The top Muay Thai fighters in Thailand are guaranteed glory, trophies and titles but many of them find long term financial security much harder to come by. Tales of former champions ending up destitute are all too common but many of the best Nak Muay among the recent generation are actually able to make more money after they retire, as Orono Wor Petchpun explains.
He was a Thailand Champion, Lumpini Champion, WMC Champion, It's Showtime Champion and WPMF Champion but by his own admission he retired from the sport with less than ten thousand dollars in the bank. However Orono is one of a growing number of top Thai fighters to discover they could actually make more money as a trainer overseas than they had during the peak of their competitive career,
"I used to get around 70,000 to 80,000 Baht per fight, the most I ever got was 90,000 Baht but my manager would take fifty per cent and I would tip my trainer ten per cent so normally I got 35,000 baht a fight and I used to fight at around ten times a year. Now I work as a trainer at Evolve MMA in Singapore and I earn at least 150,000 Baht a month."
Other fighters to have moved to Singapore to work alongside Orono include Namsaknoi Yudthagarngamtorn, Nong-O Kaiyanghadaogym, Sagetdao Petpayathai and Peneak Sitnumnoi. Their services are sought after to train the clientele at Evolve MMA as well as the fight team which includes well known MMA fighters like Shinya Aoki and Ben Askren.
It's not just the top Nak Muay who are heading to Singapore. Former WBC 'fighter of the decade' Pongsaklek Wonjongkam is joining Evolve MMA later this year while another former boxing world champion, Yodsanan Sityodtong, has been there nearly five years and says his plans for retirement were initially much less ambitious,
"After I retired I wanted to either be a referee in boxing but Evolve gave me the opportunity to come and teach in Singapore. So here I am. I like Singapore, it's clean and safe and I get to make a good salary to support my family back home in Thailand. "
Yodsanan fought at Madison Square Garden and won title fights in the US and Japan. In boxing circles he's a big name but the 41 year olds heyday was during the mid 2000s. Much more recently retired is Pornsaneh Sitmonchai who was one of the most popular Muay Thai fighters of his generation due to his fan friendly style and propensity for getting in 'Fight of the Night' contenders.
Porsnaneh dispensed plenty of punishment to opponents but his fearless style saw him take more than his fair share of hard shots in the process. His final Muay Thai fight was in April and the former Lumpinee champion is already earning more money as a trainer than he did during the peak of his fighting career,
"I decided to retire because I was 34 and was starting to slow down and get tired faster. My last fight was at Siam Omnoi and it was for the title, I got 60,000 Baht plus a bonus for winning by knockout and some tips from the gamblers. Working in Singapore I get a salary of 125,000 Baht every month."
Even the very best Muay Thai fighters at the stadiums in Thailand will only earn a fraction of what the top boxers, kickboxers and mixed martial artists can expect to receive. But while they might not get the rewards they deserve during their competitive career the increase in international interest in the sport means they now have the opportunity to forge lucrative careers working overseas as trainers.