Saemapetch Fairtex knows what it takes to escape abject poverty and lead a prosperous life as one of the world’s greatest Muay Thai athletes.
The 24-year-old – who will make history as part of ONE Championship’s first all-Thai bout in the main event of ONE: EDGE OF GREATNESS against Nong-O Gaiyanghadao – had a hard childhood where he had to help his parents collect trash to recycle so they could survive.
When he got the chance to leave that way of life behind through Muay Thai, he grabbed it with both hands. No matter how tough his training got, he did not give up chasing his dream, and that is the lesson he wants to teach all aspiring competitors.
“My advice to young fighters today is to just stay very focused,” he says.
“You must have determination and must not misbehave. If you work hard, you can follow your dreams.”
Much of Saemapetch’s success can be attributed to his supreme conditioning, which has allowed him to make a name for himself as one of the toughest and most durable competitors in his sport.
It also means he can step up a gear and take control of a match at any moment, no matter how deep it goes.
Those attributes – as well as his perfect record in the world’s largest martial arts organization – are due to his exceptional work ethic, and dedication to the daily grind that is too much to handle for some.
The 25-year-old does not deny that he is pushed to his limits in training, but reveals he finds the willpower to work through the pain by focusing on why he pulled on the gloves in the first place.
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“I’ve always managed to stay very focused. I always had the will to succeed,” he says.
“I wanted to give my family a better life and was determined to follow my dreams. That kept me on the right track.”
That mindset also helped him to stay disciplined throughout his teenage years. He does not advocate that up-and-coming athletes have no fun, but when they do, they should not forget what is at stake if they compromise what they have worked so hard to achieve.
“To do this, you must remember what your duty is – that is the most important thing,” Saemapetch adds.
“If you are going to go out with friends, you need to remember who you are, and what your responsibilities are.”
His disciplined approach paid off when he won the Tiger Cement Tournament at the Channel 7 Stadium when he was just 17 years old, but that did not satisfy his desire to improve and achieve more.
“I just wanted to be a champion [at first]. Once I reached that goal, I wanted to take it higher,” he says.
“When I won my first title, I had accomplished my dream, but then you must re-evaluate and keep going.”
Saemapetch switched gears and started aiming higher on the international circuit, but it took seven more years, an MTGP Welterweight World Title, three wins in ONE Super Series, and 120 victories overall to book his challenge for the biggest prize in his sport.
However, if everything in his assignment against a man he calls his idol goes the plan, every hour he has spent in the gym, every drop of sweat he has shed, and all of the knocks he has taken will be worth it.
“Everything takes time. Success won’t happen overnight. It took me many years to get to this point, and that is something I always tell younger fighters,” he says.
“As fighters, we must want something more, something that will bring us honor. Something that we can have as our own, and someday show our children.
“I really believe if you have the will, there is a way. It will take time, and sometimes many attempts. Don’t give up!”