By CJ Tuttle
Muay Thai is the national sport of Thailand, but it has become a global phenomenon with camps operating all over the world. A few Western fighters have started to make a name for themselves on the international scene. Even only a decade ago, it was almost unheard of for a foreign fighter to possess the skills good enough to win a title at Lumpinee Stadium or Rajdamnern Stadium. Thanks to trailblazing pioneers such as Rob Kaman and Ramon Dekkers in the 1980s, Muay Thai is now a global sport. While the Thais still dominate the game at the highest levels of Muay Thai in the world, the sport’s popularity has ignited across the globe.
Thailand remains the heartland of the sport and no country can come close in terms of the quantity of elite level competitors which The Kingdom continually churns out. An estimated 5,000 professional Muay Thai camps are spread all over Thailand and are situated in virtually every town. Children start at a very young age such as 5-6 years old and Muay Thai is even taught in schools. In any given year, there are an estimated 250,000 to 300,000 elite professional Muay Thai fighters competing around the country. Only the very best 500 fighters or so in Thailand make it to the big stadiums like Lumpinee or Rajdamnern in Bangkok. And still, most fighters end up failing in the big leagues. The numbers are even worse for foreigners in terms of odds for success. For this reason, it is no surprise that most of the top camps are in Thailand, but there are some notable exceptions due to widespread proliferation of Muay Thai knowledge.
Here is a list of the world’s top Muay Thai destinations for authentic Muay Thai.
The Thai media in Thailand have crowned Evolve MMA’s Muay Thai instructor team as the greatest dream team of legends in history. Evolve MMA in Singapore has the most decorated team of Muay Thai trainers found anywhere in the world, including camps in Thailand. It currently includes big-name legends of the sport like Namsaknoi Yudthagarngamtorn, Attachai Fairtex, Orono Wor Petchpun, and Nonthachai Sit O as well as an vast array of multiple-time Rajadamnern and Lumpinee champions including Muangfalek Kiatvichian, Chalee Sor Chaitamin, Saenghiran Lookbanyai and Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichok, Singmanee Kaewsamrit, Chaowalith JockeyGym, and many others. It also houses many champion trainers from Sityodtong Camp.
Evolve MMA offers Muay Thai classes in Singapore for the complete beginner to the advanced Lumpinee-level professional fighter. If you are looking to learn Muay Thai in Singapore, Evolve MMA is arguably one of the best Muay Thai gyms in the world. If you are looking to compete and win in Lumpinee Stadium, Evolve MMA is worth a visit to sharpen your skills against some of the best in history.
The Petchyindee gym has been one of the best in Thailand for several decades and a brand new location is currently under construction featuring state-of-the-art facilities. It will include accommodation for tourists. Historically, Petchyindee has not open to the general public, but it will be next year. It is already home to the Petchyindee stable of fighters which includes two of the best fighters of the decade in Sam-A Kaiyanghadao and Nong-O Kaiyanghadao while training is overseen by multiple time Lumpinee and Rajadmanern champion Sagat Petyindee.
Petchyindee also throws co-promotions at Lumpinee Stadium on a regular basis with their star fighters. Their fighters are well-known for their technical mastery of Muay Thai and are well-known as cardio machines. When it opens its door to foreign tourists, it is well worth a visit to see how one of the best camps in Thailand trains its legendary champions.
Sitsongpeenong is a camp that caters to Westerners with air conditioned, indoor facilities. However, do not be fooled by the luxurious settings. It has a world-class fight team which currently includes multiple-time tournament and title winner Kem Sitsongpeenong, current Thailand champion Sittichai Sitsongpeenong and former Lumpinee champion Thongchai Sitsongpeenong. It is a serious camp with serious Muay Thai. Fighters at Sitsongpeenong are known as very well-rounded with strong kicks and excellent punching power, a rarity in the world of Muay Thai. If you want to learn authentic Muay Thai, Sitsongpeenong is definitely one of the best.
There are facilities in both Bangkok and Phuket, catering to students of all levels and Sitsongpeenong regularly sends fighters to compete at all the main stadiums in Thailand with many of them highly ranked in their respective weight classes.
Despite being located on the outskirts of Phuket’s most notorious red light district, Singpatong has an excellent reputation and has helped launch the careers of top Thai and Western fighters with Pentai Sitnumnoi, Peneak Sitnumnoi and Damien Alamos all winning Lumpinee titles in recent years. Peneak was the 2011 ‘Fighter of the Year’ and the head coach, Numnoi Singpatong, has a crop of up and coming Thai youngsters coming through as well as being extremely open to Western fighters who want to come and train.
The open atmosphere of this camp makes it a place to visit for the beginner and the serious fighter. Singpatong training is classic Thai-style with lots of roadwork, heavy bags, pads, and clinch work. Cardio is strongly emphasized at Singpatong. You can learn excellent basics as well as advanced technique at Singpatong.
Located on the outskirts of Kanchanaburi, this Muay Thai camp is in a remote location, but is known for its laid-back atmosphere. However it is still home to some feared and respected fighters like Pornsaneh Sitmonchai, who has a reputation as being the most exciting Muay Thai contenders in Thailand today, and teenage prodigy Yodkhunpol Sitmonchai who recently secured a contract with international kickboxing organization Glory.
Due to its remote location, the training is very spartan and hard. Roadwork is heavily emphasized with endless rounds of pad work and conditioning. The trainers at Sitmonchai have decades of experience at Lumpinee and Rajdamnern stadiums. Do not expect special treatment as a visitor. The training is as tough as they come. If you want an immersive Muay Thai experience, Sitmonchai is one of the places to go.
Jitti Gym in Bangkok is owned by the well respected Jitti Tanongsak and while it isn’t known for producing Thai fighters it has helped launch the careers of some of the top Westerners in the sport including WBC and WMC champion Liam Harrison. Known for its family atmosphere, Jitti Gym is also home to Andy Thrasher who became the first ever non Thai to win a Toyota Marathon in 2011 and is welcoming to complete beginners as well as seasoned pros with basic accommodation available.
Tiger Muay Thai
Tiger Muay Thai is best known as a tourist destination for those who want a combination of training and fun on the beautiful island of Phuket. The Muay Thai classes cater to students of all levels and the trainers include former Lumpinee champion Rattanachai Jadngooluem and former Rajadamnern champion Lamsongkram Chuwattana. It also has a very serious MMA program with elite competitors and instructors such as Roger Huerta and Brian Ebersole.
Attached to a large hotel in Bangkok, 13 Coins is run by the eccentric Mr Coke and is home to several top fighters with former ‘Fighter of the Year’ winners Saenchai PKSaenchaigym and Saengmanee Sor Tienpo both training here as well as Pakorn Sakyotin and western boxers like Kwanoichit 13coinsexpress and Pungluang Sor Singyu.
Walter Michalowski and Mark Dellagrotte are the top American proteges of the Grandfather of Muay Thai, Yodtong Senanan. The late Yodtong Senanan of Sityodtong fame is the only teacher of Muay Thai to be honored with a lifetime achievement award by The Royal Family of Thailand. Both Michalowski and Dellagrotte have reputations as being some of the top striking coaches in the US and are legitimate, world-class sources of authentic Muay Thai.
Kiatmoo 9 is in a very rural location where Western food is almost impossible to come by and virtually no-one speaks English. If you are determined to train like a Thai from the old school era, then Buriram is one of the best places on Earth. At Kiatmoo 9, you train authentic Muay Thai and rub shoulders with the likes of Singdam Kiatmoo9, Superlek Wor Sangprapai and Panomrunglek Kiatmoo9.