Rodlek PK.Saenchaimuaythaigym is the latest of Thailand’s great Muay Thai athletes to join ONE Super Series.
Though this will be the 29-year-old’s first ONE Championship outing, he is well-known among hardcore fans of “the art of eight limbs” as a WMC and Channel 7 Stadium Muay Thai World Champion with 125 professional victories.
Ahead of his match-up at the Baoshan Arena in Shanghai, China next Saturday, learn how Rodlek became one of his sport’s most talented competitors and used his success to change the lives of his loved ones.
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Rodlek was born in the Ban Na San District of Surat Thani province, and he learned the values of hard work from an early age when his family was forced to move to the island of Koh Samui, where they struggled to make ends meet.
“Unfortunately, when I was about 7 years old, my mom had a falling out with her family, and we had to move to the mountains to tap rubber trees,” he explains.
“At the time, there wasn’t anyone there, it was just a big forest. We just lived in a hut – whenever it rained, we got drenched. There was no electricity, and we didn’t have a motorcycle, so we couldn’t even go to school.
“However, the owner of the farm felt sorry for us. He helped me and my brother get set up for school and got us a motorcycle to use.
“It was so difficult at the beginning, we literally had nothing. Going through that helped me focus on my career. I’m very very protective of my parents. Ever since I started fighting, I’ve wanted to help them.”
Luckily, Rodlek’s parents’ good hearts and industrious nature did not go unnoticed. They were invited to move into town to set up shop and sell vegetables. Once they were settled, Rodlek’s father began fishing to supplement their family’s income.
Muay Thai Origins
In time, Rodlek would help his family with the purses he earned from Muay Thai, but long before he competed in Bangkok’s stadiums or reached ONE, he first jumped over the ropes at an annual temple fair.
“There were 9 days of Muay Thai. I was really interested in competing, but I was also very scared. I was watching with my parents when the promoter announced that they were looking for match-ups for the next day,” he says.
“My dad asked me if I wanted to try it, and I don’t know what came over me, but I walked right up to the promoter to be matched up.
“I had no idea what I was doing – the opponent came from an actual gym. I was fairly fit from other sports, but had never trained Muay Thai before. I just jumped in the ring, I managed to make it to the fourth round before the referee stopped it.
“Even though I lost, I wanted to fight again. I wanted to rematch my opponent, I wanted to beat him. So, I started training.”
After that, at the age of 10, Rodlek first began his life in martial arts. At first, it was just him and his dad, training in the front of the house they rented.
Taking A Big Step Up
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Rodlek continued this rudimentary training for two years with the most basic equipment before he got the chance to move to an established gym – Jaotalaytong.
“I saw the limits of staying at home. There was a trainer that came by and asked if I would move to their gym., and my dad asked me what I wanted,” he explains.
“I wanted to try it and see how far I could go. It was so different from training at home. They had a system in place – I had to learn everything from scratch.”
It was not just training methods and techniques that he discovered. The youngster watched as the older athletes at the gym embarked on lucrative careers in Bangkok.
He saw what was possible for a professional competitor, and how he could help his family if he could become one of the elite.
“At the very beginning of my career, my purses were so small – just a few hundred baht. I didn’t really think about the opportunities. It was just fun for me.
“But when I first moved to Jaotalaytong, I started to see what the sport could provide for me and my family.”
Once he graduated from high school, Rodlek set off for his country’s capital to take his career even further.
His continued his career in Bangkok at Sitsongpeenong Gym while he completed his bachelor’s degree in management, but a little more than two years ago, he switched to one of his nation’s most respected facilities, PK.Saenchaimuaythaigym.
The Next Level
Rodlek trains in elite company at his new gym, which was named Lumpinee Stadium’s gym of the year for 2016.
“It was so exciting to arrive at PK for the first time, I was nervous and worried I wouldn’t make the cut, but I gained so much positive experience from all the fighters and improved,” he says.
“We’re like a big family. It is great training with so many high-level fighters.”
The move also gave him the chance to compete at Bangkok’s elite stadia, and Rodlek continued to provide for his parents.
The money he earned gave him the means to build his family a house and buy his dad, who is still his biggest fan, his own fishing boat.
“I’ve overcome the difficulties from that past life, and that is behind us now, but having experienced kindness, I always remember to give back to others, especially my parents,” he says.
“Back in the day, My dad drove me to the gym every day. Now he still comes to all my fights in Thailand, always. My parents are my biggest supporters. I’ve always wanted to provide them with a better life.”
Rodlek’s talent, achievements, and inspirational life story helped to earn him his spot in The Home Of Martial Arts.
Though his parents will not make it to China to cheer him on from ringside, they will be in his thoughts as he puts on a show for millions of people across the planet.
“I’m so happy to get to compete for ONE, it is a world-class organization,” he adds.
“I don’t need to be a World Champion, I just want to fight for the fans and entertain the audience watching worldwide. I think my style will suit ONE Championship perfectly.”
Shanghai | 15 June | 5PM | TV: Check local listings for global broadcast | Tickets: http://bit.ly/onequest19