First came the MoU…

Rajadamnern Stadium, Thailand’s oldest and most established stadium, renewed their MoU with IFMA. An important step towards opportunity towards the IFMA athletes of the world as the RWS World Series is already dominated by IFMA World Champions from around the world such as: Daniel Rodriguez, Thananchai Sitsongpeenong, Capitan Petchyindee, Yodwicha Por Boonsit, Sajad Venum Muaythai, Reza Venum Muaythai, Sevgi Dogan, Zehra Dogan and many more.

The IFMA world Executive Board went to RWS to meet the leadership and a special token was given by IFMA to Khun Thainchai Pisitwuttinan, CEO and Co-founder at Global Sport Ventures (GSV).

The MoU was signed between IFMA President Dr. Sakchye Tapsuwan and Khun Thainchaii Pisitwuttinan in the presence of representatives of the Sport Authority of Thailand, National Sports Development Fund and over 100 IFMA member countries.

Dr. Sakchaye Tapsuwan stated that Rajadamnern Stadium is fully aligned with IFMA’s policy of safeguarding the athletes, antidoping, gender equality and universality.

Training WMC referees around the world – Consistency is key!

The IFMA Youth World Championships 2023 held the first WMC Referee and Judges Course in Antalya as part of the One Standard Muaythai and IFMA Education Program. This course celebrates and highlights IFMA and WMC working together closely since 1995 with the unification of IFMA and WMC taking place in 2019 as part of the muaythai IOC recognition process.

Athletes can participate under both IFMA round robin rules or new second chance rules used at the World Combat Games, or in the WMC single competition rules or four person eliminator, as well as the opportunity to participate in all IOC recognized events including the European Games, Indoor Asian Games, World Combat Games, World Games, etc as for IFMA, the word, “Amateur” does not exist as we are muaythai from the grassroots to the elite.

Firstly, IFMA President Dr. Sakchye Tapsuwan shared his extensive knowledge and experience with an overview of basic foundational knowledge of Referee and Judge duties regarding fair play on and off the field of play.

Stage two was led by esteemed Head Referee of the historic Lumpinee Stadium, Ajahn Thanong, who first debuted at Lumpinee Stadium as a referee in 1990 at the young age of 27 years old. With over 30 years of experience and having refereed over 10,000 bouts and judged over 20,000 competitions, Ajahn Thanong has many accolades to his name throughout his impressive career and commitment to the health and safety of the athletes. He has received the award for Best Referee of Lumpinee Stadium three times and also received the prestigious Boxing Council News Award on three occasions.

Ajahn Thanong stated that he felt honored to lead the first WMC R&J course and to build and enhance the development of the performance of all referees and judges. He further stated that it will take time to develop the international referees and judges but he is motivated and committed to share his knowledge to enhance the quality of the WMC referees and judges to help protect the health and safety of the athletes in the spirit of sport.

Career pathways are important for athlete safety

Youth development is key for IFMA to ensure the proper development of education and sport. It is also important that the youth are not given belts at an early stage, but rather, to have them climb up the athlete pathway and ladder, winning medals for their achievements and then arriving at the right age and level of maturity within their career to move away from the round robin events towards the single events without protective equipment.

We have seen this with many muaythai superstars over the last years like Jimmy Vienot who is a multiple IFMA World Champion who recently lost the WMC Title to Youssef Assouik, a 2x IFMA World Champion in both the junior and elite divisions.

We have seen female superstars like Valentina Shevchenko winning her IFMA World Title in 2003 where she made her advance from being the reigning IFMA Youth Champion to IFMA Senior World Champion and then exploded into the MMA scene to become not only a UFC superstar but known as one of the greatest female martial artists. The same goes for Joanna Jędrzejczyk, Artem Levin, Paul Slowenski and the list is endless. 

Listening to the athletes and their experiences shows career progression is key!

