Archive | November, 2010

Two Fairtex Fighters Collide At Tachi Palace Fights 7

30 Nov

Tachi Palace Fights 7
On Thursday, December 2nd, Fairtex fighters James Irvin and Jorge Oliveira will meet in the Main Event at Tachi palace Fights 7. Both fighters see victory as the path back to the UFC. Fairtex is proud of both athletes, and we expect to see an incredible main event. The event can be streamed live online at http://www.MMAJunkie.com

From MMAJunkie.com

As a reminder, we’re just a week way from MMAjunkie.com’s free and live stream of the “Tachi Palace Fights 7: Deck the Halls” event.

The star-studded show takes place Dec. 2 at the Tachi Palace Hotel and Casino in Lemoore, Calif., and the stream begins at 8:30 p.m. ET (5:30 p.m. PT).

The event features a headliner of James Irvin vs. Jorge Oliveira, as well as a featherweight champ Isaac DeJesus vs. Micah Miller, John Alessio vs. Phil Collins (for the vacant welterweight title), and the U.S. debut of arguably the world’s top flyweight, Jussier da Silva.

MMAjunkie.com lead staff reporter John Morgan joins Tachi Palace Fights flyweight champion and recent Bellator tournament contender Ulysses Gomez and Central Valley DJ Andre Covington in the broadcast booth to call the action.

The full fight card includes:

* James Irvin vs. Jorge Oliveira
* Jussier da Silva vs. Danny Martinez
* Champ Isaac DeJesus vs. Micah Miller (for featherweight title)
* John Alessio vs. Phil Collins (for vacant welterweight title)
* Seth Baczynski vs. Tim McKenzie
* Martin Sandoval vs. Tommy Vargas
* Jamie Jara vs. Jay Silva
* Andy Miranda vs. Sergio Quinones
* Jimmy Ambriz vs. Mike Guidry
* Chris Bostick vs. Nik Fekete

Tachi Palace Fights (whose frontrunner was Palace Fighting Championships) is one of the West Coast’s most popular promotions, and the organization has produced dozens of UFC and WEC regulars. The revamped Tachi Palace brand launched in 2009, and the Dec. 2 show marks its fifth of 2010.

For more information visit http://www.mmajunkie.com

Thailand’s hope rests on Yodsaenklai “The Hero”

29 Nov

Yodsaenklai Fairtex
From USMF.tv and ifmamuaythaiythai.org

2010 King’s Cup will be the biggest in the history of muaythai.

In 2009 history was made as for the first time the cup left Thailand when Cosmo Alexander took the King’s trophy to Brazil.

This year Thailand will send their number one fighter, Yodsaenklai “The Hero”. He is not a superstar but rather a megastar in muaythai, winner of Contender Asia and WMC World Champion. The expectation of an entire country rest on his shoulders.

Yodsaenklai stated that this will be the biggest challenge in his career. The fights will have over 300.000 spectators, other than being televised live to the United States, cctv, Espn, Fox Sport, Eurosport and on Thai tv.

Yodsaenklai also said that he knows that muaythai is a truly international sport and that many countries nowadays have equal fighters to the Thais, but this will be more than a cup, the pride of Thailand is on the line and he will be there to defend it.

Fairtex 30% Off Black Friday Sale

24 Nov

Fairtex Black Friday Sale

Vote Fairtex For 2010 MMA Awards

24 Nov

2010 MMA Awards
Vote Fairtex for Best Technical Equipment Brand for the 2010 MMA Awards. Follow the link below to vote in every category. The winners will be anoounced at the 2010 MMA Award Show, live on Versus from the Palm’s Hotel in Las Vegas.

