An Open Letter to All Muay Thai Sanctioning Bodies Outside of Thailand

Dear Sanctioning Body,

Kudos on holding shows and promoting my favorite sport on a statewide and national (and sometimes international) level. I’m excited to see Muay Thai grow with more fighters coming onto the scene along with fans eager to watch the beautiful art of the eight limbs. However, there are a few bones I need to pick with you.

First, please review your scoring system.

If your scoring system does not score kicks more heavily than punches, it is not Muay Thai. If you are to say you are hosting a Muay Thai show, then the fighters will fight a Muay Thai fight. And a real Muay Thai fight is scored on way more than just pure aggression. Aggression may get the crowd going but when a fighter has aggression and nothing else, he or she lacks technique, ring control, and may not even be winning by the standards of a Muay Thai fight.

If you don’t know how traditional Muay Thai is scored, do some research!

muay thai high kick block scoring

Talk to people who have been in the game for ages and know how it works. The simple run down is that kicks should be scored the highest, followed by knees, elbows (if they’re allowed in that fight), then punches. I can forgive you if you want to weigh each round of a 5-round fight evenly, but there needs to be a more universal scoring and judging method outside of Thailand so fighters know which game to play.

How do you know what to train for if you’re not sure what will get you the win?

How do you gain respect as a Muay Thai sanctioning body if you can’t play by the rules of real Muay Thai?

Also, isn’t a technical fight so much more beautiful to watch rather than just two people thrashing at each other?

Second, please stop offering weekend courses for judges and referees and think that alone is proficient enough for them to be a qualified judge or ref. Even if they know the facts, becoming a judge or ref takes actual knowledge of Muay Thai as well as time and experience.

I’ve been to different events where the judges have never trained or fought before in their lives. And if the fighters clinch up? They probably have no clue what they’re looking at. A Muay Thai judge should have at least a few years of personal experience with Muay Thai, and should be able to be on the same page with the other judges when it comes to scoring a fight. If a judge is consistently robbing fighters and you’re aware of it, maybe it’s time to put them under review?

Oh, and the judges should have minimal personal bias towards or against the fighters – if there’s a conflict of interest, get someone else to judge the fight, not the person who’s the uncle of the blue corner.

Oh, and referees. While most referees do a great job, there are some habits that have GOT to be fixed.

One is when a fighter gets knocked out/down and is falling towards the canvas. If I had a dime for each time I’ve seen the ref just jump out of the fighter’s way and just allow the fighter to fall….well, you know how that saying goes. The acceleration of the fighter, especially his head, is due to momentum, and if the referee allows the fighter’s head to hit the canvas without even attempting to catch it, it absorbs more damage than needed… when the fighter is already damaged!

muay thai ko

Refs need to be in shape and learn how to dive to catch the fighters to prevent excess trauma. After all, the ref’s main job is to ensure the protection of both fighters.

Two, some refs don’t know when to give the fighter a standing-eight or when to call the fight off… and neither of those are dependent on what kind of show the fighters are giving or what the crowd wants or what the promoter wants.

The fighter’s safety comes first, and if the ref cannot tell if the fighter is being overwhelmed or cannot continue because he is too hurt to, then that ref needs extra quality training to do the job. Someone whose job is to protect fighters but cannot do so has no business stepping into that ring. PS – Refs, be wary of the fighter who is legit hurt but tells you it was a low blow.

Third, let’s cover ticket sales.

I understand that you run a business and for a business to run there has to be money and revenue coming in. It is part of the fighter’s (and their gym’s) responsibility to sell tickets and I think it’s a good practice for the fighters to be able to sell and market themselves, even if it’s on a small scale. However, I don’t agree with “minimums” that must be met in order for a fighter to be on your show. You never know what is going on in the fighter’s life entirely, and to judge them off a small space of time before your show because they could not meet a minimum when it came to money is not fair.

Fourth, weigh ins.

Weigh ins should start at the scheduled time. Most fighters cut weight and time the start of their weight cut based off the time you give them. This is also for the fighters’ safety. The human body has a limited time to survive without water and food, and if you delay this time, you affect the fighters’ health and performances for your show.

There is absolutely no reason why some of my friends should be telling me they waited an extra few hours to weigh in. My friends have even told me they’ve waited 7-10 hours to weigh in. 7-10 hours. That is absolutely ridiculous! Can you imagine showing up on time, on weight, ready to step on the scale then drink some water and eat, and then have to wait an entire work day before being able to do so?!

As a sanctioning body, you must be prepared and have a plan B. If you have hundreds of fighters coming in for a tournament, common sense should tell you that you need more than one scale to weigh them in.

Lastly, kindly remind yourself that if it weren’t for the fighters, you would not have a show. If you consistently put money or your personal desires over the well-being of the fighters and the fairness of the fights, you will eventually have no more fighters wanting to be on your show, and then no show, and no business.

Us Muay Thai fighters don’t do it for the money. We do it because we love the sport and want to show what we’ve learned to our family, friends, and training partners. We fight because it makes us feel alive and happy. We don’t ask for much, just for some fair treatment that makes us feel appreciated.

Always keep this in the back of your mind.


A Muay Thai Fighter

Author Profile

Angela Chang
Plant-based fighter, foodie, and aspiring physical therapist. Angela is currently living in Bangkok and training full time.

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