WHY MUAY THAI NEEDS FLAMBOYANT ACTORS
Don’t misunderstand the title. I’m not suggesting “actor” in the theatrical or even WWE sense. What I mean is actor as in a man or woman of action. Someone with charisma or, as the great Razor Ramon (pictured) might have said it, “machismo.” Someone who causes coffeemakers to percolate when they walk in a room. How do we jack the swagger of a Mayweather or a McGregor and pump it into the veins of an ancient and respected sport?
Muay Thai is more than just a sport. It represents a people, embodies a culture, and carries on a great tradition. Every Nak Muay, especially a farang, lives up to this code of honor to appreciate the tradition of Muay Thai.
For years, fighters of North America have adopted this tradition of respect and honor to pay homage to Muay Thai and its centuries-old characteristics. We now find ourselves in a generation where the sport of Muay Thai is competing with other combat sports in a race of popularity in the States. Undoubtedly, the most popular combat sport right now is MMA. The emerging popularity of the UFC is perfectly indicative of a global resurgence in interest in combat sports.
How is it, though, that this sport is so wildly popular for its constant combat and thrilling moments, whereas Muay Thai is virtually unknown to the swelling MMA fan base? Muay Thai is well-known in the martial arts community for being one of the most brutal and entertaining combat sports to watch. So where has it failed to attract popularity? Is it the action? The rules? The locations? The sponsors?
Muay Thai is action-packed, with loads of kicks, punches, elbows, and blood in almost every fight. The rules are legitimate — they allow pretty much everything people want to see as far as striking and standing grappling. Muay Thai has a presence in countries all over the world, with fights in Hong Kong, Europe, Brazil, Canada, Australia, and it’s even gained traction in American hot spots like Las Vegas or New York City. So it can’t be a location issue, either.
Instead, I propose it has everything to do with this ancient and great sport’s complete and utter lack of what puts butts in seats: characters.
THE CASE FOR SHOWMANSHIP IN MUAY THAI
Character is what sells. Personality is what makes people want to buy the pay-per-view or admission ticket.
Boxing puts Floyd Mayweather in front of a camera or audience and he becomes the showman: he provokes, he taunts, he laughs, and he instigates. The spectator watches him and is manipulated by his antics. Despite whether said spectator likes or dislikes Mayweather, they cannot resist the urge to see him again or watch him perform.
In Muay Thai, the fighters live by a code of respect. They smile to each other at the weigh-ins, speak kindly towards their opponents during pre-fight interviews, and very rarely talk trash. Tradition dictates that each nak muay let their fighting do the talking.
Now, as a nak muay myself, I can appreciate this method. I can’t tell you how many times a fight was hyped up and the hype was way more exciting than the actual fight in boxing or MMA. The thing is, I am more than just a spectator, I am also a fighter. This method can really only appeal to those versed in the history of Muay Thai and its meaning.
The viewer of Combat Sports here in the states are already used to a certain method when it comes to fighting and that is drama.
DRAMA & CONTROVERSY IS WHAT THEY WANT
What if there was a fighter in Muay Thai that brought this element to the table? A fighter that has the talent, the skill and the mouth?
Floyd Mayweather was never camera shy or afraid to speak his mind about his opponents, as well as Mohammed Ali, the master trash talker. MMA has its McGregors and Sonnens, its Rampages and Diaz brothers — all master showmen in their own right.
How is it that Bellator can sell a circus fight like Kimbo Slice vs Dada 5000? Two fighters with fighting skill equivalent to blindfolded sloths can boost Bellator numbers in a massive way. It’s because they can talk up a storm in front of a camera and sell the piss out of a fight.
Conor McGregor has become the highest paid MMA fighter of all-time, making millions from his fights. He is a terrific fighter, but it’s his mouth that’s made him and much richer men millions upon millions. He has even used these words on behalf of his antics: “It’s all business.”
The fighter that promotes the fight with controversy, confrontation and drama to entice the viewers and make them want to buy the ticket or pay-per-view is exactly the kind of fighter Muay Thai desperately needs. Muay Thai can still carry respect, honor and tradition; I believe all fighters carry those traits off-camera anyway. But when it comes to popularity in the US on the TV screen, I feel Muay Thai needs Mayweathers and McGregors because at the end of the day, we are learning that tradition doesn’t sell anymore. It’s all about business.
What do you think?
Do you want a great showman to emerge in Muay Thai? How will that change the sport?
- DJ Miller is a naky muay from Nashville, TN. He began his Muay Thai training in 2008 and accumulated more than 30 amateur fights before turning pro. "Martial arts is in my blood," says Miller. "My father is a third degree black belt in Taekwondo.., I love the experiences that Muay Thai has given me and I love sharing my thoughts what's going on in the Muay Thai world with everyone."