To vote now visit: http://www.onlineawards.co.uk/fightersonly/votecast.asp

Check Out The New Fairtex Backpack

23 Nov

War Of The Heroes 8 Post Show Wrap Up

16 Nov

War Of The Heroes 8
By Jon Swenson for Sharkspage.com – Monday, November 15, 2010

The eighth edition of the WOTH Fighting Championship was held Saturday night at the Santa Clara Convention Center. On display was a top heavy muaythai kickboxing/mma hybrid card with 15 amateur and professional fights. Strikeforce and Palace FC veteran Alexander Crispim defeated Pure Combat FC Bantamweight champion Chris David in the most flamboyant mixed martial arts bout in the history of War of the Heroes promotion, veteran Phanuwat ‘Coke’ Chunhawat earned a split decision over Cung Le trained Jose Palacios in a professional Muaythai bout, and Bay Area native Bryan Petro unified the United States Muaythai Federation and Muaythai Association of America amateur welterweight belts to highlight a stacked night of competition.

The United States Muaythai Federation has continually pushed for Olympic recognition for the sport. Part of that campaign involves qualifying the top American Muaythai talent to compete at the IFMA World Muaythai Championships in Bangkok Thailand, held to celebrate the King of Thailand’s birthday November 27-December 5th. In the final undercard bout, current USMF and IFK North American welterweight amateur kickboxing title holder Bryan Petro (10-1, Combat Sports Academy) faced off against the MTAA welterweight titlist Roy Corona (7-2, MTS USA) for the right to represent the United States in Thailand.

Both fighters came to an immediate clinch at the start of the first round, unleashing a series of knees in tight. Petro scored a hard trip takedown that bounced Corona off the mat. After a short feeling out process, the left hook began to assert itself and back Corona into the corner. A flurry up against the ropes punctuated the round for Petro. The Muaythai School USA trained Roy Corona landed two pinpoint punches early in the second round, but Bryan Petro quickly stormed through the attack and pressed him up against the ropes. After a whithering onslaught, Corona crumpled and Petro raised his arms in celebration.

After the fight Combat Sports Academy and USMF Team USA trainer Kirian Fitzgibbons noted both of the Northern Californian and Southern Californian Muaythai association representatives ringside. After congratulating the Americans who medaled last year in Thailand, Fitzgibbons added “unity is what it is going to take to get Muaythai into the Olympics.”

The evening’s most entertaining bout came in the main-event MMA match between Strikeforce and Palace FC veteran Alexander Crispim De Almeida (5-2) and Pure FC bantamweight champion Chris ‘Dark Lotus’ David (13-8-2).

The ‘dark lotus’ entered the ring with the aura and confidence of a champion. Entering the ring to a heavy bassline by Gangstarr, Crispim had the wildman unpredictability. Alexander Crispim scored an early takedown to start the first round, but in a scramble for top position David regained his feet. A second Crispim takedown resulted in a partial guillotine choke that sank in deeper the longer Alex held on to the single leg. Eventually the Ralph Gracie BJJ black belt gained waist control, and slid around for back control with both hooks in. Crispim pounded on David from above, and worked to secure a rear naked choke. In 22 MMA matches, David has never been submitted. He escaped the choke attempt, and withstood a 30 second ground and pound to finish the round.

After an exchange early in the second round, Chris David gained top position and focused on wrist control to secure a kimura lock. David torqued on Crispim’s arm like a chicken wing, but he could not pry it free. Alex Crispim has a long history of international BJJ competition, and eventually he freed his arm and worked back to his feet. After ducking a David jab, Alex Crispim scored another takedown, then pushed him across the mat and up against the ropes. The native Brazilian worked over David in the corner alternating ground and pound and submission attempts.

The third round came as both fighters decided to trade on their feet. Chris David mixed jab and low kick combinations, before Crispim eventually drove him into the ropes and then back into the corner. David could not spin out, and eventually Crispim scored a single leg takedown. The Sacramentan made it back to his feet, but his corner shouted that he needed a knockout to win the fight. David pressed forward, but weary from long, intense groundwork, he could not fire off enough punches or kicks to turn the tide. Alex Crispim earned a 30-26, 30-27, 30-27 unanimous decision. Then the Brazilian executed a partially successful backflip off the turnbuckle, and unsuccessfully tried to hug a female CSAC official. After thanking his family, coaches and students, he hopped the ropes onto the scorers table and was gone.

