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My Return to Thailand For More Muay Thai
As I sit in an airport for another half-day layover, I remember that the most dreadful part of a trip to Thailand is the journey there. It’s horrible.
You can’t get a direct flight to Phuket from the US, so you’ll have at least two, possibly 3 long layovers in addition to the long flight. I am currently on a 3 day stay having had to get up at 4am to start my first leg.
I don’t like to dwell on negative thoughts, so I decided to write a bit about how lucky I am to be here and how grateful I am for this opportunity.
It has been a dream for me to train and fight in Thailand. Three years ago, I decided that I wasn’t going to dream anymore… I was going to start DOING. A few months later, I was in training in Thailand.
Not knowing what I was getting into, I showed up out of shape, thinking I would be in good shape in Thailand. It was a big mistake. I spent most of my first month training, getting up off the mat. When Thai coaches see a weakness, they exploit it. I literally got my ass kicked every day, but I’ve never had so much fun in my life.
Eventually, I got to where I was doing as many kicks to people’s butts as I was doing my own. I got to the point that I felt like I was ready for a fight.
I lined up against a kid from Australia who was half my age and twice my height. (In truth, he only had a small height advantage, but he was young and fit.) I ended up winning, but that only made me want to take things a step further. .
It had been years since I had competed, and I was starting to wonder if I could get back to where I was when I was younger. I wanted another fight. This time I had to fight a Thai.
Having been knocked out by a Thai when I was new to the fighting game, I felt I had to avenge that loss. I had several Muay Thai fights in my career, but I only fought a Thai opponent once. I will never forget how incredibly strong he was in the clinch. How devastatingly it hit and how durable it was. I couldn’t hurt that kid.
I set myself a new goal, and that was to fight in Thailand, against a Thai opponent. I have seen dozens of Thai fights in Thailand. They are ALL amazing at Muay Thai. Even the ones you laugh at when they enter the ring because they look overweight or are very skinny end up being chill killers. Even the older ones whose skills you can tell aren’t what they used to be, are still tougher than nails and give you NOTHING. You have to earn a victory in Thailand.
I came home more determined than ever to put myself on their level. I started training like I hadn’t in years, and when I came back to Thailand, I was ready for the regiment this time. I showed up fit and ready to train. The camp went wonderfully well. I couldn’t have felt more prepared stepping into the ring for my fight against a Thai opponent. Unfortunately, he didn’t feel the same. He didn’t show up. I never understood why he wasn’t there, but I literally stepped into the ring, only to be told by the promoter that my opponent was nowhere in sight. I had scheduled my fight for the last weekend I was supposed to be in Thailand, so I came home feeling like a bride who had been left at the altar (no honeymoon either).
Not to be discouraged, I immediately began planning my return to finish what I had started. I came back to Thailand with several people from my gym. I was super excited to have them all there to see me fight. We had amazing practice and I lined up with an opponent for a fight. Shortly after scheduling it, however, I injured my knee during a fairly spirited training session with a Russian student who was also training there. (Russian fighters are notorious for thinking that every sparring session is for the world title. They have no control and go to the wall. Their technique isn’t that good, they’re just fight maniacs.)
I eventually had to retire from the fight and go home for knee surgery. I had a torn anterior cruciate ligament and other knee damage, and I just couldn’t have fought it. I literally couldn’t push my left leg.
My 50th birthday is fast approaching, so my window is closing. Even before scheduling my operation, I bought my ticket to return to Thailand for this fight. I came back no matter what.
My wife once told me that she wished she had OCD so she could get things done. This statement is not entirely irrelevant. I probably would have given up on this chimerical dream of having a final fight in Thailand if I wasn’t obsessive, compulsive. I probably would have listened to my body, my mind and my common sense, and I would have thrown in the towel. I’m not wired that way.
After my operation, my knee never really recovered. A nerve was damaged during surgery which prevented my quadriceps from firing. I have no upper leg muscle to stabilize my left leg. I still have an 85% tear in my rotator cuff, and oh yeah… I’ll be 50 in two months. I don’t even like to mention these things because it seems to me that I am preparing an excuse for a loss that I might suffer. I’m not. I will win, and if not, I will try again until I do.
I had to change my approach to combat quite drastically. I’m physically away from my game, but I’m also a lot smarter and a lot more laser-focused. They say fighting is a tough guy sport. I would say, for the good guys, it’s a puzzle game. Don’t get me wrong, you need to be physically capable of withstanding the rigors of combat, but learning how to minimize those rigors and maximize your strength is also something lost in many young fighters. It’s not a young man’s sport, but any young fighter would benefit from having the wisdom of an older fighter.
Keep things in perspective. I’m not fighting for a world title. I am not fighting for any title in fact. I fight for ME, and only me. I fight because that’s what makes me happy. I fight because it helped keep me young. I fight because it’s in my DNA.
It was a long road to come back from my injury. As I sit in this airport, I can’t help but think about how lucky I am to be able to do what I do. I have an amazing support system. My wife has always supported this company. She pushed me when I got off and refused to let me give up.
If I can survive the next 3 days of traveling in Thailand, I’ll be back where I’m happiest. I will embrace the journey, and finish what I set out to do. A big thank you to everyone who offered words of support and lots of love to those who will soon punch me in the face.
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