The 10 greatest Muay Thai legends of all time

MMA Insider

Over the course of the last century or so, millions of young men all across Thailand have set out to be famous Muay Thai fighters but only a handful have ever succeeded in obtaining legendary status. The competition is intense and to reach the very pinnacle of the sport requires years of dedication as well as tremendous talent.

The reward for the few fighters who do establish themselves among the very best of their generations is a place in the annals of Muay Thai history. These are ten legends who will be remembered for their exploits inside the ring long after they have hung up their gloves for the final time.

Samart Payakaroon

Samart Payakaroon has a well deserved reputation for being the greatest Muay Thai fighter of all time. He won his first Lumpinee titles fighting at minimumweight (105 lbs) in 1980 and would go on to win Lumpinee titles as a light flyweight (108 lbs), super flyweight (115 lbs) and featherweight (126 lbs).

Samart won Sports Writers Fighter of the Year, the most prestigious of all the annual Muay Thai awards, in 1981, 1983 and 1988. He made his name fighting for the famous Sityodtong camp and was also a star in Western boxing, winning the WBC super bantamweight (122 lbs) title in 1986.

Samart was the master of the ‘teep’ or push kick and threw it with such speed and accuracy that his foot inevitably connected with opponents midsections, knocking them backwards and sometimes down. He retired with a Muay Thai record of 129-19-2 and a boxing record is 21-2.

You can see highlights from his career here.

Dieselnoi Chor Thanasukarn

Dieselnoi Chor Thanasukarn was another star of the 1980s which are regarded as being the golden era for Muay Thai. He won the Lumpinee lightweight (135 lbs) title in 1981 and held it until 1985, eventually decided to relinquish the belt and retire from the sport because there was no-one left for him to beat.

No Muay Thai fighter in history has ever used their knees to such devastating effect as Dieselnoi and standing at 6'2" the combination of both his size and skillset made the man from Ayutthaya virtually unbeatable.  

Whether or not Dieselnoi was the greatest Muay Thai fighter of all time is open to debate but he did beat Samart, in one of the biggest Muay Thai fights of all time and he retired from Muay Thai with a record of 110-10-2.

You can see highlights from his career here.

Saenchai Sor Kingstar

Saenchai Sor Kingstar is still going strong at the age of 34 although he tends to fight primarily against non-Thai opponents these days. He won his first Lumpinee title at the age of 15 as a super flyweight (115 lbs) and went on to win Lumpinee titles at bantamweight (118 lbs), super featherweight (130 lbs) and lightweight (135 lbs).

Saenchai was named Sports Writers Fighter of the Year in 1999 and 2008 which is testament to his incredible longevity, he was at the pinnacle of the sport for more than a decade. So superior was Saenchai to other fighters that in 2009 he was asked to fight two opponents in a single fight, beating both Sagetdao Petpayathai and Petchboonchu F.A.Group over the course of five rounds.

Saenchai is known for his flamboyant fighting style and his cartwheel kicks are particularly popular with foreign promoters making him one of the most in demand Muay Thai stars. He’s won numerous tournaments and titles and his record currently stands at 285-52-2 while he is 5-0 as a professional boxer.

You can see highlights from his career here.

Namsaknoi Yudthagarngamtorn

Namsaknoi Yudthagarngamtorn is known as ‘The Emperor’ and he conquered all comers during a career that saw him win titles in multiple divisions and hold the Lumpinee lightweight (135 lbs) belt for nearly half a decade.

Namsaknoi also held Lumpinee titles at super flyweight (115 lbs) and super bantamweight (122 lbs) and was named Sports Writer’s Fighter of the Year in 1996. He was also known for his Wai Kru and won awards for this in both 2001 and 2006. His record of 285-15 is the best of any Muay Thai fighter in history.

You can see highlights from his career here.

Orono Wor Petchpun

Orono beat fighters like Saenchai Sor Kingstar, Yodsaenklai Fairtex and Buakaw Por Pramuk during a career that saw him win the Lumpinee super featherweight (130 lbs) title and Thailand titles at both featherweight (126 lbs) and super featherweight. He also won titles with international organizations like the WMC, WPMF and It’s Showtime. His record is 120-36-3.

You can see highlights from his career here.

Kongtoranee Payakaroon

Kongtoranee Payakaroon is Samart’s older brother and was almost as successful as his famous sibling. He won Lumpinee titles in five different weight classes ranging from flyweight (112 lbs) to lightweight (135 lbs). He also forged a successful career in boxing, going 12-2 and challenging Khaosai Galaxy for a world title. His Muay Thai record is 200-74.

You can see his fight with the famous Sakmongkol Sitnchuchoke here.

Nontachai Sit O

The first major title that Nontachai Sit O won was the Lumpinee super bantamweight (122 lbs) title but he would go on to win multiple belts while moving up in weight, eventually becoming middleweight (160 lbs) champion at Rajdamnern Stadium.  His record is unknown but he’s a veteran of over 250 fights.

You can see some action from Nontachai’s fight with fellow legend Samkor Kiatmontep here.

Sagetdao Petphayathai

Sagetdao Petphayathai beat some of the best fighters of his era including Saenchai Sor Kingstar, Petboonchu FA Group, Nong-O Gaiyagandao, Singdam Kiatmoo9, Penek Sitnumnoi and Anuwat Kaewsamrit. He won Lumpinee titles at featherweight (126 lbs), super featherweight (130 lbs) and lightweight (135 lbs) and has a record of 162-62-1.

You can see him stopping Kevin Ross to win the WBC Diamond super lightweight (140 lbs) title here.

Pornsanae Sitmonchai

Pornsanae Sitmonchai was a super bantamweight (122 lbs) and featherweight (126 lbs) Lumpinee champion and a Rajadmnern super flyweight (115 lbs) champion who also holds the super featherweight (126 lbs) title at Siam Omnoi Stadium. However he is most famous for his involvement in some of the greatest Muay Thai fights of all time against the likes of Pakorn Sakyotin, ET Por Tor Tongtavi and Pokaew Fonjaengchonburi. His record is 200-54-8.

You can see the bout with Pakorn that was named ‘2010 Lumpinee Fight of the Year’ here.

Buakaw Por Pramuk

Buakaw Por Pramuk never won a title at either Rajadamnern or Lumpinee Stadiums but by winning the K-1 Max tournaments in Japan in both 2004 and 2006 he helped bring Muay Thai to an international audience. Buakaw was also featherweight (126 lbs) champion at Siam Omnoi Stadium, a lightweight (135 lbs) Thailand champion and has won numerous tournaments and competitions. His record is 257-41-12 and he’s still active.

You can see highlights from his career here.