One of Muay Thai’s most accomplished athletes, “The Million Dollar Baby” Sangmanee Sathian Muaythai Gym, will make his ONE Championship debut on Friday, 8 November.
The 22-year-old superstar is scheduled to meet fellow promotional newcomer, Morocco’s Azize “The Magician” Hlali, at ONE: MASTERS OF FATE, which emanates from the Mall Of Asia Arena in Manila, Philippines.
According to the world-renowned striker, this is a difficult first step towards claiming the richest prize in the sport.
Despite his youth, Sangmanee has already packed a lifetime’s worth of achievements into his spectacular 17-year career.
The Bangkok native is a seven-time Muay Thai World Champion who has reigned supreme at the legendary Lumpinee and Rajadamnern Stadiums, and now he looks to replicate that incredible success on the global stage.
However, just days ahead of his grand premiere, the Thai admits he feels both excited and nervous.
“I can feel the pressure. It is my debut, and I really need to win this fight. It is a big deal,” he says.
“I’m preparing for everything, getting fit, and making sure not to be careless. I feel that is the key for me — not to be careless.”
Bright lights aside, Sangmanee believes now is the perfect time to enter The Home Of Martial Arts and he desperately wants to make a good first impression.
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Hlali is just as eager to impress the global fanbase and the promotion’s matchmakers.
The 29-year-old is a two-time Muay Thai World Champion who has 19 knockouts to his name and also possesses ample experience against Thai opposition. In fact, he has even shared the ring with the legendary Buakaw Banchamek.
In anticipation of their three-round ONE Super Series Muay Thai bantamweight clash, the French-Moroccan crossed international waters to prepare at the highly regarded Venum Training Camp in Pattaya, Thailand.
Sangmanee knows his foe is preparing in his homeland, but that does not faze him at all. “The Million Dollar Baby” has witnessed nearly everything in his 17-year career, and he believes his vast competition experience and sharpened tools give him an overwhelming edge.
“I heard my opponent came to Thailand to train, but it doesn’t concern me. I just need to focus on myself,” he says.
“I think I am just more accomplished as a fighter. My skills are more advanced and developed, but he is going to be a lot bigger than me.”
Sangmanee’s smooth defense and intimidating offense has inspired many imitators, but few equals.
The Thai is particularly effective with his left-side strikes, including his roundhouse, his teep, and his punches. Also, he beautifully mixes up his attack and constantly keeps his rivals guessing.
He wants to bring some of those eye-catching techniques to the Mall Of Asia Arena and, as a Thailand representative, he feels it is his duty to adequately put his nation’s martial art on display.
“I am a fully equipped fighter. I can back up, or walk forward — my style is diverse. I like to counter, and I can do that going back or moving forward,” he explains.
“Whatever my opponent brings, I’ll be able to figure him out once we are in the ring. That is my selling point as a fighter. I want to show it all. I’m hoping to make this an exciting fight.”
Now with yet another superstar joining the ONE Super Series ranks, there will be even more competition for the ONE Bantamweight Muay Thai World Title.
Sangmanee would love nothing more than to claim ONE World Championship gold and up his Muay Thai World Title count to eight.
Before that happens, however, “The Million Dollar Baby” wants to prove himself to the masses. He gets that opportunity on Friday night in the Philippine capital.
“Everyone wants to be a champion, but becoming one is a matter of hard work and dedication,” he says. “I need to show ONE that I am worthy first.”