A more conventional 5-round professional Muaythai bout took place between veteran Thai native Phanuwat ‘Coke’ Chunhawat (141-21-1, 20KO’s, Pacific Ring Sports) and the Cung Le trained kickboxer and martial artist Jose Palacios (19-2, USH fight team). Chunhawat was announced as the WMC and WBC muaythai champion at 142 pounds. Palacios has experience in Muaythai kickboxing, San Shou kickboxing, and has competed for Strikefoce kickboxing and MMA promotions in the past. Palacios showed excellent footwork and movement early, landing from multiple angles while ‘Coke’ tried to measure up from outside. A left hand dropped Chunhawat in the first.

Palacios continued with quick hands in the second round, and scored a violent trip takedown that sent ‘Coke’ hurtling backwards. After scoring a trip takedown of his own, Chunhawat stormed forward and locked in a muaythai clinch around the neck. The move has become so dominant in K1 kickboxing that new rules were passed to allow only one hand on the neck in a clinch. Chunhawat landed a series of heavy knees to the body scoring enough points to take the round.

The fight ebbed towards Palacios in the third round, as the south bay fighter landed more punches and low kicks. ‘Coke’ Chunhawat tried to land power punches, but Palacios did not remain static in front of him. Jose finished with a flurry, landing a flashy spinning backfist and a spinning back kick in the final 10 seconds. The fourth round swung in the opposite direction. Palacios began to slow down enough that Phanuwat Chunhawat’s big knees began to land with regularity. ‘Coke’ scored with several knees to the body up against the ropes, then again in the center of the ring. In the final 10 seconds, this time it was ‘Coke’ landing two heavy hooks before the bell.

The fifth and final round came with the scorecards up in the air, legitimately this fight could have been scored down the middle. Palacios pushed the pace gaining the edge in two early flurries, but again Chunhawat drove forward landing power knees to the body. The fight finished with each fighter trading punches in the center of the ring. While Sharkspage scored the fight 48-47 Palacios, the referees awarded a 48-47, 49-46, 47-48 split decision win to Phanuwat ‘Coke’ Chunhawat.

Saturday night also featured popular Unlimited MMA fighter Tristan Arenal against NorCal FF’s Mikey Gonzalez in a pro MMA bout. Tristan blitzed Gonzalez quickly before gaining top position agains the ropes. Arenal sunk in a rear naked choke so quickly that many ringside did not see the choke attempt or the tap. In a pair of professional Muaythai kickboxing bouts, Combat Fitness fighter Brandon Banda battered Paul Brown en route to a 4th round TKO, and Fairtex SF’s Chris Aldea wore down Sheldon Gaines before stopping him with a 3rd round TKO. In amateur Muaythai action, former ISKA, former USMF, former IKF and former WSCC title holder Ryan Ratcliff (Combat Fitness) earned a unanimous decision win over Erik Alignay (Fight and Fitness). World Team USA fighter T.J. Archangle put on a striking clinic against Brett Todoroff. Archangle was able to land punches and kicks from any angle, eventually bloodying Todoroff and earning a doctor stoppage 28 seconds into the third round. AKA’s Alex Numeski earned a split decision win over Las Vegas trained Nate ‘half black, half amazing’ Chambers (30-27, 29-28, 28-29). Eisrael Verdusco earned a unanimous decision win over Jose Martinez, Chrisente Joaquin narrowly emerged from a slugfest with Graham Cruz, and Steve Tomayo scored a unanimous decision win over Gabriel David.

