My return to Thailand for more muay thai
As I sit in an airport for another half-day layover, I am reminded that the most terrifying part of traveling to Thailand is the journey there. It is awful.
You can’t get a direct flight to Phuket from the US, so you’ll have at least 2 if not 3 long layovers in addition to the long flight. I am currently on a 3 day stay after having to get up at 4am to start my first leg.
I don’t like dwelling on negative thoughts, so I decided to write a bit about how lucky I am to be here and how grateful I am for the opportunity.
It has been a lifelong dream of mine to train and fight in Thailand. Three years ago I decided that I was not going to dream anymore… I was going to start DOING. A few months later, he was training in Thailand.
Not knowing what I was getting myself into, I showed up out of shape, thinking I would get fit in Thailand. That was a big mistake. I spent most of my first month training, getting 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 much punching people in their asses as I was getting punched in mine. I got to the point where I felt like I was ready for a fight.
I faced an Australian kid who was half my age and twice my size. (In truth, he only had a small size advantage, but he was young and in good shape.) I ended up winning, but that just made me want to take things a little further.
It had been years since I had competed and I began to wonder if I could get back to the level I was at when I was younger. He wanted another fight. This time I had to fight a Thai.
Having been knocked out by a Thai when I was just starting out in the fight game, I felt like I had to avenge that loss. I have had several Muay Thai fights in my career, but I only fought a Thai opponent that one time. I will never forget how incredibly strong he was in the clinch. How devastatingly hard it hit, and how enduring it was. I couldn’t hurt this kid.
I set myself a new goal, and that was to fight in Thailand, against a Thai opponent. I have attended dozens of Thai fights in Thailand. EVERYONE is amazing at Muay Thai. Even the ones you laugh at when they walk into the ring because they look overweight or super skinny end up being cold-blooded killers. Even the older ones you can tell their skill set isn’t what it once was are still tougher than nails and give you NOTHING. You have to gain a victory in Thailand.
I came home more determined than ever to get down to his level. I started training like I hadn’t in years, and when I got back to Thailand, this time I was ready for the regiment. I showed up fit and ready to train. The camp went incredibly well. I couldn’t have felt more prepared when I entered the ring for my fight against a Thai opponent. Unfortunately, he didn’t feel the same way. He didn’t show up. I never got to the bottom of why he wasn’t there, but I literally walked into the ring, only to be told by the promoter that my opponent was nowhere in sight. I had my fight scheduled for my last weekend in Thailand, so I went home feeling like a bride left at the altar (no honeymoon either).
Not to be discouraged, I immediately started planning my return to finish what I started. I returned to Thailand with several people from my gym. I was super excited to have everyone there to see me fight. We had an amazing workout and I lined up with an opponent for a fight. However, shortly after scheduling it, I suffered a knee injury during a rather heated training session with a Russian student who was also training there. (Russian boxers are famous for thinking that every sparring session is for the world title. They have no control and go against the wall. Their technique is not that great, they are just sparring maniacs.)
I finally had to pull out of the fight and go home for knee surgery. He had a torn anterior cruciate ligament and some other knee damage, and there was no way he could have dealt with it. I literally couldn’t push off my left leg.
My 50th birthday is creeping up, so my window is closing. Before I even scheduled my surgery, I bought my ticket to go back to Thailand for this fight. I would go back no matter what.
My wife once told me that she wished she had OCD so she could get things done. That statement is not entirely out of place. She probably would have given up on this impossible dream of having a final fight in Thailand if she wasn’t obsessive compulsive. I probably would have listened to my body, my mind, and common sense, and thrown in the towel. I’m just not connected that way.
After my surgery, my knee never really recovered. A nerve was damaged during surgery that caused my quads to not fire. 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 will be 50 in 2 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 incur. I am not. I will win, and if not, I will try again until I succeed.
I had to change my approach to fighting in some pretty drastic ways. I’m WAY off my game physically, but I’m also WAY smarter and WAY more laser focused. They say fighting is a “tough guy” sport. I would say that, for the good guys, it’s a thinking man’s game. Don’t get me wrong, you have to be physically able to withstand the rigors of the fight, but learning how to minimize those rigors and how to maximize your strengths is also something lost among many younger fighters. This is not a sport for youngsters, but it would benefit any young fighter to have the wisdom of an older fighter.
Keeping things in perspective. I’m not fighting for a world title. I’m not really fighting for any title. I am fighting for ME, and only for myself. I fight because it is what makes me happy. I am fighting because it has helped me stay young. I’m fighting because it’s in my DNA.
It has been a long road to come back from my injury. As I sit in this airport, I can’t help but reflect on how lucky I am to be able to do what I do. I have an amazing support system. My wife has been overwhelmingly supportive of this effort. She pushed me when I got down and refused to let me give up.
If I can survive the next 3 days traveling to Thailand, I will go back where I am happiest. I will embrace the journey and finish what I set out to do. Many thanks to everyone who has offered words of support, and much love to those who will soon be punching me in the face.