Rising Muay Thai Talent “Hydro” Making Waves
When people think of championship Muay Thai fighters, South Florida might not be on their radars – but Emilio “Hydro” Pineda is doing a lot to change their minds.
In the last two years, this IFMA silver medalist and home-grown Florida boy has blazed through the competition at the IKF World Classic in Orlando, nabbed a belt at the TBA Classic in Iowa, fought on the amateur card in Lion Fight, and represented the United States Muay Thai Federation in Thailand, Belarus, and Mexico.
Emilio has shaped his life around the sport of Muay Thai, training and teaching out of the Florida Kickboxing Academy in West Palm Beach, FL. I caught up with Emilio to talk a little about his fight experience and what it’s like to represent Team USA.
MTG: Why did you start training and competing in Muay Thai?
HYDRO: I started out of curiosity, mainly because my wife knew I had an interest in training. She set up my first week trial at a nearby gym as a birthday gift for me. I fell in love and started competing soon after, and the rest was history.
MTG: You have now focused your life on competing in, teaching and sharing Muay Thai. In what ways has your life changed since devoting yourself completely to the sport?
HYDRO: I would say the biggest thing that’s changed in my life is being able to see things from different perspectives. From fan, to fighter, to coach, etc., this sport tends to keep on humbling you every step of the way. I’m blessed I get to immerse myself in all things Muay Thai every day, and that I can help others.
“…you could potentially be fighting anyone, from any part of the world, with basically the same goals and intentions as you.”
MTG: You’ve now had several opportunities to represent team USA on the world stage – at IFMA in Thailand, at IFMA in Belarus, and at the Pan American Championships in Mexico. How is competing at an international level different from competing here in the states?
HYDRO: A fight’s a fight… Doesn’t really matter where it goes down, you just have to know the rule set you’re competing in and give it your all. Tournament format can be brutal on both the mind and body, so you just have to be prepared at all times.
MTG: You just got back from competing in Mexico. Describe that experience and how it was similar to and different from competing in Thailand and Belarus.
HYDRO: The experience itself was great. Team USA had our best performance to date and brought back a bunch of medals, which is incredible to have been a part of.
The competition was tough, but being it was only the Pan American countries taking part, it was significantly smaller than previous IFMA tournaments I’ve been to. The elevation in Mexico City was almost 8000 miles above sea level or something crazy like that, so it was an extra challenge we all had to face as well as our opponents.
MTG: How does training for an international tournament of that scale compare with training for a single fight?
HYDRO: You just have to up everything you do already for a single competition and get in the mindset that you could potentially be fighting anyone, from any part of the world, with basically the same goals and intentions as you.
You also have to push yourself mentally and physically a little further than you would for a single fight because potentially, you have to compete banged up or injured if you’re fighting multiple times.
MTG: At the IFMA World Championships in Belarus, you were a silver medalist winning against Turkey and Denmark before facing Russia in the finals. What did you learn from that experience, and how did it prepare you for Mexico?
HYDRO: I learned I must be a better fighter. Period. Silver is great and all, but I just lost again at Pan Ams, and I’m not too fond of losing. I will learn from my losses and use them to grow.
MTG: What’s the process for becoming a USMF IFMA athlete? What advice would you give to fighters who are hoping to one day compete at an international level?
HYDRO: Follow the United States Muay Thai Federation in their efforts to help legitimize and push the sport forward here in the US. They will let athletes know of openings and which national tournaments fighters can compete in for their chance to earn a spot on the US team.
MTG: Muay Thai has been granted provisional status as an Olympic sport. What are your thoughts on Muay Thai in the Olympics, and would you hope to represent team USA at the Olympic level one day?
HYDRO: I think Muay Thai belongs in the Olympics. There are other martial arts that have been a part of Olympic games for a while now, so for Muay Thai to be recognized is huge! If I can be involved in any aspect of Muay Thai in the Olympics and represent the United States, then I will be content.
MTG: What’s next for you? Are you hoping to compete again before the year ends or in early 2018?
HYDRO: I think I’m going to take the rest of the year off to rest my bones and plan out my next move. Some time off will be a welcome change of pace. I don’t plan on doing too much more in the amateur ranks, so possibly a pro debut is on the horizon. Who knows? Let’s see what the future holds.
To follow Hydro’s Muay Thai journey, find him on Instagram @emiliohydropineda.
For more fight imagery, you can find Emily Moore @magnificent_moore.
- Emily is a martial artist who has trained and fought in Muay Thai for the last four years in Miami, FL. Now based in Atlanta, GA, she continues to train and grow in the martial arts while balancing her work as a health behavior researcher. Her dream is to combine her passion for both martial arts and population health so she can help make the world a healthier, better place.