On hand to watch the event ringside were Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez, Strikeforce competitor and Sac native Scott Smith, recently debuted UFC fighter Daniel Roberts, former K1 champion Carter Williams, and Dutch kickboxing champion Germaine de Randamie. Fairtex Mountain View’s Chris Moore had a professional MMA bout scratched due to a no show, and an advertised professional muaythai bout with massive Brazilian Gilmar China Sales was cancelled in advance.

There is no highlight video from the event, a photo gallery is available here. War of the Heroes FC9 will return February 5th, 2011. For more information on muaythai in California, visit usmf.tv or muaythaiassociationofamerica.com.

Full story at http://www.sharkspage.com/?p=3011

Taking a dream trip for Muay Thai’s version of tough love

15 Nov

CBS News
By Mike Freeman
CBSSports.com National Columnist
Nov. 10, 2010

PATTAYA, Thailand — On the other side of the world, I met a man named Yod. I bowed. He bowed. A short time later, he smacked me in the face.

Some of you will know the name Yodsanklai Fairtex (“Yod” for short). Most of you will not. He is one of the most popular athletes in Asia and one of the top five standup fighters in the world. He’s a multiple Muay Thai champion, once winning a title fight with a vicious first-round elbow knockout. If Yod fought Floyd Mayweather, he’d chop down Money inside of two minutes.

Yod is friendly but initially didn’t know what to make of me, the nerdy wannabe Muay Thai American. I wanted to train with Yod, which is considered a great honor. At first, he said no. But I grew on him. Like mold. As the days wore on, I got a pat on the back from Yod. Then came a short conversation or two. He was warming up to the idiot American.

At the end of my eight days in Thailand, the mecca of Muay Thai, Yod agreed to train me. It was the equivalent of a high school quarterback receiving one-on-one counsel from Peyton Manning.

This is the beginning of a different sort of story. I want to tell you about athletes. About fighters. About maybe the greatest fighters on Earth, who live in a remote part of the globe. Fighters who don’t complain about paychecks or possess solar system-sized egos. Fighters who come from nothing. Fighters who do it because they love it.

This story won’t say some athlete is a jerk, or speculate which quarterback is dating a television actress, or call a manager a know-nothing moron. This is more self-exploration than self-righteousness; more appreciation than denunciation.

This is a story about fighters. Fighters like Yod.

The Thai media call Yod the “boxing computer” because his strikes are so precise. This is, in fact, a characteristic of Muay Thai. He demands the same from me. Up more on your toes when you kick, he says. Point the toe more on the kicking foot. Raise your hips. Turn the shoulder. Relax.

After 35 minutes of kicking in a boxing ring, we switch to focus mitts, small gloves used to hone punching skills. The minute one of my hands drops two inches, he smacks me — hard — on the right side of my face. Pop. “Careful,” he says. Later, again, a slight drop. Pop. “Careful.” The second hit is harder, the “careful” more pronounced.

My hands don’t drop again.

• • •

On the other side of the world, I met a man named Chen. I bowed. He bowed. A short time later, he punched me in the face.

It was a mild blow, not launched with bad intentions, and it was my fault it got through. We were sparring, and Chen had warned me to keep my hands up. I did, but he was so quick, the cross he threw was a blur. It was preceded by a swift leg kick to distract. Teacher … student. The lesson had begun.

For eight days, instructor Chen was my father, my professor, my babysitter, my guardian, my assailant and my drill sergeant. We worked in a ring at fight club in Thailand. A Muay Thai education.

Muay Thai is a vicious but elegant martial art, and Thailand is its birthplace. If you want to learn the sport, absorb its every give and take, this is the place to come. Fighters from around the globe migrate to this country, including some high profile mixed martial artists. Their photographs adorn a wall here at the Fairtex facility.

Muay Thai is a well-presented package of strut and gumption, but it is also simple and earnest. Its fighters are perhaps the most humble in all of sports, while arguably among the most skilled and vicious. Your average Thai boxers might weigh 140 pounds but can decimate much stronger and heavier men.

