For Rodtang “The Iron Man” Jitmuangnon his reign as ONE Flyweight Muay Thai World Champion is not just about fulfilling a lifelong dream, but a duty to his gym.
The 22-year-old – who will make the first defense of his belt against Walter Gonclaves next Sunday, 13 October at ONE: CENTURY PART II – says he owes everything to the dedicated team that has helped him rise to the top.
Although he could not have built his 259-41-10 record and won gold without his exceptional talent and work ethic, he gives all the credit to those who have stood beside him along the way.
“Not just fighters, every athlete must belong to a team. You can’t do this on your own,” he says.
“Your team is there for you and has built you up from nothing – from being absolutely no one, to all the opportunities they give you. You can’t throw that away.
“My gym has done everything for me, and I must use all of my strength to return that to them.”
The native of Pattalung in Southern Thailand was entrenched in poverty as a child, and used Muay Thai as a vehicle to empower his life, and save his family from hardship.
Since he joined the ranks of ONE Super Series, he has catapulted himself into international superstardom, and now has the ability to provide for his family beyond their wildest dreams.
However, when he first started out in “the art of eight limbs,” he did not make much money at all, and he had no knowledge about how to use what he did earn to secure his future.
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Crucially, the support from the people at Jitmuangnon Gym helped him to develop skills for the world outside of the ring, and even helped him to survive.
“My gym has literally helped me with everything,” he says.
“They are my family and have raised me like a son. From a young age until now, they have taught me how to be an adult. Everything from learning how to take care of money, to just living life – it was they who raised me.
“When I didn’t have any money, they would always help me. There was never anything I couldn’t say to them.”
The obligation to others runs deep in the culture of Thailand’s national sport.
Throughout history, athletes have been taught not to forget where they come from, which helps to keep them grounded.
It also ensures future generations have the same chance to prosper as they did, and Rodtang does not feel like it is a burden to help his gym prosper – he is happy to do it.
“This is a big part of Muay Thai. My gym has done so much for me, and it is my duty to train hard, represent them to the best of my abilities, and bring home the win,” he adds.
“We have people that have helped us along the way, and it is our obligation to return and help them. It’s not complicated.”
His duty goes far beyond representing it on the global stage, however. It is a daily effort that requires Rodtang to stay humble and disciplined, and appreciate what is expected of him.
“No matter how good we are, if forget who we are, get lazy at the gym, or don’t respect the rules, we’ll never amount to anything,” he adds.
Now, as the young Thai warrior looks to solidify his place in history as one of ONE’s greatest flyweights, he does so to bring glory to Jitmuangnon Gym.
There will be no better way of making everyone there proud than by defending his crown in Tokyo, Japan at ONE: CENTURY.
“The gym has done everything for me, and now it is my turn to give back,” he says.
“At the beginning I had nothing, I was just an average fighter. Now I am one of the top, highest-paid fighters at the gym, and am making us known worldwide. I am really proud to be able to do this for this gym.”
- Watch PART I in USA on 12 October at 8pm EST and PART II on 13 October at 4am EST
- Watch PART I in India on 13 October at 5:30am IST and PART II at 1:30pm IST
- Watch PART I in Indonesia on 13 October at 7am WIB and PART II at 3pm WIB
- Watch PART I in Singapore on 13 October at 8am SGT and PART II at 4pm SGT
- Watch PART I in the Philippines on 13 October at 8am PHT and PART II at 4pm PHT
- Watch PART I in Japan on 13 October at 9am JST and PART II at 5pm JST
ONE: CENTURY is the biggest World Championship martial arts event in history with 28 World Champions featured across various martial arts. No organization has ever promoted two full-scale World Championship events on the same day.
The Home Of Martial Arts will break new ground as it brings multiple World Title bouts, a trio of World Grand Prix Championship Finals, and several World Champion versus World Champion matches to the famous Ryogoku Kokugikan in Tokyo, Japan on 13 October.