IFMA’s onus that safe athlete development is fundamental to the success of muaythai is critical; IFMA’s close relationship with PAT in Thailand ensures that our muaythai youth following the IFMA pathway have the opportunity and experience needed to compete successfully against the best of the best. This is evidenced by athletes like Ruach Gordan who has been taking Thailand by storm. This young promising nak muay has won all of his stadium fights in Thailand in Omnoi and Rajadamnern Stadium by TKO and KO, including last year’s 2022 Kings Cup.

“From a young age, fighting at IFMA was always really fun for me and an amazing experience. Competing in many competitions over the years and growing within the IFMA Family has given me so much experience and I have learned a lot from both my victories and defeats. I have some honourable achievements at IFMA even though I had never won a gold medal at the World Championships until 2023. Being an IFMA World Champion is one of my biggest dreams to come true and I had set that as a goal to aim for as I stepped into the Elite division this year.  Winning that meant the world to me especially since there has never been an Israeli IFMA Senior Male gold medalist,” said Ruach.

IFMA World Champion from Turkey, Zehra Dogan, and Somratsamee Manop Gym from Thailand were the first females in Rajadamnern Stadium history to compete for the RWS Women’s Flyweight title.

Zehra stated, “I am so happy and proud to be included in the first women’s tournament in Rajadamnern Stadium which has been arranged after many years. Being a foreigner is important in Rajadamnern these days and being a Turkish fighter and wearing my flag proudly is another honor for me. My aim is to prove that Turkish farangs can be successful and have the right to compete in Rajadamnern too. In my sport career, IFMA has been a very important step to increase my level. Thanks to IFMA, my experience in IFMA has brought value to my professional career and the platforms I compete on. I will never forget when I was fighting for IFMA how exciting it was especially when the championships were in the Motherland, Bangkok. No one forgets their excitement when they are involved in an IFMA tournament. It’s always a level going up in an athletes’ career when they are involved in IFMA international tournaments.

IFMA Youth World Champion from Iran, won the esteemed Rajadamnern Stadium Title Belt in the welterweight division earlier this year (2023). It had been Sajad’s dream and vision when he was younger to just be able to walk into the legendary Rajadamnern Stadium, let alone fight in it. Then not only did he walk into the stadium he won the Welterweight Champion of Rajadamnern Stadium. Sajad’s said, “it was his dream has come true.”

Janice Lyn, Chair of the IFMA Athletes’ Commission, stated, “These opportunities only can be given through IFMA and the national federations where the athletes can compete at elite level in round robin events representing their countries in top level muaythai events such as the IFMA World Championships and continental events but other multi-sport games recognized by the International Olympic Committee such as the World Games, World Combat Games, European Games, Asian Indoor Games and the list goes on. At the same time, these elite athletes have opportunities to fight in single competition events for the continental and world title belts. No other muaythai organisation and federation can offer this quality of grassroots development and opportunity for the youth of the world where there is a clear athletes development pathway.”

RWC & IFMA – 2023 in Short

In May, Khun Jit Cheosaskul, Managing Director of Rajadamnern Stadium and Khun Thainchai Pisitwuttinan, CEO and Co-founder at Global Sport Ventures (GSV) and RWS, welcomed the IFMA Executive Board and around 500 IFMA athletes and coaches to Rajadamnern stadium. Khun Supranee Guptasa, NSDF Manager, together with the Sport Authority of Thailand supporting the IFMA World Championships, welcomed the IFMA delegation.

Rajadamnern Stadium, which has reshaped Muaythai in Thailand like no other stadium with transparency, with every round announced, judged and shown to the audience, so as to prevent gambling.

The main fight of the night was multiple IFMA World Champion and winner of the World Games 2022 gold medal winner, Capitan, who booked his place in the next round of the world series with a stunning performance against Sakulchailek.

The prize money to be won for the winner of the tournament is 3,000,000 THB and many IFMA athletes have been already and currently competing in the RWS series as they are fully aligned with the IFMA’s philosophy of upholding and preserving traditions and Thai culture, as the athletes must perform the Wai Kru, wearing certified Queensberry boxing gloves, with transparency on all levels, with the Judges all certified through IFMA, SAT and PAT certified workshops.

