Nong-O Gaiyanghadao has been unstoppable since joining ONE Super Series in 2018, but there is a “Steel Locomotive” coming down the tracks that could knock him off course.
That man is Rodlek PK.Saenchai Muaythaigym, who will challenge the reigning ONE Bantamweight Muay Thai World Champion for the belt in a monumental clash of titans at ONE: COLLISION COURSE this Friday, 18 December.
Both fighters have faced a who’s who of Muay Thai stars in their illustrious careers, but they’ve never gone head-to-head. That’s one of the biggest reasons why Nong-O is looking forward to their matchup at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
“I am excited to see new faces. It is different from the past where I have seen the same opponents and got familiar with their styles. I want to fight with a new fighter who has a new style,” he says of Rodlek.
“I will improve myself by fighting with new opponents. I can learn new techniques from them to develop my own style.”
With Muay Thai World Titles from the prestigious Lumpinee and Rajadamnern Stadiums in Thailand, Nong-O is a legend in “the art of eight limbs,” and he was already an established name when Rodlek was coming through the ranks in their homeland.
However, the lack of new challengers led Nong-O to lose his passion for competition. He retired as a fighter in 2015 and moved to Singapore to coach at the famed Evolve MMA.
Meanwhile, Rodlek was on the rise. The man from Koh Samui won the Channel 7 Stadium Title in 2016, securing his place among the elite.
“I started my boxing career first. And then when he followed, I retired,” Nong-O says.
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Nong-O enjoyed coaching, but when ONE Super Series launched in April 2018, the offer to take part was impossible to turn down. He agreed to come out of retirement, which began an incredible six-bout winning streak.
The Evolve star defeated Han Zi Hao to win the inaugural ONE Bantamweight Muay Thai World Title in February 2019. He then defended his crown against Hiroaki “Kaibutsukun” Suzuki in May, retained the belt against Brice Delval that September, and finished #1-ranked contender Saemapetch Fairtex in November.
But since that stunning knockout of Saemapetch 13 months ago, Nong-O’s been forced to sit on the sidelines — partly because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but also to wait for a challenger to emerge via the ONE Bantamweight Muay Thai Tournament.
That challenger would be Rodlek, who’s had a very busy 2020.
“The Steel Locomotive” has already competed three times this year, including his convincing tournament final victory over “Left Meteorite” Kulabdam Sor. Jor. Piek Uthai in August, which earned him the next shot at the reigning king’s crown.
For his part, Nong-O can’t wait to put on a thrilling performance for the fans.
“I have really wanted to fight for a long time. It has been a year [since my last bout]. Because I have been away so long, I am so excited to face Rodlek,” the 34-year-old Thai legend says.
“In this fight, I think both of us can strike each other heavily with our powerful weapons. So, the climax will be about who can utilize their experience better to get the advantage — the one who is better at it will be the winner.”
For many, facing the marauding “Steel Locomotive” would be a daunting task, but Nong-O is unfazed. He’s stepped through the ropes more than 300 times and seen every kind of opponent.
When it comes to this matchup, the icon believes that Rodlek’s trademark aggression will actually work against him. He’s developed a game plan to combat the strategy and maintain his stranglehold on the bantamweight division.
“I have experienced this aggressive style for so long. Powerful kicks and punches. I already prepared for this,” the World Champion says.
“Rodlek’s style is an aggressive style. I am not afraid of that. Instead, I love it because he will be stepping forward to get kicked by me. I will use my tactics to defeat him.”