Former ONE Flyweight Muay Thai World Champion Sam-A Gaiyanghadao boldly set aside the prajiads and mongkon for a chance at kickboxing greatness this past Friday, 6 December.
Although this was only his first foray into the sport, the 36-year-old out-struck “Golden Boy” Wang Junguang at ONE: MARK OF GREATNESS inside the Axiata Arena in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to win the inaugural ONE Strawweight Kickboxing World Title.
In victory, he became the first two-sport ONE World Champion to hold belts in two separate weight classes.
After a cautious start, Sam-A showcased incredible boxing prowess and a more active striking style in his newly adopted martial arts discipline. He weathered his Chinese adversary’s initial flurry to find his rhythm and pick his rival apart.
“My opponent was really good. He was a scary opponent. He was young and hungry, and he wouldn’t give up. Even in the last minute of the fight, he was coming at me,” the Thai legend says.
“I went into the fight knowing my opponent was strong and [liked to move] forward. My plan was to move around a lot and stay on the outside. I didn’t want to be in close with him.
“My cornermen were telling me every round what was going on, and that I was winning. But I still wanted to really make sure of that, so I was doing extra every round. Going into the fifth, I felt I was ahead on the scorecards, but I still wanted to fight and win that round, too.
“My Muay Thai experience helped me get through this fight. I followed my game plan and listened to my corner.”
Sam-A entered this bout with something to prove – not only to the naysayers, but to himself as well.
The Evolve representative spent nearly three decades competing exclusively in Muay Thai, and he was motivated to carry his skills into a similar, yet different sport.
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It was not easy to compete under a new rule set against a young, hungry, and seasoned kickboxing specialist like “Golden Boy,” especially with a belt on the line. But the Singapore-based Thai prevailed in a way that only a true World Champion could.
Despite his success, Sam-A admits the transition was a lot more challenging than he expected.
“In Muay Thai, when you are tired, there are ways to get around it. You can play around a little and hold on a bit in the clinch. There are tricks to make the time go by, like sweeping your opponent. Once they are down, you can rest for a second,” he explains.
“In kickboxing, you have to stay busy the entire fight – it’s nonstop. I was tired, but I understood it was my first fight. It was a big undertaking to change my style, but I thought it was a worthwhile performance.
“It was just the first step. I’ve got a lot to learn and want to improve in kickboxing, but I proved to myself that I can do this.”
While the Evolve representative is comfortable competing in both disciplines, Sam-A knows that keeping his ONE Strawweight Kickboxing World Title will be another challenge altogether.
“I feel very sorry about losing my Muay Thai World Title. Now, I want to keep this belt for as long as I can,” he says.
“Even though I am older, I want to keep developing as a martial artist. Whether it is Muay Thai or kickboxing, I’ll be ready. But I would really like to first defend this title.”
The next step in Sam-A’s legendary career will surely be revealed in the weeks to come. However, one thing is clear – he is forever grateful to be given a chance to make history and bring his dreams to life.
“I really need to thank ONE Championship and Chatri Sityodtong (Chairman and CEO) for this amazing opportunity,” he states.
“All fighters have goals in their careers, and being able to achieve mine has really made me so happy.”