Muay Thai – the art of 8 limbs – has unmistakable roots in Thailand. Its origin is there, as the art was born on the battlefield. It became fully entwined with the rich culture and history of the Thai people as time passes.
Over the years, however, Muay Thai has grown and spread to over areas and countries all over the world. It was fueled by people’s realization that it’s one of the best, if not the best, striking art in the world.
Martial arts practitioners, combat fighters, and people who simply want to level-up their fitness were all enthralled by the art. That serves to explain the gradual rise in popularity that Muay Thai has enjoyed, especially in the last few years.
One of the countries that truly appreciated and embraced Muay Thai is the United Kingdom (UK). And as a result, there have been plenty of exceptional Muay Thai fighters to have come from the UK.
The following is a list of some of the top UK Muay Thai fighters you should know about. Some of the fighters are still active while some have already retired after legendary or notable careers:
We need to start with one of the pioneers of Muay Thai in the UK. He also happens to be one of the greatest non-Thai to compete in the art of 8 limbs. We’re talking about none other than Ronnie “Machine Gun” Green. Green also enjoys a unique distinction among the UK’s Muay Thai fighters as the first to win a world title.
He initially started training in Judo and Karate in 1974. Eventually, he switched over to Muay Thai in 1978 under the guidance of Master Toddy in his gym in Deansgate (in Manchester). Master Toddy would be Green’s trainer for the rest of his career.
Green would have his first Muay Thai fight in 1979, just a year after he started training in the art. He would immediately debut his style, which is more a hybrid of various styles instead of being pure Muay Thai. He incorporated a lot of dynamics and movement to his style as opposed to the traditional Muay Thai style . Green also used a lot of hands as he was also influenced by Western boxing.
During the course of his career, Green would go on to battle numerous legends, from Europe, Thailand, and the rest of the world. From Europe and the US, he fought the likes of Lucien Carbin, Gilbert Ballantine, Brien Cullen, and Pete “Sugarfoot Cunningham”. The Thai fighters that he battled, on the other hand, included Sombat Sor Thanikul, Noppadet Sor Rawadee, and Sagat Petchyindee.
The Machine Gun competed in three different weight classes (from 58 kg. To 63 kg.). He retired from active competition in 2002 after compiling a record of around 98 fights, having emerged victorious in 90 of those fights.
Damien Trainor is one of the greatest Muay Thai fighters to come out of the UK. He is a two-time world champion and has fought extensively in various countries throughout his career.
He started training in Muay Thai at the age of 14 at K-Star Gym in Birmingham, UK. Just two years later, he turned professional.
One year later, Trainor captured the British title before winning 4 European titles. He then traveled to Thailand to live, train, and fight. After he returned to the UK, he was able to win two world titles – the WMC and IKF world title belts.
In the course of his career, Trainor went up against Wangchannoi Sor Parangchai, Tawatchai Budsadee, Kaewklaa Kaewsamrit, and Rungravee Sasiprapa.
Trainor retired in 2016 after compiling a record of 62 wins, 21 losses, and 2 draws. He has since opened his own gym called K-Star Legacy in Birmingham, UK.
|Learn more about Trainor and Muay Thai at “Muay Thai Fighter Tips: Damien Trainor“.|
Known as “The Hitman”, Liam Harrison is one of very few fighters who have a claim to the title of being the greatest Muay Thai fighter from the UK. He is known for his exciting, all-out style, which has endeared him to fans of combat sports. In fact, he is known for having the most aggressive style among UK’s Muay Thai fighters.
The Hitman started with a very different sport, soccer. However, it all changed when his cousin introduced him to the art of Muay Thai when he was 13 years old. It was a case of love at first sight, or in this case, love at first strike, for Harrison.
He became passionate about the art right away and started training at the world-famous Bad Company Gym under Richard Smith.
Harrison won his first 29 fights and it couldn’t have started more awesome when he won his first match via Knockout. At the age of 17, he was already number one in the UK. 2 years later, he won his first World title.
He has gone on to fight all over the world, including living and competing in Thailand for a couple of years. He has won multiple championships, went to war with Saenchai three times, and has also shared his knowledge and skills with countless students.
The Hitman is still actively competing, particularly in ONE Championship. He has so far compiled a record of 114 fights with 88 wins. 43 of those wins coming by way of Knockout.
|For more Harrion’s journey to the top, read “Liam Harrison: Muay Thai’s Hitman“|
Andy Howson is another one of the UK’s Muay Thai legends. He is a five-time world champion in the super bantamweight division of Muay Thai. Howson was regarded as one of the top fighters in that division for a long time.
