Despite being just 26 years old, Prajanchai PK.Saenchai Muaythaigym has already studied the art of Muay Thai for more than two decades.
That wealth of experience paved the way for his ONE Strawweight Muay Thai World Title challenge against reigning two-sport World Champion Sam-A Gaiyanghadao at ONE: BATTLEGROUND in Singapore this Friday, 30 July.
With the Thai superstar on the cusp of his biggest accomplishment yet, find out how he went from a fascinated youngster to one of his nation’s most revered combat sports athletes.
‘It’s In My Soul’
While most elite Muay Thai competitors eventually end up in Bangkok, Prajanchai was born and raised in the sport’s spiritual home.
He was surrounded by “the art of eight limbs” from the start and seemed destined for a future in the ring.
“I was fostered and raised in a Muay Thai-fighter family,” he says. “My family and relatives are all boxers. I started boxing when I was 4.”
Some of Prajanchai’s earliest memories are of the local gym. He walked past it every day, and there was always something drawing him in.
“I would pass a boxing camp every morning as I was on the way to my school,” he adds. “When I was going back home after school, I would always see it there. So, I have been absorbed in boxing since then.”
Through his family ties, Prajanchai was exposed to the life of a competitor and wanted it for himself. Before long, he stepped through the ropes on his own – and never looked back.
“Whenever my brother went for a fight in different stages, I would always follow him. And the more I shadowed him, the more I wanted to box. Then my uncle just signed me up for a bout,” he recalls.
“After that match, I started to like being in fights, so I continuously signed up for matches and kept improving myself since then.
“I really love Muay Thai, and I think it’s in my soul. It’s like I grew up with it, so I just like it. Thus, I turned my passion to ambition and kept pushing myself to more and more success.”
A Meteoric Rise
Prajanchai initially began training at the local gym, then moved to Looksuan Muay Thai, and then looked for another home when the camp was forced to move premises.
At that point, the gymless rising star was scouted by the famous PK.Saenchai Muaythaigym, which opened up incredible opportunities for his career.
Alongside some of his sport’s biggest stars, Prajanchai built a name for himself locally and then moved to Bangkok’s famous stadiums, where he started to dream big.
“When I first started fighting in Bangkok stadiums, I told myself I must win one of the championship belts,” he says.
“My family, who are boxers, never won any of the belts from the main stadiums. That’s why my goal was to win the belts from both [Lumpinee and Rajadamnern].”
“After fighting in the main stadiums for a while, I had an opportunity to [compete for] the Rajadamnern Stadium 105-pound Championship.
“It was an important fight in my life because it was when I won my first belt. Everyone was so supportive of me, and I accomplished my goal in that fight. I was just so happy and couldn’t help crying in the ring that day.”
From there, Prajanchai continued to ascend to the top of the sport with more silverware, as he established himself as one of the greatest pound-for-pound athletes in “the art of eight limbs.”
“I won six or seven belts in a row and never missed a single one,” he says.
“I’m quite proud that I won a lot of championship belts and could make my family happy when I became a champion and top fighter of Thailand.”
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A Switch To ‘The Sweet Science’
With all of Prajanchai’s dominance came uncertainty.
He held four Rajadamnern and two Lumpinee Stadium Muay Thai World Titles across five weight classes, but he eventually ran out of people to face.
The PK.Saenchai Muaythaigym athlete struggled to get matchups – with potential rivals anxious about stepping into the ring with him – and with that, he turned to a new sport.
“It was really hard to find an opponent. I always had to fight above my weight class. Then a promoter from the International Boxing Association (IBA) gave me an opportunity,” he recalls.
“They said they saw my potential in razor-sharp speed and sharp eyes and decided to reach out to my managers, Khaek and Game, to see if we were interested in joining professional boxing bouts.”
Prajanchai took the promoter up on the offer, knowing he could always return to Muay Thai if his boxing career didn’t go well. But much to the astonishment of many insiders, it did.
“Surprisingly, I got into a championship match for my first professional boxing bout at 126 pounds,” Prajanchai says.
“Everyone was so amazed that I got [to fight for the title] for my very first battle. However, it was even more surprising when I won.
“Everyone was stunned because they didn’t think my techniques were that good for professional boxing back then. Plus, they didn’t think I had the hardest [punch] nor that I would even survive a full 10 rounds. But I proved myself and did it.”
The Thai athlete went on to claim two WBA Asia South boxing titles in three professional contests over much more experienced opponents.
This helped him to earn a living while fights in Muay Thai were scarce, and it showed that he could do anything he set his mind to.
“When they look down on you or discourage you, you use that to drive yourself to success and prove yourself,” Prajanchai says. “So the more they pour scorn on me, the more I push myself and prove them wrong.”
Stepping Onto The Global Stage
The Bangkok man has since returned to his Muay Thai roots, and he’s picked up where he left off with wins over some of his country’s top athletes.
That success earned him the callup to compete in ONE Super Series, which Prajanchai believes is a game-changing move for his career — especially with a shot at Sam-A’s ONE Strawweight Muay Thai World Title in his inaugural contest.
“I’m extremely delighted and can say this is the happiest moment in my life. I believe that every Muay Thai fighter who joins ONE Championship has the only goal to become a champion,” he offers.
“Everyone will make their way up to continuously improve themselves to fight [for the title], but luckily, I got that chance in my first match.”
By challenging Sam-A for the gold in his debut on the global stage, Prajanchai is once again hearing from cynics who believe he is biting off more than he can chew.
But the Thai phenom doesn’t listen to them. He’s silenced the doubters before, and he has every reason to believe he can do it again in the world’s largest martial arts organization.
“It’s definitely normal that everyone will doubt if I can win the game. They might say it’s too fast for me to go for the World Title in my first bout with ONE Championship, or think that I should fight with a foreign boxer first,” Prajanchai says.
“I’m ready to win the belt from Sam-A.”