Cyprus’ Savvas “The Baby Face Killer” Michael has become one of the top Muay Thai athletes in the world despite the obstacles in his way.
The sport is not well known in his homeland, and he was mocked for dreaming of becoming a World Champion there, but his dedication to a career in the ring has seen him defy the odds.
Now, he is one of the hottest young stars in ONE Super Series, and following a sensational promotional debut win in May, the Petchyindee Academy representative will face Lerdsila Phuket Top Team at ONE: DREAMS OF GOLD.
Ahead of his return to action in his adopted hometown of Bangkok, Thailand next Friday, 16 August, learn how the young man from a Mediterranean island made it to the world’s largest martial arts organization.
Childhood In Cyprus
Michael hails from Limassol on the southern coast of Cyprus. His mother is a Canadian who relocated when she married his father, a native to the island, and he grew up with his older sister Christine.
“It’s island life there, it’s a bit back from the real world,” the 22-year-old explains.
“It’s a really small country with a population of around one million. It’s pretty laid back. People like to stay within their comfort zone.”
The young Michael was raised mostly by his mother when his parents divorced, though his father, a former karate champion, was still part of his life, and he steered him toward martial arts when he had problems at school.
“There was a school that was half-Greek, half-English, and I was in the English side,” he recalls.
“We would get picked on by the kids on the Greek side. They were just a bit physically stronger than all of us, and I didn’t like that feeling – I felt weak, and like I couldn’t stand up for my friends.
“My dad took me to a karate class, but I didn’t like it. Then we found a place to train Muay Thai, and I enjoyed it.”
A Love Affair With “The Art Of Eight Limbs”
Michael was 6 when he went to Lumpinee Gym Limassol and the coaches there immediately saw his aptitude when he threw a perfect jab-cross on his first lesson.
Within a few months of walking through their doors, he got a late-notice call to compete, and Muay Thai dominated his life from that point on.
“I had no plans to fight, but someone pulled out of a fight injured, and my coach called my mum at the last minute,” recalls “The Baby Face Killer.”
“I remember being so scared, but I actually won by knockout. I hit him with an elbow, and I just loved it ever since.”
He sat through long days in school and wished he was in the gym. He had no motivation to do anything else. Luckily, he had his mother’s wholehearted support for his goals.
She saw how passionate her son was for “the art of eight limbs” and wanted to back him in chasing his dreams.
“I went to the world championships in Thailand when I was around 11, and that’s when she saw how much I really loved it,” Michael notes.
“I went to Lumpinee Stadium and felt the atmosphere, and to this day, my mum still says I left my heart in Thailand on that trip.
“She said if I didn’t enjoy school, I needed to be a real Muay Thai fighter, but if I didn’t commit myself, I had to stay at home and do my homework. She always supported me and believed in me.”
She used her modest wages as a nursery teacher to help fund his early trips to “The Land Of Smiles,” while he saved any money from special occasions to help, and together they pushed in the same direction.
The WMC Muay Thai World Champion did everything he could to move toward his dream life of being a professional athlete, but the attitudes of the risk-averse local community were not favorable to his aspirations.
“In Cyprus, nobody believed in me. They told me to stop wasting my time,” says Michael.
“Petchyindee Academy offered me a sponsorship to move there, but instead of people motivating me, they would tell me that I wouldn’t make it.”
Thanks to a local sponsor, he made his way to Thailand aged 18, but it was harder than he had anticipated at first, and he heard the voices of the doubters in the back of his mind when times got tough.
He struggled financially, but his mother and sponsor backed him as much as possible, and with his own hard work and commitment, his reputation and worth in the ring increased.
“I was scared because when I first came, it was a nightmare. The training was hard and the money I was making was so low,” he explains.
“I actually started to believe all their doubts. It came to a point where I started to go a little bit downhill. Nobody in Cyprus had done this before – I had no footsteps to follow – but I just listened to my gut instinct and stuck with it.
“Now I love it, I love my life, I just had to find out these things the hard way by myself.”
Making His Name On The Toughest Circuit
Muay Thai phenom Savvas Michael-ไมเคิล เพชรยินดี อคาเดมี่ outduels Singtongnoi in his ONE Super Series debut to claim an impressive unanimous decision victory!Watch the full event on the ONE Super App ???? http://bit.ly/ONESuperApp | TV: Check local listings for global broadcast
Posted by ONE Championship on Friday, May 10, 2019
Michael’s success at Bangkok’s Lumpinee and Rajadamnern Stadiums marked him out as one of the greatest foreign athletes on the Thai stadium circuit.
His single-track mind and the world-class training at Petchyindee Academy saw him improve exponentially, and he showed it in the ring.
“My life start getting easier, my name started getting bigger, and I started to learn about the fight business,” he explains.
“When I was a kid, I always wanted to be able to fight against the top Thais in the stadiums. I also wanted to be able to take care of my mum and my sister – my mum gave me everything, so I wanted to give everything back.”
His success caught the eyes of the ONE Championship matchmakers, and he made a big first impression on the global stage for martial arts in May when he outclassed an icon of “the art of eight limbs” in Singtongnoi.
His next assignment against another Thai legend could propel his career even further, and help to stake his claim for the biggest prize in martial arts.
“With the consistent hard work, training, and fighting every month I just got to where I am now,” he adds.
“I always told my mum that I was going to make money from Muay Thai. I just believed that something was going to happen, and ONE Championship happened – what I’ve been telling everyone all these years is actually happening.”