Special mention to “The Ice Queen ” IFMA Champion from Turkey, Sevgi Dogan, who defeated another IFMA World Champion, Kamlaipetch by unanimous decision with the Turkish delegation cheering her on. What a debut and win for Turkey!

In July The RWS World Series, in cooperation with the Royal Thai government, NSDF and in partnership with SAT has another amazing fight night with many superstars trying to book their place in the next rounds.

The Female Bantamweight division saw amazing world class nak muay ying action. Ngaoprajan from Thailand squared off against Gabriele from Brazil and IFMA World champion and former RWS World Series winner, Somratsamee, took on Sarah from USMF, which just celebrated 190 years of Thailand and USA relationships in the capital city of Washington DC. This strong female card showcases once again the strength of female muaythai taking the center stage.

IFMA’s Royal World Cup champion, Lamnammoonlek from Thailand took on Renta from Japan, Samingdet from Thailand matched up against Diae from Morocco, Thongnoi from Thailand faced Adam Noi from Algeria and Thai superstar, Petchdam entered the ring against “Bulletproof” Buakhiao. What an incredible night!

August saw the next edition of the biggest muaythai tournament of the world televised in over 200 countries live on DAZN.

Champion Daniel Rodriguez from Switzerland faced off against the Neutral Athlete Artem Venum Muaythai, both were undefeated thus far. Superstar Thananchai, WMC, IFMA and World Games Champion, took on Kongjak Por. Padin.

The Welterweight Division saw IFMA World Champion Yodwicha in the battle of honour to qualify for the Final 4 against Shadow Singha Mawynn with the final match for last spot of the Welterweight Division tournament being between WMC World Champion Petchmorakot and Turkish Champion, Burak Poyraz.

The female super fight was another clash between two champions. IFMA, WMC and World Games Champion and the pride of Slovakia, Monika Chochkikova, who tok on and beat Kraked Por Muangpetch.

In the female Bantamweight Division, IFMA World Champion, Sevgi the “Ice Queen” from Turkey went toe to toe with Thai superstar, Ngaoprajan from Thailand. This grudge match was one of the most exciting matches of the night and it was Sevgi’s hands vs Ngaoprajan’s knifey knees. With a determination to fight for her family, Ngaoprajan not only successfully won all 3 rounds and gave Sevgi her first professional loss but also won a bonus of 100,000 baht for performance of the night and solidified her spot in the finals.

The second semi-final was a nail-biting match between RWS Champion Somratsamee against IFMA gold medalist Kamlaipetch. The precision of Kamlaipetch’s left kicks had the champ worried in the first round, but Somratsamee managed to turn things around in the second and third round using her length and pressure to secure her spot against Ngaoprajan in the finals for the RWS Bantamweight Belt and 3 million baht prize money.

In the male Lightweight Division, Buakhiao from Thailand put on his best performance in a revenge match against current RWS and WMC Champion Lamnammoonlek. Buakhiao poured his heart into the ring throwing everything but the kitchen sink at Lamnammoonlek, but the 2022 fighter of the year’s timing, reaction and precision had him one step ahead of Buakhiao every round with Lamnammoonlek securing his spot in the finals.

In the last semi-final match, Thai superstar, Petchdam, went head-to-head with Samingdet. Despite Petchdam being the heavy favorite, Samingdet stepped into the ring with sheer will and determination to make it into the finals. In the biggest upset of the night, Samingdet shocked the world by outclassing the favorite, Petchdam in a unanimous decision and booking his spot in the finals with current RWS Lightweight champion, Lamnammoonlek for the title and 3 million baht prize money.

Also in August, Japan Muaythai from Strong to Stronger with Japanese fighters Nadaka and Kaito. The All Japanese Muaythai Federation, the IFMA Member in Japan, once again, displayed why Japan is one of the leading IFMA members.