I’ve always believed playing cornerback in the NFL was the toughest thing to do in sports — and then I studied Muay Thai.

It takes months to get the Muay Thai kick down. Months. Just for a kick.

A group of us from AMA Fight Club in Whippany, N.J., traveled the nearly 9,000 miles to Pattaya to test and hone our skills. It was the trip of a lifetime. It was the trip of many lifetimes.

The fact some of the best fighters in Muay Thai work in Pattaya seems a contradiction. The martial art calls for disciplined technique and extreme dedication, while Pattaya is anything but disciplined, being perhaps the carnal of international capitals. Seemingly every sexual act — from the standard to the perverse — is peddled by an army of young women.

Most of all, in Pattaya, there is the nobility of Muay Thai, and we are back to a man named Chen. The trainers go by nicknames like Tank, Yak (who trains Yod), Jaroon, Preecha and Teelek. They are the engine that makes these training camps combust and cook. All are ex-fighters who’ve been in the ring hundreds of times. They are the equivalent of Hall of Fame football players who enter into coaching at the conclusion of their playing days. Their experience is invaluable.

Chen speaks almost no English, and I speak no Thai, but over eight days the level of communication is extraordinary. Much is conducted through hand signals, nodding and smiles. Thumbs up, thumbs down. Or the occasional word of English. “Good!” he would say. “Your kick,” Chen says, “needs work.”

And we get right to it.

• • •

There are few standup fighting forms nastier than Muay Thai. It is one of the deadliest of martial arts. Muay Thai uses precision striking from punches, kicks, elbows and knees. The Muay Thai clinch — a sort of standup form of wrestling, where most of the knees and elbows are delivered — is the art within the art.

Other fighting styles are more flash than actual combat. Thai is hardcore fighting.

It’s not known exactly how long Muay Thai has existed, but it’s believed to be anywhere from 700 to 1,000 years old. It evolved from Thailand’s history of intense internal battle and warfare with neighboring countries.

The Thai way is to absorb the blows instead of dodging them, which is why in real Thai there is little ducking, weaving or circling, and that increases the popularity in this part of the world. (It also increases the level of violence.) The fights here are as frequent as baseball games in the U.S. and as popular as the NFL. Lumpini Stadium in Bangkok, the Yankee Stadium of Thailand, hosts more than 15,000 spectators for its fight card almost every night. In Pattaya, I watched fights daily on TV.

Thai fighters are viewed as patriots. There are about 500,000 Thai boxers in the country, but maybe just a small number of those make it to the professional ranks.

When an Asian version of the reality show The Contender debuted several years ago (the contest was won by Yod), published reports say the series was seen by 500 million people worldwide, with the largest concentration of viewers living in Asia.

It’s not unusual for Thai children to pick up gloves and Thai pads (oblong-shaped mitts that serve as training pads for kicks and punches) as young as 8. To them, it’s like picking up a bat and glove. By their late teens, some Thai fighters have fought many dozens of times.

In the U.S. and parts of Europe, a diluted version of Muay Thai involves more boxing and fewer kicks. Purer forms of Muay Thai focus on the kicks and clinch. Kicks and elbows are arguably the nastiest part of Muay Thai. Twice when sparring at AMA after being kicked hard in my lead leg just above the knee, my leg went dead. I couldn’t lift it for almost a minute.

So how in the hell did I become addicted to this sport and end up here, being trained by and alongside some of the world’s best fighters literally on the other side of the planet? It’s complicated. Part of my entrance into Muay Thai is the mostly male fascination with inflicting violence on another man. Men like beating things up.

But it’s more than that. Initially, after writing a column ripping MMA, I thought the sport deserved a fairer hearing, and while Muay Thai isn’t MMA, I still wanted to explore a standup fighting style that was more complicated and fiercer than boxing. I wanted to see (even if in very small ways) what it was like to fight. Muay Thai was it.

