‘It’s Never Just A Fight’ – How Childhood Hardship And An Unexpected Mentor Shaped Liam Nolan’s Philosophy

Liam Nolan walks out to the Circle

“Lethal” Liam Nolan’s start to life was anything but easy, but the 26-year-old from London never let his past dictate his future.

Before the gritty lightweight Muay Thai athlete tries to exact revenge on Sinsamut Klinmee for the second-round knockout the Thai star handed him in 2022, Nolan reveals the key moments that shaped his mindset today.

It’s a mindset that he’ll display live in U.S. primetime when he enters the ring for his rematch at ONE Fight Night 16 on Prime Video on November 3 at Lumpinee Boxing Stadium in Bangkok, Thailand. 

Because Nolan’s path through adolescence was never smooth, he was forced to become a man while other 15-year-olds were preparing to go to college.

Fast Track To Manhood

Growing up with a single mother, he had to do what he could to help her get by. So, he left school early, swapping his uniform and desk for a hard hat and hand tools. The money was a pittance, but what he did make went directly to his mother for essentials.

Opening up about his youth, Nolan told ONEFC.com: 

“I left school quite early when I was young. I used to go and work to earn extra money. I would do little jobs on construction sites. It was always cash-in-hand for menial jobs around sites, so it was convenient.  

“In fact, I even did a few modeling jobs. I used to [model for] Ted Baker and brands like that. That was actually quite good money compared to [construction] sites. I used to give my mom the money to help out. The money wasn’t everything, but I used to do whatever I could to help back then.”

The extra money, no matter how little or how much, was certainly needed. At one point in his life, Nolan remembers having to share the same sleeping quarters with his mother.

Although it wasn’t ideal, he learned much from the women who single-handedly raised him.

Nolan said:

“With it just being me and her, one time we even had bunk beds. We had a one-room bunk bed scenario. It wasn’t great, but we just did what we could do to get by.  

“She’s someone who worked really, really hard. And her mindset was really strong. And I think that’s something she gave to me.”

With that mindset, Nolan realized he could excel not on construction sites, but in the world of Muay Thai, which he just so happened to discover around the same time.

Meeting His Mentor 

A few years before Nolan left school to provide for himself and his mother, he discovered Knowlesy Academy, home to coach Chris Knowles and Jonathan Haggerty, who fights in the main event of ONE Fight Night 16.

And when Nolan didn’t have tools in his hands, he had boxing gloves on instead. 

It wasn’t the norm for teenagers to spend days on construction sites and nights in the gym. However, he knew Muay Thai was his golden ticket to a better life, and the back-road gym became his second home. 

The distinct smell of punished leather. The swinging heavy bags. The grunts of thunderous strikes. It was everything a struggling Nolan wanted. But it was also everything he needed, as it introduced him to his first male role model.

Nolan said:  

“Chris Knowles [was] like a father figure to me. He even picked me up from school, gave me a job in the gym, and kept me training. He always spoke positively about my training and about what I could achieve. I believed him.”


While the grind was hard on the Londoner’s formative years, both he and his coach knew the talent he possessed. That said, the “Lethal” one wasn’t going to let anything disrupt his chances of providing a better life.

So, the 6-foot-2 striker spent the next few years honing his craft. Soon, Nolan knew this would be his way out. And while his childhood friends spent their weekends drinking, the Londoner spent his time learning the discipline of Muay Thai. 

Nolan added:

“I missed out on loads. When I was a kid, I sacrificed my whole life to train. All my friends were going out, going to parties and stuff.

“I have given my whole childhood life and adult life to do this. It’s the biggest opportunity I had, and I had to work hard for it. I don’t regret any of it, though, because I knew it had to be done in order to get good. 

“And to be honest, I enjoyed being in the gym anyway. I always wanted to be there, so it was an easy choice for me.”

November’s ‘Intimate’ Encounter

Choosing to be a fighter is tough both physically and mentally. Each walk to the ring is paved with months of blood, sweat, and tears. Each defeat weighs heavy on a fighter. Each victory is celebrated. 

During his career, Nolan’s had his fair share of ups and downs, those character-building moments that take you further than talent alone ever could. 

So, when he steps into Lumpinee Stadium’s ring on November 3, expect Nolan to carry with him not only a desire for redemption, but a desire to make good on a past that directly formed his present. 

He said: 

“It’s hard. We’ve all been through it in our sport. It’s such a hard-nosed sport. We’re these big tough men who fight with one another, but wins and losses mean so much to us individually. It’s very intimate. 

“You have to be strong and thick-skinned, because people are going to talk and you have to not care about it. You do care, though, so it does hurt to have things said. It’s not easy.

“We put our livelihood on the line every time we step in there. So the outcome means so much to us. It’s never just a fight.”

More in Features

Tye Ruotolo Izaak Michell ONE Fight Night 21 45
Jimmy Vienot walks to the Circle
Luke Lessei Eddie Abasolo ONE Fight Night 19 29
Nong O Hama Nico Carrillo ONE Friday Fights 46 2
Bampara Kouyate Shakir Al Tekreeti ONE Fight Night 15 45
Jozef_Chen hero 1200x1165
Ok Rae Yoon Lowen Tynanes ONE Fight Night 10 66
Rodtang Jitmuangnon Denis Puric ONE 167 142
Rodtang Jitmuangnon
Tawanchai PK Saenchai Jo Nattawut ONE 167 78
Tawanchai vs. Nattawut II faceoff
Rodtang Jitmuangnon Edgar Tabares ONE Fight Night 10 36