Kaito went up against Thai superstar Petchsongpon from Thailand and after performing a beautiful Wai Kru and unleashing a kamehameha to the delight of the fans ending in a win via second round knockout for Japan against the home country.

Nadaka, Rajadamnern champion, who has had a 24-fight winning streak, took on Rungwittaya for the Rajadamnern Flyweight title. In this title defense Nadaka displayed his power by stopping Rungwittaya in the fourth round with devastating low kicks to retain his Rajadamnern Flyweight title. proving why he is considered to be the best flyweight muaythai nak muay in the world and also receiving a 100k baht bonus for Performance of the Night!

Takeshi Tsijimoto, former President of the All Japan Muaythai Federation stated, “Japan rightfully can be proud of winning in the Motherland of the sport and the close cooperation between Thailand and IFMA has always been key.”

Incoming President Natsuo Nakagawa stated, “There are many plans lying ahead for the cooperation and especially youth development to work to build the next generation of nak muay. But today, we are proud of the performance of our two warriors.”

In September, The Rajadamnern Stadium will be filled to the bursting point for the semi-finals for the 2023 RWS World Series which is co-sanctioned by IFMA, the world governing body for muaythai. Four athletes will make an important step towards the 100,000 USD prize money and all participants of this semi-final are muaythai superstars and IFMA and/or WMC champions. The event will also see multiple WMC and IFMA world champion, Buakaw taking on the pride of Japan, Kido.

Further, the undercard fights will see the exciting Japanese superstars taking on the world. The fight card will all come down to the highly anticipated RWS semi-final, final 4 in the Super Welterweight division.

Petchmorakot, who is a former WMC world champion will square off against the IFMA and World Games champion of 2022.

The 2022 RWS Champion and IFMA champion from Switzerland, Daniel Rodriguez, plans to deliver the performance of his life against IFMA multiple gold medalist Yodwicha after winning Yodwicha 2 times before in this trilogy and maintaining his undefeated record. It will be the rematch of the 2022 RWS final where Daniel won to take the big pay cheque, but this time Yodwicha is out there to turn the tables.

Rajadamnern Stadium has become the prime stadium of muaythai in Bangkok and works in strict cooperation with IFMA regarding safety, fair play and anti-doping and this is why the best of the best will compete.

Buakaw alone, would fill the stadium to the last seat but having the 4 superstars of muaythai going head-to-head for a big payday showcases once again, the importance of the work through the national federations the promoters, the stadium and the world governing body to ensure that the athletes will have the chance to fight at the highest possible Olympic recognized events and the top stadiums.

This is why all the world class fighters are part of ONE proud IOC recognized world muaythai family.

In October, the two times IFMA World Champion and two times World Games Champion, the one and only, “Capitan” of muaythai, Aneung Khatthamarasri, was the crowd favorite of the Super Lightweight Division and won unanimously, the final of the Rajadamnern World Series on September 30th under the support of IFMA with prize money earnings of 3-million-baht.

The Capitan said that the RWS fight series brings the best athletes from around the world together and showcases how one can be a superstar of muaythai but at the same time be given the opportunity to represent the Kingdom of Thailand in Olympic recognized multisport games.

Capitan stated that as a Thai athlete, he is proud to wear the Olympic Committee of Thailand colors and national track suit and after winning the IFMA World Championships and the gold medal (for the second time) at the IOC recognized World Games last year in Birmingham, now he is even more proud and motivated to be part of the event of all events, the World Combat Games and to be together with the elite athletes from the Olympic and non-Olympic sports where muaythai, no doubt, will be one of the most outstanding.

Capitan further described the proud feeling of being invited to the National Olympic Committee of Thailand and in the past, having the incredible honor of being a part of the Thai Team being sent off by His Majesty the King which can only be given to IFMA as the IOC recognized muaythai organization.

The Capitan continued that even though he is the best in Thailand in his weight division and technically the best in the world in his weight division after winning the IFMA World Championships and the 2022 and 2017 World Games, the Combat Games, he stated that he was looking forward to the new Super 4 format because it will be a challenge for everyone as anything was possible meaning not only would it be physically demanding it would also be like a game of chess.

