Just a little over a year ago Rodtang “Iron Man” Jitmuangnon was ready to hang up his gloves for good.
Though he is now one of the most sensational strikers in ONE Super Series riding an incredible record of 254-41-10 as a Muay Thai World Champion, he almost left his sport before he reached those heights.
"The Iron Man" Rodtang is BACK to steal the show on 25 January!Manila | 25 January | 7:00PM | LIVE and FREE on the ONE Super App: http://bit.ly/ONESuperApp | TV: Check local listings for global broadcast | Tickets: http://bit.ly/oneascent19
Posted by ONE Championship on Sunday, January 6, 2019
The Bangkok native had just returned to Thailand’s capital after a multi-year stint in the Northeast where he was making the rounds on the local circuit.
Originally from Phatthalung Province in Thailand’s deep south, Rodtang was scouted by the famed Jitmuangnon Gym when he was a teenager. He left home with a one-way ticket to follow his dreams just north of Bangkok in Nonthaburi.
He had a few competitions with the gym, most notably at the Channel 7 Stadium, but his success was moderate. His manager, the late Mr. Huan, felt that his young charge was not reaching his full potential, and sent him to the Isaan region.
“Mr. Huan sent me to a gym in Khon Kaen so that I could get stronger and gain more experience,” says the “Iron Man.”
With the highest concentration of athletes and matches, Isaan produces more Muay Thai champions than any other area of Thailand and the world.
Rodtang traveled the same beaten path as his Muay Thai brethren all over Isaan on the back of a pickup truck to take part in competitions. When he finally found his footing, he started to unleash his true potential.
During this time, he was one of the best-paid strikers in the region. His purse, together with tips from the gamblers, was enough for him to take care of his family.
However, he aspired for something more than money – he wanted to become a champion.
In 2016, he competed almost every month and only lost once across the entire year. That was when Mr. Huan called him back home to Jitmuangnon and told him it was time to start competing at the stadiums again – where he could chase the most prestigious prizes.
Life back in the capital was not what he expected. Despite his newfound confidence and the experience he had gained, Rodtang lost his next three matches.
He was distraught, and his confidence was shattered, but his mentor put his arm around him and helped him rediscover his warrior spirit.
“I was so tired and felt like I couldn’t go on,” Rodtang admits.
“I thought about quitting, but I had no idea where to go, or what to do. I only knew Muay Thai.
“It was Mr. Huan who came to my side – he believed in me. He told me to keep going and that things would eventually get better.”
His troubles had come from a big change in the environment. The elite stadium circuit in Thailand’s capital is a far cry from the rural matches he had grown accustomed to because of the differences in preparation, pressure, and quality of opponents.
However, with a little more planning and hard work, Rodtang overcame all the obstacles to thrive.
“It is a lot different in Bangkok where you have to weigh-in in the morning before the fight. There are no weight cuts in Isaan,” he explains.
“I had to get used to the stadiums again.”
“Together with Mr. Huan, we worked through the difficulties. I didn’t change my training or anything like that, I just had to persevere.”
From nearly letting his life’s passion slip through his fingers, Rodtang went on to wreak havoc in the ring. He later became a two-time Omnoi Stadium Champion, and was awarded the 2018 “Fight of the Year” award at Rajadamnern Stadium.
His electric offense, warrior spirit, and humble displays of sportsmanship also caught the eyes of ONE Championship, which signed him to its new striking league — ONE Super Series.
After a highly memorable debut where he completely overwhelmed Sergio “Samurai” Wielzen at ONE: CONQUEST OF HEROES, Rodtang’s electrifying style saw him break out as an instant fan favorite.
Now, the young man who has overcome significant hurdles in both his career and in life will be gearing up for his second outing with The Home of Martial Arts.
Rodtang remains forever grateful to his late manager, and his teammates for the support he received and continues to receive from them as he takes aim at another World Title in The Home Of Martial Arts.
“I wouldn’t be here today if not for what Mr. Huan did for me,” he says.
“I also had the whole gym behind me, supporting me too. We are like one big family.”