(And this is where I officially apologize to MMA. My bad, fellas. I’ve seen the light — mainly because several MMA fighters at AMA Fight Club have kicked my ass in sparring.)

Please, don’t take this the wrong way. I’m not trying to portray myself as a bad-ass dude. You won’t see me in any low-grade “celebrity” bouts. I simply hoped to explore a sophisticated fighting form and then fell in love it. Now, I’m hooked. I’ve trained Muay Thai in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas and Colorado. Then came Thailand.

• • •

Pattaya is a city stuck in time, and that time is the 1970s.

The city looks like something from the Vietnam War movie Full Metal Jacket. Helmetless riders buzz through heavy traffic on scooters. Everything is sold on street corners: clothes, stun guns, sex. Cockfights are televised.

In bare-knuckled Pattaya, like Bangkok, there are no rules.

Several days after arriving, I’m in a pickup trip, leaving the hotel for a nearby stadium. One of the trainers from Fairtex is driving. He’s got one hand on the wheel, with the other on a remote control that changes the channel on a cassette player. A series of 1970s songs blares. He sings the theme song from Saturday Night Fever in perfect English as the car bobs and weaves down a road thick with scooters and cars. The Carpenters are next. “I’m on the top of the world, lookin’ down on creation …”

We arrive at Fairtex Stadium. It’s about 8 p.m. The fights start soon.

The most famous fighting stadium in Thailand is Lumpini, about two hours away in Bangkok, but Fairtex Stadium is also well known. Some 400 people sit on wooden benches in an area the size of a small high school gym. The ring is in the center of the room. Hundreds of gamblers — screaming and pointing and gyrating — sit to the side making wagers throughout the fight going on now.

A live band is playing.

The two fighters, after the prerequisite two-round feeling process, explode into violence in the third. Elbows connect to the forehead, and kicks smash. The residue of one kick leads to a leg bending inward with such force that for moment it looked as if it shattered. The fight ends when one fighter uses a strong right cross to knock the other fighter unconscious for several seconds. He is helped out of the ring.

The winner is handed 100 baht. He holds the bill up triumphantly. The crowd roars. One hundred baht is about $3. The loser receives nothing.

The two fighters were 10 years old.

• • •

Each morning, starting around 8:30, the Fairtex gym begins to stir. A group of about eight trainers work their way inside. They sit in small groups, reading newspapers and cracking jokes, while waiting for victims like me to arrive. Some trainers use a hose to water down the ring making it less slippery.

Once all of the students arrive the gym cracks with aggression. The punching and kicking of pads is loud. Whap, whap, whap. The sounds echo throughout the gym. They stop when a single, loud clock, dutifully keeping track of time in the rounds, beeps and everyone rests for one minute. The most interesting thing is the lack of smell. Despite the presence of so many shirtless and un-showered men the openness of the gym — it’s outside, under cover — allows for a breeze to push through.

Everyone is barefoot.

The facility is modern and luxurious but it’s also appropriately primitive. The emphasis is on the training, not looks. Remember: Professional fighters work here.

This is how the training works at Fairtex. It begins with six four-minute rounds of pad work inside one of the four rings. This is the bulk of the training, and many of the instructors make it as realistic as possible. Sometimes sparring is added. Conditioning becomes critical even in the Thailand winter (which is now), the temperatures easily reach into the mid-80s with a nice dose of humidity.

After the ring work comes kicking, knees and punches on a group of stationary bags. Each day, my post-ring work went something like this: 200 teeps (front kicks) onto a swinging bag, 100 kicks against a large, thick pole wrapped in rubber padding and 100 knees on a hanging bag. Then 20 pullups and 100 situps on an incline bench.

There are two of these sessions a day, and each lasts about two hours. Chen hawkeyes everything I do. If my technique falters even a smidge, he corrects me.

