Rodtang “The Iron Man” Jitmuangnon’s success as a Muay Thai World Champion has helped him to escape a life of incredible poverty.
Before the 21-year-old became a ONE Super Series megastar, there was a time in his life when he and his family could barely make ends meet.
As the eighth of 10 children, Rodtang had to help out however he could so there was food for them to eat.
During his early life in the Southern Thai Province of Pattalung, there was little time to have fun as he went out almost every day to look for work.
Wages and labor were never guaranteed, so he, his siblings, and his parents took whatever they could get.
“I didn’t play much as a child. We had no toys, or money to buy snacks like our friends,” he explains.
“We did it all and went everywhere. My mother would take me to funerals to wash dishes. Sometimes we were paid, sometimes we just got food to take home. We would also collect garbage to sell, and tap rubber trees too.”
The family stuck together and did everything they could to scrape by.
Giving up was not an option, so everyone had to develop an unbreakable work ethic – one that would become one of Rodtang’s biggest assets in his athletic career in the years to come.
They may not have had much, but they always found a way to get by so they never went hungry.
“We always had enough food to eat, my parents made sure of that,” Rodtang says.
“My dad worked construction and tapped rubber trees, but the work was always irregular. My mom would often go fishing and kept a small garden.”
Watching his Dad work is one of the Rodtang’s fondest memories from childhood. His resourcefulness gave them a roof over their heads, too.
“When it came to construction, my dad was self-taught and very talented. He built us a house that was simple but strong,” he adds.
The small cement home was just big enough to house their family of 12, but they did not have furniture, so they slept together on the floor.
They were happy, but their daily efforts just to survive left them exhausted. Despite his unwillingness to complain or give up, the young Rodtang still yearned for more.
He wanted the same things as his peers, so he found a way to get them.
“I was jealous of my friends who had toys, phones, and money for treats. I wanted the same things they had,” he admits.
“I started fighting so I could buy my own stuff. There was a gym next to my house and it looked so fun, so I went and tried it.”
He was hooked on Muay Thai straight away. He was also a natural in the art of eight limbs.
Before long, he had started to build a successful career, and started to make enough money to provide for his family, including by buying his mother a house.
His career has not always been easy – he has suffered his fair share of setbacks and hardship – but he realized he could persevere through it all by following the example his parents had set for him.
“I saw all the difficulties of my parents and thought to myself, I have arms and legs – I’m able to do this,” he says.
“It wasn’t so much of a choice, but something I needed to do.
“My parents always set a good example for me, and taught me to work hard. They are now very proud of what I have achieved.”
Now, through countless hours in the gym over more than a decade, “The Iron Man” is prepared to compete on the biggest stage of his life.
Inspired by his mother and father, he has left no stone unturned in his preparation so he can be ready to go to battle with the Frenchman, put on a show for the fans, and emerge with his hand raised.