Southpaw powerhouse “Left Meteorite” Kulabdam Sor. Jor. Piek Uthai will finally get his long-awaited chance to debut his skills in ONE Championship next Friday, 6 September.
The man from Surin, Thailand has been one of the most exciting and successful Muay Thai competitors in his homeland during the past few years, and martial arts fans will get to see why when he faces Bobo “The Panther” Sacko in a bantamweight battle at ONE: IMMORTAL TRIUMPH.
Before he steps into the ring at the Phu Tho Indoor Stadium in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, discover how this 20-year-old overcame extreme poverty to become a superstar and earn his place on the global stage.
A Country Boy
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Born and raised in Thailand’s rural northeast, Kulabdam was far removed from his country’s capital.
While Bangkok was enjoying a flourishing economy, tollways, and the advent of an elevated rapid transit system, the young Thai was left to forage for food with his family.
His parents were peasant rice farmers, who relied solely on rainfall to irrigate their crops. In some years, the yield would sustain the family of seven, but in other years they were not so lucky.
“My childhood was a really difficult time for us. We were extremely poor,” he says.
With no other means of employment, Kulabdam’s parents were pushed to their limits to provide for their five children, but he still has some fond memories of his youth.
“I would ride my bike to school with my younger brother. In our spare time, we really liked to go fishing,” he explains.
A Lucky Encounter
Kulabdam was first introduced to Muay Thai at a local temple fair.
“I remember watching another kid from my village fight. As soon as I got home I asked my dad to let me fight,” he explains.
“I thought it looked like so much fun, I just really wanted to try it. At first, my dad didn’t want me fighting, he was worried I would get hurt. But I was stubborn. Eventually, he gave in.”
Growing up in Surin where the vast majority of the population was rural and relatively poor, stumbling upon a functioning gym within a reasonable distance was rare.
Although the place the 8-year-old Kulabdam learned his craft was humble, it prepared him well for competition.
“My dad had a friend who had a few kids training at his house. He wasn’t an accomplished fighter or anything like that, he just really loved the sport,” he adds.
“We didn’t have the resources to train properly, just a couple of bags that were hung from trees. We trained in the dirt, and didn’t have a ring either.”
As per Thai customs, there was no feeling-out process for the Surin native. After just a month of haphazardly structured training, Kulabdam was carried over the top rope for his very first competition.
“After the fight, I just thought it was so much fun. I won and got paid 150 baht (about US$5).”
Highs And Lows
ฝนตกทุกวันเลย ข่อยคิดถึงเมียข่อยเด้บรรยากาศแบบนี้ ซ้อมเสร็จไปอีกวันครับผม????????????????????????
By the age of 13, Kulabdam’s success in the ring meant he could start thinking about a career as a professional athlete.
His earnings were increasing, and he could use them to help himself and his family. However, after a while, the constant travel around Thailand’s Muay Thai heartland of Isaan for four to five matches a month was relentless, and he started to lose his drive and focus.
“I didn’t want to fight and was barely training. I just wanted to go out with my friends. I lost five fights in a row and could see my life deteriorating,” he admits.
Fortunately for Kulabdam, his father stepped in at just the right moment. Through mutual connections, the then 15-year-old Kulabdam was sent to train under the watchful eye of Olympic boxing gold medalist Somrak Kamsing, who was also a successful nak muay.
However, even the opportunity to train with one of Thailand’s greatest sporting heroes wasn’t enough to combat the strenuousness of Bangkok.
“Bangkok is chaotic, and the schedule was too structured for me. It was such a big change and I wasn’t happy,” he says.
“I wanted to go home, but I had a fight booked at Lumpinee Stadium. It was my dream to fight there, I trained really hard and won by knockout. Right after the fight, I went home. Somrak called asking for me to come back, but I told him I couldn’t live in Bangkok.”
Seeing the potential in his young charge, Somrak found an alternative option. He arranged for Kuladam to give it another go at Sor. Jor. Piek Uthai in the rural province of Uthai Thani.
Success And A The Global Stage
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A return to rural surroundings gave “Left Meteorite’s” career a new lease of life. Though he was happy living in his village, his ambitions still lay in the capital city, and now he was serious about achieving them.
“I made a goal that I just had to reach. I wanted to fight on Channel 7 – it was my dream,” he says.
With the passion burning inside him and a gym equipped to take him to the top, the teen’s career soared to new heights. In 2016 he became a household name after a streak of incredible knockouts at the Channel 7 Stadium – many with his powerful straight left hand.
He then won Thailand’s highest accolade in 2017, the Sports Writers Award, and a second Lumpinee belt the year after that, as well as a Thailand Title.
There have been few more exciting and successful athletes in his sport in recent years, which made Kulabdam a perfect addition to The Home Of Martial Arts’ bantamweight division, and he is delighted to have the opportunity to compete at ONE: IMMORTAL TRIUMPH.
“I am so happy to finally get to compete with ONE. I have been hoping for this opportunity for a long time,” he says.
Ho Chi Minh City | 6 September | 5.30PM | ONE: IMMORTAL TRIUMPH | TV: Check local listings for global broadcast | Tickets: http://bit.ly/oneimmortal19