The kicks are always the most difficult part. In Muay Thai, the shin — not the foot — is used for kicks. Experts believe that impacting the shin creates a series of small micro-fractures. Once they heel, the shin gets even tougher, or at least, that’s the theory. So the Thai constantly kick. And kick. Then kick some more to harden their shins and perfect the technique.

My shin now feels like I could kick the side of a house.

• • •

Yod was having fun with me. He enjoys the teaching and toying. The level of intensity increased exponentially as the rounds continued. We’d been working for almost an hour — six rounds — and other than getting married, my career and maybe losing my virginity, this is the best time of my life.

The first thing almost everyone notices about Yod are his calf muscles. They’re as thick as heavy, round tree branches. Thai fighters have large calf muscles because of technique. You kick while standing on the ball of your foot which engages the calves (the kicking leg also returns to the toes). Yod has probably kicked hundreds of thousands of times in his life.

Other than that, Yod looks like an ordinary man. If you saw Yod walking down the street, you might not look twice. His face is youngish and his build modest. His is a body unexposed to hardcore weightlifting or performance enhancing drugs. The looks betray the fact he’s one of toughest men on the planet.

He ends our hour-long training session with a few pointers about needing to twist my hips more on kicks. It’s a common problem with beginning Muay Thai students.

Obviously, Yod has no such problem. I watched most of his workouts, and when Yod kicks pads, each one sounds like a shotgun blast. His technique is perfect.

And this fact will add to the Yod legend. One afternoon when Yod was kicking, a large bee flew in the path of his kick. Either the kick itself or the current created by it knocked the bee out of the air. It lay on the ground, incapable of flight. I wouldn’t have believed it had I not seen it with my own eyes.

At the end of my training with Yod, I bow. It was a great honor, I tell him. He smiles.

We finish by talking about his upcoming King’s Cup fight. The King’s Cup is the Super Bowl of Muay Thai, with hundreds of thousands of spectators. The highlight will be Yod vs. Cosmo Alexandre, another excellent Thai fighter. It will be one of the best fights of the year, though few in America will see.

Yod leaves me with one final thought.

“When you come back next year,” he tells me, “we fight.”

I think he meant spar, not fight. I hope he meant spar.

• • •

I remember the first time I got punched hard. These are the things you don’t soon forget.

It was during one of my first sparring sessions in New Jersey. The guy I was sparring was a bit of a bully, known for going hard at newer students. He hit me with a solid right cross. For a moment, I saw stars. They danced in my head and disappeared suddenly after he hit me hard again, this time with a left hook. The stars were gone, but the pain in my face wasn’t.

That moment made me angry rather than fearful and I trained twice as hard. I wasn’t going to be battered again. Sparring again about two months later, he and I got into it in the center of the mat — a hardcore brawl exacerbated by the presence of his girlfriend, who he wanted to show off for. No technique, just punches and kicks thrown with abandon. None of his punches got through my defenses. My switch-kick and overhand penetrated his. He backed off. He never tried to bully me again.

That was it. I was hooked. It wasn’t that I inflicted damage on another human being. Some people love that part of fighting. I’m the opposite. I enjoy taking another man’s best kicks and punches and still standing.

When AMA promoted Nick Avalos to head the Muay Thai program, I was pulled in deeper. Nick is one of those teachers who understands how to get the most from his students. Same with instructor Amr Ibrahim. In fact, if it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t have made the trip to Thailand or been so committed.

Brian Gartrell, a friend, is just as dedicated. Like me, he’s a newer student. We’re mirror images, which explains why sparring him is so difficult. He’s is smart and adapts quickly. I didn’t know Doug Miller until the Thailand trip. He’s a professional MMA fighter. I watched Doug take on one of Fairtex’s toughest young fighters in clinching and hold his own. It was one of the more inspirational moments of the trip.

This was the group that went to Thailand. Two white guys, a biracial guy (Irish and Latino), an African-American and an Arab-American. A nice cross-section of America.

