Tukkatatong Petpayathai is best known for his excellence in the Muay Thai ring, but the Thai star has had more than his fair share of battles outside of the arena.
As well as recovering from a succession of personal and professional setbacks, Tukkatatong also helped to bring his family afloat through his success in the sport.
He moved away from home in Buriram as a raw 13-year-old to take the next step in his young career, but when things did not take off as he had hoped, Tukkatatong found himself heading home again.
At the time, his local government official father was in the middle of a re-election campaign, and the family committed large sums of their savings to help. Tukkatatong did the same.
Sadly his father lost his re-election bid, and the family was left bankrupt as a result.
“I was back home, and we went to the election results together as a family. My mother fainted from the shock when we received the bad news,” he says.
“I remember all our friends and relatives coming to the house after to give us support.
“We lost all our money, and life became very difficult. My dad had to take up odd jobs just to get us by, from paving roads to digging wells – just to provide food for the family.”
With the family struggling to make ends meet, Tukkatatong made the decision to return to the ring in a bid to reignite his career and do his best to provide for his family.
“At that time, I had stopped fighting for a while, but the family needed help financially. It was fully my decision to move out to Bangkok to start fighting again,” he says.
“I was more focused and dedicated. I worked harder than I ever have before. I was fighting quite well, and started winning most of my bouts.”
He found form, but working his way to the top of the sport took time, and finding bouts was hard work in the early years.
“I did not compete too often, maybe once every month and a half. I wasn’t that famous or being that paid much yet,” he explains.
“I would send at least half of my purse back to my family, although I wasn’t making very much back then.
“I was making about 8000 baht (approximately USD$250) per fight – half of which went to my camp. I would give half of the remainder back to my family, and keep the remaining 2000 baht for myself.
“With everyone pitching in, it was easier to get back up.”
Gradually, the family found their financial stability once again, just as Tukkatatong started to find real success in the ring.
He became a two-time Muay Thai World Champion and took his record to an impressive 241-33-2.
”This whole experience made me a lot more resilient and stronger. I am better equipped to overcome any adversity,” he says.
Today Tukkatatong is a part of the Evolve Fight Team based out of Singapore and is also chasing a new World Title as a part of ONE Super Series.
He will face Serbian-American Ognjen Topic at ONE: BEYOND THE HORIZON in Shanghai, China on Saturday, 8 September.
A victory would push him right into contention for his third world title and give him just reward for his commitment to his career – and his family.