Two-sport ONE World Champion Sam-A Gaiyanghadao has been the most dominant striker in the strawweight division, and he’ll have a chance to prove that once again this Friday, 9 October.
Before Sam-A steps into the ring for his main event World Title defense, learn more about him from the fellow ONE stars who know him best.
These days, “The Kicking Machine” Superlek Kiatmoo9 is Sam-A’s brother-in-law. But first, he was a longtime fan.
“I watched his fights since I was young,” the 24-year-old says. “He was one of the best Muay Thai fighters in Thailand, and he was the idol of many young fighters, including me.
“He has a lot of techniques, especially his left kicks and sharp punches. That is what I remember most about him.”
While Superlek is still in awe of Sam-A’s skills, he’s also gained a deeper appreciation for the 36-year-old.
The Kiatmoo9 representative has seen firsthand how the humble legend supports his family through his combat sports endeavors. Additionally, Sam-A is always willing to give the younger fighter advice and teach him new techniques.
“Sam-A has high patience,” Superlek says. “He dedicates himself to making his family’s life better and [pulling them] out of poverty with Muay Thai. He is a superstar in the ring and is the superman for his family.
“He helps me a lot with my Muay Thai. He gives me suggestions for improving my skills and also some tricks. Most of the time when we have a chance to talk, we talk about Muay Thai.
“We just started a Muay Thai camp in our house in the Buriram province. We share ideas and the budget. He is now in Singapore, so I am taking care of the camp. I try to follow in his footsteps by being the best Muay Thai fighter I can be.”
Currently, Superlek is the top-ranked Muay Thai flyweight contender, and he could soon find himself challenging for a belt of his own.
But in the meantime, he’ll be glued to his television screen on Friday night to watch his brother-in-law defend the ONE Strawweight Muay Thai World Title – an accolade “The Kicking Machine” believes he’ll retain.
“Although Sam-A is 36 years old now, I think he still keeps fit and he kept training even during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Superlek says. “I believe [competing in] the ring is not only about age, but he has a lot of experience. He will keep his World Title belt after the fight.”
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Sam-A and ONE Bantamweight Muay Thai World Champion Nong-O Gaiyanghadao may train together now, but things weren’t always so peachy between the Muay Thai icons.
Nearly 10 years ago, both athletes were dominant forces in their respective weight classes – Sam-A in the 122-pound division and Nong-O in the 130-pound division.
Then in September 2010, they faced off in a special catch weight contest at Lumpinee Stadium.
“I still remember when we were enemies in the ring when we were in different camps,” Nong-O says.
“We both were high-level Muay Thai fighters. We were very difficult to beat, and it was very difficult to find opponents. We had a chance to meet each other at Lumpinee Stadium.
“Actually, we were in different weight classes, so he had to go up in weight and I went down in weight just to fight each other. It was a good fight for fans, and they were really willing to watch the fight.”
After Nong-O earned the decision in that head-to-head matchup, the two fighters crossed paths again while training in the Petchyindee Academy camp a few years later.
However, their friendship didn’t truly blossom until they reconnected at the Evolve camp in Singapore.
“Even though we were in the same camp in 2014 and 2015, we were not really that close,” Nong-O says.
“But after that, we moved to Evolve and became trainers. I came here in 2016. After that one year, he came. We had a chance to talk about our jobs, and we respected each other like brothers.”
Nong-O also respects Sam-A’s skills and fight IQ – two key factors the reigning champ will rely on this Friday.
“Sam-A is a good fighter and diligent. He has discipline and maturity. He knows what he has to do. All of that makes him successful and a superstar,” the reigning bantamweight king says.
“I watched the previous fight between Petchdam and Josh Tonna, so I think Sam-A can win and even knock him out.”
Petchmorakot Petchyindee Academy
Long before Petchmorakot Petchyindee Academy became a fellow ONE World Champion, he was a huge fan of the dominant strawweight king.
In fact, the featherweight looked up to Sam-A when he was a child growing up in Ubon Ratchathani.
“I have known him since I was young and before I was a Muay Thai fighter,” Petchmorakot says.
“He was very famous and one of the best. Actually, everyone in the Muay Thai community knew him. He was well-known for the fast left kicks, and they were really accurate.”
Eventually, Petchmorakot became a Muay Thai fighter, and in 2012, he relocated to the Thai capital and joined Petchyindee Academy.
When he arrived at the famed Thai gym, he had the opportunity to train alongside Nong-O and Sam-A – both of whom took a special liking to the talented youngster. The two elder statesmen would mentor Petchmorakot both inside and outside of the ring.
Petchmorakot learned a lot from both veterans, but he formed a special connection with Sam-A. That was his childhood hero, and someone he still looks up to.
“We’re like brothers,” the 26-year-old featherweight king says.
“He is the person who inspired all of us as one of the most successful fighters in Muay Thai history.
“I learned many things from him. He is a gentleman, well-behaved, polite, and talks nicely. He is honest and modest. That’s why he can be an idol both in the ring and in life.”
Though Sam-A is getting older, his skills have aged like a fine wine. That’s something Petchmorakot has noticed, and although the living legend now trains at Evolve in Singapore, his biggest fan still supports him from a distance.
“Ever since he started fighting in ONE Championship, he has improved a lot of his techniques – they went from sharper to sharper,” Petchmorakot says.
“He has more tricks and they have more detail. He is more aggressive but calm and clever. So, I think he will win this fight with Josh Tonna and make Petchyindee proud.”