Behind every great athlete, there is a great team, and Nong-O Gaiyanghadao has the world’s most elite Muay Thai stable to help him prepare for his bouts.
His coaches and training partners will have him ready to put on another spectacular show when he returns to the ring this Friday, 10 May to take on Hiroaki “Kaibutsukun” Suzuki in the main event of ONE: WARRIORS OF LIGHT.
The ONE Bantamweight Muay Thai World Champion began training in his native Isaan, Thailand before he made the pilgrimage to Bangkok, where he was polished into a four-time Lumpinee Stadium Muay Thai World Champion at Sit Or Gym.
After a highly decorated career that saw him receive Thailand’s most prestigious accolades, Nong-O was scouted by Evolve in Singapore, where he began his coaching career.
The Thai icon moved to “The Lion City” in 2015, and was a natural holding the pads instead of striking them, though he could barely believe what he walked into.
“Before working at Evolve, I had actually never taught before. It is a really fun and exciting job, I get to teach my own style to my students,” he says.
“I’m happy here, it is a very rewarding career. I had never seen a training facility like this before. It was so different here – so modern. Nothing like Thailand.”
Although Nong-O was at home on the mats, it took him a little while to adjust to his new surroundings.
He was in a foreign environment, without his family, but the team at Evolve – particularly the squad of world-class Thai coaches and athletes – had fostered a familial atmosphere, and helped him to settle in.
“I knew a lot of the fighters here before I came. The Muay Thai community in Thailand is small, so we knew each other from our days competing at the stadiums,” he says.
“At first I found the transition a little bit difficult when it came to things like learning where to eat, and just how to live life, but Kru Ped [Saknarong Sityodtong] helped me settle in. He taught me English, and how to make the most of my time here.
“We are like one big family. Even though we are really busy working, even working at different locations, we still make the time to get together at least once a month.
“We encourage and motivate each other. We’re all in the same situation, we miss our family from time to time but support and understand each other. Evolve is my second home. We’re one big family.”
Between learning the ropes in his new home, passing on his knowledge to students, and blowing off steam by playing soccer with his teammates, Nong-O soon got the urge to compete again, too.
Surrounded by a team of World Champions, he was in the perfect place to recapture the form that made him a legend of “the art of eight limbs.”
In fact, by the time he made his return to the ring last year, and started a run that would take him to the ONE Bantamweight Muay Thai World Championship, the 32-year-old says he became an even more dangerous competitor.
“It is amazing working with all these other elite World Champions,” he explains.
“We’ve all got different styles, and learn from each other. Some of us are better punchers, others have new techniques they can share. I feel like I’ve improved as a fighter here.
“It is different than Thailand because there is such a concentration of talent here. Most gyms just have one or two champions – at Evolve, everyone is a World Champion.”
Now Nong-O is prepared to put on a show in front of his compatriots at ONE: WARRIORS OF LIGHT thanks to the hard rounds he has been put through at Evolve.
Plus, he will be motivated by the support from his home fans inside Bangkok’s Impact Arena, his colleagues in his corner, and those who will be watching back in his adopted home of Singapore,