Thananchai, former IFMA World Champion and current 2022 World Games Champion was the underdog in the finals of the RWS Super Welterweight Division against Thai superstar and former IFMA World Champion, Yodwicha. Thanachai went from underdog to the king of the division, shocking the world and upsetting Yodwicha as the favorite by a close unanimous decision to become the new RWS Super Welterweight champion, winning 3-million-baht in prize money.

Thananchai stated that the National Team of Thailand for the upcoming 2023 World Combat Games is probably the strongest of all former editions to be sent. He stated that in the past, athletes like Yodsanklai and Sawsing all qualified to be on the Thai team but this year there are not only one but two RWS Champions representing the Thai team defeating big names like Yodwicha and Nuenglanlek (and many others in the tournament) to qualify for the World Combat Games and he couldn’t be more proud.

Thananchai continued that everyone in Thailand understands that the World Combat Games is like the “Olympics of Martial Arts” for many because many athletes qualified through the IFMA World Championships, The World Games, European Games, etc, meaning, every division will be filled with the crème de la crème of muaythai.

In November, we saw a packed house at RWS with IFMA and Omnoi Champion, Ruach Gordan taking on Leo Rosouro, Petchkantat taking on Arkam Haddad, Reza taking on Beckham, Thai sensation Nongpor taking on Anne Linh Nguyen and for the main event, for the first time ever, two foreign fighters competed for the Rajadamnern Stadium Welterweight Title: Turkish superstar, Erdem Dincer from Turkey against Italian sensation, Ruben La Pira. International fighters who have held the Rajadamnern Stadium Welterweight title in the past have been muaythai icons such as Sajad Sattari (2023), Fabio Pinca (2017) Jos Mendonca (2013) and Kozo Takeda (2001).

This was also be one of the first qualification series for the Kings Cup and it shows once again, the importance within the muaythai sporting pyramid where athletes can compete at the highest Olympic level within Olympic recognized multi-sport events and then return to the elite professional events at the most prestigious stadiums, like Rajadamnern Stadium, to compete against the best of the best.

The year ended strongly with 

In December, at the prestigious Rajadamnern Stadium in Bangkok two WMC titles were contested as part of the Road to Rajadamnern promotion. The cooperation between Rajadamnern Stadium, IFMA, and the WMC dates back over two years with the unification objectives being to promote champions and place emphasis on education, anti-doping, transparency and the list goes on.

The first WMC title fight was a contest for the WMC Intercontinental title between multiple-time IFMA Champion and WMC world champion Monika Chochikova from Slovakia who out-pointed Thailand’s best, Ngaoprajan Looksaikongdin in the Bantamweight Division.

The second WMC title fight was an Asian title bout featuring Japan’s Asahi P.K.Saenchai Muay Thai Gym and Superman Banchamek in the featherweight division.

RWS World Series Super Welterweight Semi Finals

The Rajadamnern Stadium will be filled to the bursting point for the semi-finals for the 2023 RWS World Series which is co-sanctioned by IFMA, the world governing body for muaythai.

Four athletes will make an important step towards the 100,000 USD prize money and all participants of this semi-final are muaythai superstars and IFMA and/or WMC champions.

The event saw multiple WMC and IFMA world champion, Buakaw taking on the pride of Japan, Kido. Petchmorakot, also a former WMC world champion, squared off against the IFMA and World Games champion of 2022 in Birmingham, USA.

The 2022 RWS Champion and IFMA champion from Switzerland, Daniel Rodriguez, faced off against IFMA multiple gold medalist Yodwicha after beating Yodwicha twice before in this trilogy. 

Buakaw alone was enough to fill the stadium to the last seat but having the 4 superstars of muaythai going head-to-head for a big payday showcased, once again, the importance of the work the national federations, the promoters, the stadium, and the world governing body have put in to ensure that the athletes have the chance to fight at the highest possible Olympic recognised events and the top stadiums.