‘We Can Reach The Highest Level’ – How Thai Star Jo Nattawut Is Elevating Muay Thai In His Adopted Home Of Atlanta

Jo Nattawut Luke Lessei ONE Fight Night 17 84

“Smokin” Jo Nattawut’s popularity has exploded internationally during his six-year ONE Championship tenure thanks to his exciting style and concussive punching.  

Up next, the 34-year-old could reach the very top when he challenges Tawanchai PK Saenchai for the ONE Featherweight Muay Thai World Title at ONE 167: Stamp vs. Zamboanga on Prime Video

As a truly humble martial artist, Nattawut isn’t fazed by the recognition or success for his own sake, but he knows it has a positive impact on the local Muay Thai scene in his adopted home of Atlanta, United States. 

So, when he goes for gold in U.S. primetime on June 7, “Smokin” Jo will give it his all, knowing that a victory will only further elevate the community he is a big part of. 

Nattawut spoke to onefc.com about what he expects from the future and the impact of ONE Championship so far: 

“Everybody who is watching the [striking] fights in ONE, they love it. If it’s my fight, everybody enjoys it and likes my style, so that’s gonna help a lot [to grow the sport]. 

“Muay Thai is growing here in Atlanta. It keeps growing every single month. Obviously, because of ONE Championship, it’s making it bigger. Everybody watches it, and then they train Muay Thai even more. 

“Thinking about Muay Thai, overall, in the next 10 years, it can be as big as [MMA] or even bigger because it’s so exciting and people love watching it. I think if ONE keeps going like this for the next five to ten years, we can reach the highest level.” 

Because of the rising popularity in his home city over the last decade, Thai-born Nattawut is looking to expand his offering as a Muay Thai coach by establishing a new gym in the area.  

Rather than head to different cities or states in the USA where combat sports are already more prevalent, “Smokin” Jo wants to give back to Atlanta by teaching “the art of eight limbs” as he learned it from the source:

“Atlanta is home. I live here. I have all my friends, my work, everything is here. This is home for me, so it’s easier for me to open a gym here. 

“You have to build a good foundation, right? The whole system. If I own the gym, I already have an idea to create a full system. Everybody follows the system and the way we teach authentic Muay Thai.” 

‘Smokin’ Jo Hoping To Compete At ONE 170 In Atlanta 

As well as boasting its very own ONE Featherweight Muay Thai World Title challenger, Atlanta will get a huge boost when the world’s largest martial arts organization hosts a fight night in the city for the first time later this year.

ONE 170 will take place at State Farm Arena on Friday, November 8, and Jo Nattawut thinks it will be another defining moment for the community. 

He said:

“It’s going to make a huge impact, people getting to see it live. Of course, if it gets more views, more people will know about Muay Thai. Of course, then Muay Thai will keep growing.  

“The future, the dream for everyone, is for it to be as big as boxing, as big as [MMA]. If we keep going like this, it’s going to get there.” 

Featuring on a massive card in his home city would be the icing on the cake for “Smokin” Jo, who is the highest-level competitor and the leading role model for up-and-coming strikers in the region.  

Nattawut hasn’t competed in the U.S. for seven years – and he’s never fought in his adopted home – so he would love the chance to put on a show for his supporters on November 8. 

He added:

“It would be fun to compete at the Atlanta event. It’s really for my friends here, too. They would get to watch me live at least one time. I’ve lived here for 10 years, but never had a chance to fight at home.” 

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