Howson is known as “The Punisher” or “Lord of War” due to his aggressive style of fighting and his incredible will to win and fighting heart. It all started when he was aged 17 when he first trained in Muay Thai.
He was invited to watch a training session by a friend from work and he was instantly hooked. The rest, as they say, is history. Howson dedicated himself to Muay Thai and training at the Bad Company Gym in Leeds, England.
The Punisher has since gone on to win 5 world titles, Intercontinental Champion (2x), Commonwealth Champion (2x), European Champion, British Champion (2x), and English Champion. That’s as impressive an array of accomplishments as any fighter’s.
Howson retired in 2015 but has since made a comeback to fight in a promotion in the UK in 2018 and in a ONE Championship event in 2020. His record currently stands at 96 fights, 81 wins, 14 losses, and 1 draw.
Jonathan Haggerty is one of the new faces of Muay Thai in the UK. But despite his relatively young age, “The General” has already achieved a great deal of success inside the ring.
The General’s journey began when he was only seven years old. His father, who also competed in Muay Thai, started his journey by training him and he was able to have his first bout after just one year.
Soon, he started piling up one impressive victory after another. Along the way, he was able to win multiple English and British titles and eventually the European title.
Haggerty’s successes led him to One Championship’s Muay Thai Super Series. He sent shockwaves throughout the Muay Thai world by defeating Muay Thai legend Sam-A Gaiyanghadao to capture the ONE Flyweight World Championship. He has since lost the title to Thai superstar Rodtang Jitmuangnon and failed again in an attempt to recapture the belt.
The General continues to improve and is trying to work his way back to the top of the Muay Thai scene. His current record stands at 21 fights, 17 wins, 4 losses, with 10 of the victories coming by way of knockout.
Amy Pirnie is a female Nak Muay and Kickboxer from Scotland who is generally acknowledged as one of the best fighters from the UK. Pirnie is the reigning Enfusion 52 kg. Champion, Lion Fight Super Flyweight Champion, and ISKA Strawweight World Champion. Those are formidable credentials right there.
Pirnie’s road to Muay Thai supremacy started when she was a mere child of 12 years old. She started training in both Muay Thai and Kickboxing at the Phoenix Thai Boxing Club in Glasgow under Coach Rab Izat.
Just three years after she started training, she already took part in the IFMA World Championships where she bagged the junior gold medal. The following year, she won the junior and adult gold medal.
She made her pro debut in 2008 and was given the opportunity to immediately fight for the ISKA British 53 kg title. Pirnie won the fight by decision and clinched her first pro title in the process.
Her current record stands at 26 total fights, with 22 wins, 3 losses, and 1 draw, and with 9 wins coming by KO or TKO.
Iman Barlow is another top female Muay Thai fighter from the UK. Known as the “Pretty Killer”, she is the reigning International WBC Muay Thai Super Bantamweight Champion as well as the reigning Lion Fight Super Bantamweight Champion.
The Pretty Killer’s Muay Thai career started quite early. At the age of nine, she captured the IKF Junior British and European Championships. She turned professional in 2008 and in that same year she won her first title, the S1 Bantamweight World Championship.
She eventually went on to become the former two-time Enfusion 54 kg. World Champion, former WRSA World Champion, and former WPMF World Bantamweight Champion.
Barlow has amassed a record of 103 fights, with 93 wins, 6 losses, and 3 draws. She has a total of 37 knockouts.
Jordan Watson is yet another top Muay Thai fighter who originated from the UK. He started very young as he was only six years old when he initially trained in Muay Thai.
Richard Smith of Bad Company Thai Boxing Gym was the one who oversaw his training from the start. He continues to train under Smith today and is a teammate and training partner of another UK Muay Thai legend in Liam Harrison.
During his amateur career, Watson had over 70 fights. He then turned professional in 2004 at the age of 17. In his first years as a professional, one of the major tournaments that he won was The Contender Asia UK qualifying tournament held in 2008.
He then won his first world title with the ISKA World Super Welterweight World Championship in 2010. He went on to become Yokkao’s very first 70 kg champion.
Watson has a record of 68 fights, 51 wins, 15 losses and 2 draws, with 22 of his victories being knockouts.
Those are some impressive names listed above. It shows that the UK has a very rich and proud tradition when it comes to Muay Thai. Their legacy can certainly rival that of any other Western country.
And while the past and present batch of champions have been composed of some icons and legends, the future of Muay Thai in the UK is perhaps even more exciting. As the art grows in prominence and following, expect more stars to come out of the country to thrill fans the world over!
Who would you add to the list? Comment below!