Thailand is known for its warm weather and pristine beaches, so it’s not out of the ordinary for people from all over the world to move to the country to enjoy a more relaxing lifestyle.
But not everyone moves to Thailand to bask in the sun on sandy seafronts. In fact, a handful of ONE Championship’s stars moved to the country to grow their martial arts skills and become more dominant fighters in the Circle.
With that said, here are five ONE Championship stars who’ve left places like China, Brazil, Russia, and the Philippines to call “The Land of Smiles” their second home.
Fast-rising kickboxing star “Fighting Rooster” Zhang Peimian left his hometown of Shenzhen, China, at just 16 years old to train at Tiger Muay Thai in Phuket.
Still just 18 years old, he is one of the organization’s youngest fighters, but “Fighting Rooster’s” seasoned striking skills have helped him amass a nearly perfect professional fight record of 15-0-1.
Now the teenage sensation will test his unbeaten record against Russian opponent Aslanbek Zikreev at ONE 159: De Ridder vs. Bigdash on July 22, where he hopes to earn his second straight victory in the Circle.
Allycia Hellen Rodrigues
ONE Women’s Atomweight Muay Thai World Champion Allycia Hellen Rodrigues started her journey to greatness in Ceara, Brazil. Now she lives in Thailand, where she trains and competes out of Phuket Fight Club.
The 24-year-old arrived in Thailand in 2018 and has dedicated the last four years of her life to Muay Thai. Her time in the country has helped her build a 31-5 record in Muay Thai and provided her with the opportunity to challenge former two-sport World Champion Stamp Fairtex.
Rodrigues faced Stamp at ONE: A NEW BREED, and despite competing against one of the best Muay Thai fighters in the world, the Brazilian used her clinch and heavy hands to strip Stamp of her ONE Atomweight Muay Thai World Title.
Although Rodrigues took some time away from fighting to focus on her pregnancy, she’ll be watching ONE 159 closely. In the co-main event at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, atomweight kickboxing queen Janet “JT” Todd and newcomer Lara Fernandez will battle for the ONE Interim Atomweight Muay Thai World Title.
The Phuket Fight Club standout will no doubt unify World Titles with the winner sometime in the near future.
Second-ranked bantamweight MMA contender Fabricio “Wonder Boy” Andrade trains and fights out of Marrok Force in Bangkok alongside Thai superstar sisters Nat “Wondergirl” Jaroonsak and Anna “Supergirl” Jaroonsak.
The 24-year-old has spent the last four years in Thailand, where he has transformed himself from a successful Muay Thai fighter into a certified mixed martial arts beast. Andrade is 5-0 in the ONE Circle, with four of his victories coming by knockout or submission.
Most recently, the Thailand-based Brazilian scored a knockout victory over previous #2-ranked contender “Pretty Boy” Kwon Won II at ONE 158: Tawanchai vs. Larsen. “Wonder Boy” needed just 62 seconds to state his case as the next possible challenger for ONE Bantamweight World Champion John “Hands of Stone” Lineker.
While it may be some time before Andrade faces “Hands of Stone,” the young fighter believes the belt is within his reach — proof of just how much confidence he’s developed while in Thailand.
ONE Interim Heavyweight World Champion Anatoly “Sladkiy” Malykhin was born in Kemerovo, Russia, but two years ago he left the frigid weather of his hometown for the sunny skies of Phuket.
He now trains at Tiger Muay Thai, where he has spent the last two years honing his mixed martial arts skills. The island training sessions seem to be paying off, as Malykhin has gone 3-0 in the Circle, owning a 100 percent finishing rate.
The interim titleholder’s most recent fight — a second-round victory over Kirill Grishenko at ONE: BAD BLOOD — was the longest “Sladkiy” has ever spent inside the Circle. A swinging hook brought the Belarusian giant crashing down, earning Malykhin the gold.
Born in the Philippines, #3-ranked atomweight contender Denice “Lycan Queen” Zamboanga is another competitor who has made Thailand her new home. Like Andrade, she trains at Marrok Force, where she has plenty of elite-level martial artists to practice with.
While many people associate Thailand with Muay Thai training, it’s clear that the country offers great mixed martial arts training as well — evident by “Lycan Queen’s” 8-2 MMA record, which she continues to bolster since moving to the Southeast Asian country three years ago.
At ONE: A NEW BREED, the 25-year-old Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu blue belt put her previous #1 spot in the atomweight rankings on the table, defeating Watsapinya “Dream Girl” Kaewkhong by key lock halfway through the first round.
Since then, Zamboanga has faced strong opposition in #2-ranked Ham “Hamzzang” Seo Hee and recently fell in the rankings, but the Filipina is always one win away from a possible shot at ONE Women’s Atomweight World Champion “Unstoppable” Angela Lee.