Rocky Ogden had a tough introduction to elite-level Muay Thai, but despite being far from home, on his own, and feeling like a fish out of water, he made history competing in Thailand as a teenager.
Ahead of Ogden’s match for the inaugural ONE Strawweight Muay Thai World Title against Sam-A Gaiyanghadao, he reveals how he overcame adversity to grow into one of the hottest properties in “the art of eight limbs.”
Childhood In Queensland
Ogden was born in Redcliffe, Queensland, Australia, and grew up on the state’s Sunshine Coast with his parents and three older brothers, Josh, Nathan, and Jaiden.
His father, Gavin, owned a concreting business and his mother, Evon, worked in admin in the local hospital’s emergency department. Even though a household with four young sons could be a handful at times, they were a tight-knit unit.
“I’ve got a good family, we’ve always been very close, and my parents have always supported me in any way they can,” Ogden says.
“Me and my brothers are all two years apart and I was the youngest, so it was torture at times – they never gave me an easy day – but it was a pretty normal childhood and we’re all still close.”
Like his siblings, the youngest child of the family had a penchant for adrenaline-inducing sports. Though he was an able student, school was never his passion, and he always had his sights set elsewhere.
“When I was younger I was always into skateboarding, surfing – things like that. Everything and anything that is a bit of a thrill,” he offers.
“I was always a good student. I would get up to no good sometimes like all kids, but I never missed class or anything. I just knew that I wasn’t going to pursue it.”
The Road To Muay Thai
The reason the Boonchu Gym athlete never had an interest in education was because he was enamored with Muay Thai and wanted to make a career as a competitor.
His father was an avid martial artist and got his sons started in taekwondo, but then Ogden’s inclination towards the most extreme sports led him into full-contact striking.
“My dad was always into martial arts and he got me and my brothers into it to learn how to protect ourselves,” he offers.
“When I was about 10 I started in taekwondo. I did that for about a year and I was pretty good at it, but it got a bit boring. My brother said I should try Muay Thai, so we all went down to the class. I tried it and I loved it.
“I seemed to be pretty good so I stuck to it. I had a couple of fights when I was 12, then I had a little bit of time off with my friends, but when I was 15, I got back into it and started fighting again.”
All-In On “The Art Of Eight Limbs”
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This was 4 years ago, 16 years old my first ever trip in Thailand visiting Lumpinee Stadium. This was before I had ever fought in Thailand and it was amazing seeing the stadium and wearing the belt on my shoulder, my dream is to have this around my waist and be the champ, my motivation to achieve this is as strong as ever and with hard work, one day I hope to achieve this ????
When he returned to the sport, Ogden realized that it was his calling. He didn’t want to be “just another kid who didn’t achieve anything,” so he dedicated himself to the art.
His parents backed him all the way and moved to the Gold Coast where there was better training on offer. However, their son wanted to go one step further and embed himself in the sport’s source to take his skills to the next level.
“I was training at a gym called Urban and there was a Thai trainer there. He said I could go over to his place in Bangkok to train, and then it was all Thailand from there,” he says.
Aged just 16, he went to “The Land Of Smiles” to train full-time at Pathum Thani Gym, and though it was not easy, Ogden showed true grit and determination to stay the course and pursue his dream.
“My first trip, I went out for a month to try it out and it didn’t go so well,” he explains.
“I had a fight and lost and just got abused by the trainer. It was pretty rough, but I stuck it out. It didn’t affect me that much. I knew the Thai way was pretty harsh, and in a weird way I kind of like that old-school training. I think if you really want to go somewhere in the sport then it doesn’t matter.
“I started to stay in Thailand for about six months at a time. I was lucky that my parents could help me with flights and stuff, but it was still tough. I slept on wooden floors, and there were times I could not eat if I did not have enough money from fights.
“Nobody spoke English so I had to pick up the language, but I dedicated my life to this. It was what I wanted, and it showed me the real Muay Thai way.”
The Big Pay-Off
Ogden soon made a name for himself on the Thai scene.
At 17, he became the first Australian to win the WPMF Bantamweight Muay Thai World Title, and earned many fans for the way he competed.
“When I went back I won like nine fights in a row, and I think eight by knockout, so I picked up a name. The Thais tended to like me because I fought similar to them with good technique and heart,” the Aussie says.
While he was in Bangkok, he was also introduced to his compatriot, John Wayne Parr, by a mutual coach. Now, back in his homeland, he has teamed up with the Muay Thai legend to train predominantly at Boonchu Gym.
The combination of an icon’s support and his experience in Thailand has prepared Ogden to take on the best of the best in ONE Super Series, and although he can barely believe the opportunity he has in front of him, he is ready to seize it.
“Getting the chance to fight for ONE is what every fighter is looking for now, and for the World Title is just crazy, and a bit surreal,” Ogden offers.
“You know you’re fighting the best once you get here, and that’s what means more to me than anything. It’s such a big opportunity, and you’ve just got to get in there, fight hard, and earn their respect.”