The ONE Championship debut of Yodsanklai IWE Fairtex is likely to be one of the most anticipated bouts in martial arts this year.
A living legend in the sport of Muay Thai, the 32-year-old has become renowned all over the world for his near-perfect technique, explosive style, and countless accomplishments.
On Friday, 18 May, “The Hero” will bring his 198-71-4 record to the Singapore Indoor Stadium, as he is set to face Chris “The African Warrior” Ngimbi at ONE: UNSTOPPABLE DREAMS. It will be a ONE Super Series kickboxing bout contested at a catchweight of 72.5kg.
Before he makes his bow in the cage, find out a little more about Yodsanklai.
Yodsanklai grew up in Northern Thailand in the Nong Bua Lam Phu province, where his mother had a grocery shop. It was far from the bustle and world-famous Muay Thai stadiums of Bangkok.
“It is pretty much the countryside,” he says.
Despite his rural upbringing, opportunities to be introduced to Thailand’s national sport were still plentiful. However, Yodsanklai admits he did not first enter a gym because of a burning desire to learn.
“It was by chance,” he explains. “I always caused trouble with my older brother, and so a senior member in my family took me into a Muay Thai camp for training.”
Soon, he was competing. From earning 20 baht (USD$0.63) for his first match as an 8-year-old, Yodsanklai developed to become one of the bigggest names in combat sports.
Becoming An Icon
Reaching the top did not come easily for Yodsanklai.
He reveals that it took five hours of hard training every day, but he was guided by many key figures to learn the skills it would take to capture numerous world titles.
“I have had a plenty of mentors that inspired me, and they are all great fighters,” he says.
Through thousands of hours in the gym, Yodsanklai developed almost flawless technique, and earned his first “Boxing Computer” nickname.
Unlike many athletes who are known for specializing in a particular area, he excels everywhere. From making his name as an outstanding clinch technician, Yodsanklai became revered for his legendary knockout ability – with powerful, accurate punches, and laser-guided roundhouse kicks.
His skills helped him become a three-time Lumpinee Stadium World Champion, a two-time Lion Fight World Champion, and a WBC Muay Thai World Champion, among many other honors.
Improving Lives Everywhere
As well as being one of the most gifted martial artists alive, “The Hero” is known for his generosity.
Upon gaining international recognition by winning “The Contender Asia,” his first thought after getting his hand raised was to announce that he wanted to build his mother a house.
“My mother was always my biggest fan and support,” he says.
Now, he is dedicated to passing on his knowledge and sharing the art of Muay Thai with the people of his home nation – and around the globe.
“I have achieved the highest ranking in Muay Thai, and I am proud to have the chance to pass it on to the world,” he adds.
“It gives me the opportunity to teach and pass on the culture to younger generations. I am providing a lot of new teaching and training techniques, and it gives people in different age groups, and genders, a better view on this sport.”
Returning From A Career-Threatening Injury
There are many reasons Yodsanklai’s ONE debut is so anticipated all over the world. One of the main factors is that his future was in doubt when he decided to retire last year.
In an emotional announcement made back in June 2017, he said: “On the outside, I may look strong, but no one knows how much I’m hurting inside… My body isn’t the same and I’m constantly in pain even in training, I can’t stand it anymore.”
Fortunately, given time to heal, a new partnership to support his training, and the chance to compete in ONE Super Series, he has a renewed enthusiasm for competing.
“The reason why I retired last year was due to the injury to my right knee, and the main reason why I changed my mind was [because of] IWE,” he explains. “IWE gave me the opportunity to be back in the ring again.
“[I am excited to compete] because ONE Championship is a well-known event, and I know it will bring me a lot of more fans.”
A New Challenge On The Biggest Stage
Standing in front of Yodsanklai in Singapore will be Ngimbi.
The Dutch-Congolese athlete is a two-time WKA Muay Thai Super Welterweight World Champion, an It’s Showtime 70MAX World Champion, and a SUPERKOMBAT Middleweight Champion. Clearly, defeating him will be no easy task.
“Chris Ngimbi is a great fighter, and this is what makes this fight so exciting,” Yodsanklai says.
Despite his opponent’s credentials, including 49 wins as a professional, the Thai superstar is confident of victory. Not because he has studied his opponent, though.
Yodsanklai is such a natural in the ring, he prefers to figure out and adapt to his adversary’s strengths and weaknesses on the fly.
“I usually find out in the first round, and no matter if it benefits me or obstructs me, I will have to overcome them.”
As soon as he finds his rhythm and he can start to let loose with his array of masterful Muay Thai, it is likely fans will see an unforgettable performance from Yodsanklai.