought out of the famous Petyindee Muay Thai Academy and currently coaches Muay Thai in Evolve MMA Singapore. He also returned to compete last year in One Super Series and showed no sign of his break from fighting. By his second appearance, he was crowned the inaugural One Super Series Muay Thai Flyweight world champion.

Check out Sam-A’s highlights video


Dieselnoi Chor Thanasukarn
Dieselnoi

The man with the sky-piercing knees. Towering above all his peers, the over 6-foot tall Dieselnoi often clinched and kneed his opponents into oblivion.

He dominated the lightweight division at lumpinee between 1981 to 1985, remaining undefeated during this period. He was forced to retire after 54year reign as he had no competition in his weight class.

Possessing an unrelenting, forward-moving knee style, Dieselnoi  was one of the most exciting fighters to watch in the ring. He was the quintessential Muay Khao, fighting in an aggressive style unlike any other knee fighters today.

Dieselnoi had many famous rivals during his time, including fellow golden-age legends like Samart Payakaroon and Sagat Petchyindee. Today, Dieselnoi spends his time traveling to gyms in Bangkok and Pattaya, instructing a new generation of Nak Muays, passing on his golden-age knowledge.

Check out Dieselnoi’s highlights video


Samart Payakaroon
Best Muay Thai Fighter

Samart is often cited as the best Muay Thai fighter of all time, the GOAT in Muay Thai. He was both the Sugar Ray Robinson and Muhammad Ali of Muay Thai. Training under the legendary Yodtong Senanan, grand master of the Sityodtong camp, he was awarded the prestigious Sports Writers of Thailand fighter of the year 3 times.  

Samart was very good with his hands and after winning 4 Lumpinee championships, he turned to boxing and won a WBC junior featherweight title. He was also well known with his mastery of using teeps (push kicks) in a way that is unmatched to this day. In his peak, he could rip apart his opponents simply with the use of his strong teeps.

After his peak days of fighting, Samart seeked a brief career in singing and starred in a few films including a major role in a French production. Samart currently runs the Samart Payakaroon gym in Bangkok.

Check out Samart’s highlights video


Somrak Khamsing
Somrak Khamsing

It’s mesmerizing to watch Somrak’s fights. He was so good that you can see how easily he outclassed his opponents in his fights, wearing his confident smirk.

Somrak is Thailand’s pride, having represented the country in boxing and winning the country’s first Olympic gold medal. He has never won a Lumpinee championship in his career. Not because he wasn’t good but contrary to that, he was so good that the big promoters of the stadium barred him from competing, or so it has been said. Basically, he would be certain to win and the gamblers lost interest in him. The stories that legends are made of.

Somrak runs his gym in Bangkok, on top of his busy schedule as a singer, celebrity, trainer and taking up occasional fights on the side. He appeared in 2017’s Prayer before Dawn.

Check out Somrak’s highlights video


Sagat

Sagat Petchyindee

Wait a minute. Sagat probably brought more attention to Muay Thai than Buakaw ever did. The one-eyed villain in the classic fighting video game, Street Fighter (by Capcom), was believed to be based on a real-life fighter (Sagat Petchyindee) and probably the first Muay Thai fighter every kid of my generation got to know.

The eye patch, the bald head, the prominent scar across his body, this was a badass fighter who mean business. Sagat might just be the most iconic Muay Thai fighter in the entire history of the sport. If you grew up in the 90s and played arcade games, Sagat was a part of your childhood.

In all seriousness, for those interested to meet the legend, the real-life Sagat (see image) now coaches at 13 Coins Gym in Bangkok giving instruction for private training.

Check out Sagat’s highlights video


Conclusion

It’s impossible to rank them without some disputes or disagreements but we can all agree that the 10 fighters featured here are all legends in their own right. There are so many good fighters, there is no way to feature them all. If you have a favorite fighter and he is not featured here, I would like to hear about your choice of the best fighter. Meanwhile, check out my picks of the top current active fighters in Thailand.

17 Comments
  1. Lilly Pearl says

    Buakaw was, is and always will be a muay thai legend. MY FAV!

  2. […] in Fairtex’s marketing success is the sponsorship and cultivation of famous fighters, notably Yodsanklai Fairtex and Attachai Fairtex in recent times. But the biggest credit for Fairtex’s status owes it to its […]

  3. […] Bangkok vacation. More importantly, this is also the camp of Muay Thai legend Saenchai, one of the best Muay Thai fighters of all […]

  4. […] had plans for what would have been a Muay Thai fanboy’s wet dream come true. 2 of the most elite Muay Thai fighters of this era to return for a matchup at the prestigious Rajadamnern Stadium. Saenchai PKSaenchaiGym […]

  5. […] Not forgetting ties to the PKSaenchai Gym through Yokkao’s own number one celebrity fighter, Saenchai. Just these 2 gyms alone is suffice for a pool of talents to draw from. Coupled with top UK fight […]

  6. […] Killer Fist is back. Muay Thai brawling legend, Pornsanae Sitmonchai returns to the ring on 10th December against Japanese Muay Thai veteran, Yosuke Mizuochi for a […]

  7. Hady says

    You should add Sudsakorn Sor Klinmee, Sangmanee Sor Tienpo (he was #1 in Lumpinee and Rajadamnern CMIIW) and the currently #1 lightweight of the world Sittichai. Where he recently knocked Yi Long after Sittichai became the champion of WLF Yilong Challenge Tournament, where Buakaw never did it before since Buakaw got 1 win and 1 lose againts Yi Long.

    1. Kay says

      Definitely agree about Sangmanee but he fits on the other article on the fighters to watch NOW. Sittichai has been fighting only kickboxing promotions now so I listed him on the article about Top Kickboxers to watch for. As for Sudsakorn, he might be active and good at what he does but he’s a bit like Saenchai now, not really fighting at the elite circuit. All great suggestions nonetheless.

  8. totti says

    SAGATTTTTTTTTTTT HAHAHAHA

    1. Kay says

      I’m glad someone caught on the joke and found it funny as I did. hahahahaha

  9. […] man, the monk, the myth, the Muay Thai fighter, and the movie star. As the list of impressive titles accumulates, so the legend continues on his […]

  10. […] maybe not that much of a shocker for those who have been following the Thai legend‘s social media footprints. Yodsanklai has been posting videos and photos of him training, […]

  11. Nick says

    What about TONG PO?! He’s a beast and teh best Muay Thai fighter!!111
    I’m just kidding. But I thought he was amazing in the Kickboxer movie 😀

    thanks for this list 😀

    1. Kay says

      Absolutely! Most badass Nak Muay in the history of fictional Muay Thai. 😀

  12. Nicholas says

    You forgot about TONG PO! He was amazing. He’ll fuck anybody up. From the movie Kickboxer (1989).

    1. Kay says

      Agreed. One of my favorite culturally-appropriated Thai fighter. 😀

  13. edy says

    Buakaw

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