Superficial differences have long been the bane of human existence, but there’s something about Muay Thai — and fighting in general — that is oddly unifying. It’s difficult to explain. Ethnicity or religious beliefs, economic or educational differences become irrelevant. Friendships are forged in fighting.

• • •

By midweek, I figured I’ve already thrown maybe a thousand punches, many hundreds of kicks and over 400 hundred knees. Chen, on Monday alone, had me throw well over a hundred. In the process, my right knee lost a chunk of skin the size of a silver dollar. Chen cleans it, applies disinfectant, wraps it and then has me throw left knees. He is safe but unrelenting.

I’ve been able to piece together a little about Chen’s life. As a fighter, he had more than 140 bouts and won 108 of them. He was good. Really good.

Chen is quiet and humble. He looks slightly older than some of the other trainers. His frame is tiny, almost delicate. If he weighs more than 140 pounds it’d be surprising. He’s lived a rugged life but there is no evidence of this on his body. He’s scar-less (another trainer has a scar across his face that looks like the result of an elbow strike) and limber.

Chen is also amazingly quick. It’s like science fiction. One second you see his fist coming at you and the next it seems to blink out, violating space-time rules. Again, we lightly spar. He pulls his punches and kicks, but almost everything connects. If we were fighting at full speed, he’d have knocked me unconscious fairly quickly, and again, I outweigh him by some 40 pounds.

Yod later walks by and sees my knee. “What happened?” he says. I tell him it’s from kneeing the bag. He smiles. “You not p—-,” he says, “Keep training hard.” Then he stepped to a heavy bag just a couple of feet away and kicked for over 30 minutes. I kept training. I wasn’t going to be a p—- in front of Yod.

• • •

A break in training, a trip to Walking Street.

If you took the worst debauchery of Las Vegas, the foulest happenings of a bachelor party, mixed in a porn movie, swirled the entire fecal mash into a broth while adding condoms and lack of inhibition and maybe a talking bird, then multiplied it by 1,000 … that’s Walking Street.

Nothing in America comes close to it. It’s the Babe Ruth of carnal extremism.

When fighters come to train in Thailand, many of them needing to blow off steam eventually find Walking Street.

It’s a long and narrow affair located in a small corner of the city. On both sides are bars and discos. Like in other parts of Pattaya, there are people who hand you postcards showing naked women in various sexual acts. Only here, in what is essentially an anything-goes zone, there is more aggression.

Inside one club, it’s like something out of a crazy testosterone-fueled dream. There are nude women everywhere. On walls. Climbing poles. In a makeshift bathtub, soaking in bubbles. In one corner, women spank one another with a rubber hose.

A bar worker walks around carrying a small case of golf balls. Golf balls. You will have to use your imagination for what happens with them.

Wait. Is that a trapeze?

This is how these bars work. The women in their various poses and actions are basically auditioning for the male customers. There are no lap dances. Women either have sex with the customers or they don’t. If a woman is chosen, a manager — often a woman — negotiates with the customer. After a deal is reached, the woman and customer depart for a nearby hotel.

Most Americans would find what happens here questionable at best, and most likely disgusting. To the Thai, this is normal. In fact, sex-trade workers are viewed as admirable. The money women make here, it is said, is sent on to their destitute families in various parts of the country. There are limited ways the Thai can escape poverty, with Muay Thai and the sex industry being two key ones.

In leaving the bar, it’s as if you just departed the moon. The words don’t come easy.

• • •

My last day. I say goodbye to Chen after what I thought was the conclusion of our workout.

I bow, he bows. Then he says: “teeps … 200.” He wasn’t quite done with me yet.

It was a Muay Thai farewell. It was the best possible goodbye.

For more from Mike Freeman, check him out on Twitter: @realfreemancbs

Full Story At:
http://www.cbssports.com/columns/story/14272744/halfway-around-the-world-muay-thais-version-of-tough-love

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