How Sean Clancy Went From Unathletic Kid To Muay Thai Superstar

Irish Muay Thai World Champion Sean Clancy sits on the edge of the ring

Sean “Clubber” Clancy wants to make a massive statement on Friday, 11 September.

That night, the Irishman will make his promotional debut against Pongsiri PK.Saenchai Muaythaigym at ONE: A NEW BREED II, which was previously recorded in Bangkok, Thailand.

It’s a high-stakes Muay Thai World Champion versus Muay Thai World Champion showdown, but win, lose, or draw, Clancy’s mere involvement in this main event clash should send a powerful message to adults all around the globe.

That message is this: It’s never too late to chase your dreams. “Clubber” is living proof of that.

During his childhood in rural Ireland, Clancy rarely played sports. In fact, if he was playing a team sport in the neighborhood or at school, he was always one of the last kids picked.

“I just wasn’t a sporty person,” the 31-year-old admits. “Growing up, my parents were more pushing me into music and other stuff.”

So, Clancy went through his adolescence and teenage years rarely playing rugby, soccer, and all of the other sporting activities that kids that age tend to enjoy.

But eventually, he would make up for lost time in a major way.

When Clancy was 21 years old, he was working with a fitness trainer to build up his cardio and strength at the gym. 

One day, the trainer urged him to attend a local Muay Thai event, as he had a friend who was fighting on the card and also taught “the art of eight limbs” in the city. But at first, the country boy wasn’t too enthusiastic.

“There was a Muay Thai show happening in the city area,” Clancy recalls.

“My personal trainer recommended that I go to the show. He wanted to see what I thought of it. He was trying to get me to go to the classes, but I didn’t know much about Muay Thai. I was kind of 50-50 on it.”

Clancy ultimately decided to attend the event – and it changed his life.

“It was electrifying,” he says. “I was literally on the edge of my seat for the entire show.”

Mesmerized by the techniques and the competitive nature of the sport, “Clubber” decided to give it a shot.

He soon gathered up some buddies and drove nearly 50 minutes to Siam Warriors Boxing Club in Cork to try out a class with the gym’s co-owner and Irish Muay Thai pioneer, Martin Horgan.

“I was a curious person,” Clancy says. “When I was watching the show, I was like, ‘Oh, this looks easy, why are people so tired?’

“And then I had my first class, and boom – that was my addiction. I was so tired, and I could see there was so much to learn and so much progress to be done. I was just hooked straight away. This sport, it’s challenging me, and I love a challenge.”

Clancy was so hooked that he began thinking about competing after just one week of training.

But even when he started taking local fights, he never thought of them as the precursor to a full-time profession. At that point, he simply wanted to test his skills and see how far he’d come in his training.

“I never saw the bigger picture. It was just a challenge, and every time I completed one challenge, [I wanted] a new one. It’s like life in general – once you do one goal, you set a new goal,” Clancy says.

“So, I just set a new goal in front of me. It was never about the big picture. It was all about pushing myself to be better each time, and to get as far as I could be as a person and push myself.”

Just a year and a half into his training, Clancy was presented with a life-changing opportunity that saw him fall deeper in love with “the art of eight limbs.”

A friend was going to Thailand to train for an upcoming fight, so “Clubber” joined him for the journey. And once the Irishman arrived in the Southeast Asian country and entered the camp, he was blown away.

“It was a shock to the system,” he says.

“But after that, it was like, ‘This is amazing. I’m just a little speck on the grid, and I’m so far behind everyone.’ If you asked anyone at the gym at that time, I had to be training. I had to be perfecting [my skills].

“When I was going to sleep at night, my body was flinching [and doing] some moves. My friends were laughing at me. They said I’d be shadow boxing in my sleep because all I could think about was training.

“If you’re ever going to perfect anything in life – it doesn’t matter whether it’s something big or small – you have to step outside your comfort zone, and what better place to step outside your comfort zone than in the place where the sport originated? [I got to] push myself and learn from the people who were in the sport, in the country, and knew everything about it. It all became about the sport at the time, and I couldn’t get enough of it.”

Eventually, Clancy became so engulfed in Muay Thai that he relocated to Thailand to live, train, and compete.

And despite getting a late start in the sport, his dedication began to pay major dividends.

In July 2019, Clancy – at the age of 30 – earned his first World Title and made history when he became the first Irish athlete to earn the WBC Muay Thai World Championship.

Later, he earned the 2019 WBC Muay Thai Fighter Of The Year accolade and an invitation to compete in ONE Championship’s all-striking branch, ONE Super Series.

“It’s not just the minutes going through your preparation. It’s the blood, sweat, and tears, and it’s the years, weeks, and months going into this moment,” Clancy says of joining ONE. 

“To test your skills on the big stage and represent your country, you can’t put it into words, honestly. It’s everything for a fighter in this position.”

When the Siam Warriors representative appears on television screens across the world on Friday, he will enter the record books yet again – this time, as the first Irishman to compete in ONE Super Series.

Clancy will undoubtedly have a highly entertaining clash with Pongsiri, but regardless of the result at ONE: A NEW BREED II, one thing is clear – “Clubber” will have inspired adults around the globe to chase their athletic dreams.

That is a victory within itself.

Read more: A Deep Look At The ONE Bantamweight Muay Thai Division

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