For years the best Muay Thai fighters have come out of Thailand and understandably so considering that it’s the national sport and they train from a very young age. The Thai’s can boast insanely skilled fighters such as Dieselnoi, Samart Payakaroon, Baukauw and the living legend Saenchai – but western muay thai can boast its own legends, fighters that rack up highlight reel knockouts and are full of heart, with Muay thai recently having a huge knock on effect to K-1 kickboxing styles as well. While these western fighters may not fight as often as their Thai counterparts, but they’re unafraid to consistently take on top level fighters, and often manage to upset the odds and take home the win.
So we’ve put together our own list of top level Muay Thai fighters and kickboxers from outside of Thailand. If you love striking, and if you haven’t seen them already, you definitely need to check these guys out – we’ve even included highlights for you. This is the first part of the series, so keep an eye out for the follow ups coming soon!
John Wayne Parr
John Wayne is probably the best known name in Muay Thai. The Australian has been an active fighter since 1992 (minus a short retirement between 2012 and 2014), and completely immersed himself in Muay Thai – in 1996 at just 20 years old he moved to Thailand for four years, training, fighting and learning Thai. He earned the nickname ‘The Gunslinger’ for his awesome Wai Kru, and in his 127 fight career he has racked up 95 wins, and collected 10 world championships along the way. He’s still an active fighter (at 40 years of age), and both his Caged Muay Thai promotion and social media antics mean he’s done brilliantly at promoting his sport and raising its profile.
(Video Credit John Wayne Parr, Youtube)
Kevin Ross fights out of CSA gym in California, and is testament that it’s never too late to reach your potential. Ross was 23 the first time he stepped into a gym, and credits Muay Thai with saving his life and stopping him from a destructive path of alcoholism. Ross, nicknamed ‘The Soul Assassin’, is always open about the ups and downs of his career, with highlight reels showing both wins and losses. With a 54 fight record (43 wins, 11 losses) including 2 wins and 3 losses against Thai opponents, Ross is often considered one to the foremost US fighters, and for good reason. His highlights are always impressive, particularly this one showing his fantastic sweeps and dumps.
(Video Credit Kevin Ross (Huggy Bear), Youtube)
Sylvie von Duuglas-Ittu
Okay so technically Sylvie fights inside Thailand, she’s been living there for over three years, but she was born in Boulder, Colorado, and is a hell of a fighter. You can read all about it on her blog, 8limbs.us, where she charts the ups and downs of fighting and training full time in the heart of Muay Thai. She also examines the more philosophical sides of Muay Thai, such as the relationships the sport forms, and does some awesome work promoting the real picture of females in fighting with her ‘War Face’ project – check that out here. For her supporters on Patreon she films 1-2-1 training sessions with Thai legends, and we highly recommend following her journey. The reason I was willing to break my outside Thailand rule for this article is because Sylvie is in fact the most active foreign fighter in Thailand, currently at 166 fights, with most of them filmed and available on YouTube. Check out the short documentary she’s made about her journey below.
(Video Credit Sylvie von Duuglas-Ittu, Youtube)
Chris is another American Muay Thai fighter, this time from the East Coast. He originally trained as a gymnast, and could have aimed for the olympics, but decided to pursue striking instead because of an interest in the UFC. Known for his aggressive style he’s got an impressive collection of 26 fights under his belt, including 19 wins. Even his losses are lion-hearted, check out his fight against Kevin Ross, below, which won fight of the week at Lion Fight 15. Despite a horror-film style cut he was still coming forwards, and it’s unsurprising he’s earned the nickname ‘The Terminator’.
(Video Credit AXS TV Fights, Youtube)
Moving to British Muay Thai now, no list would be complete without Damien Trainor. As a child in the 80’s he had a keen interest in martial arts films, eventually finding the K-Star Muay Thai gym in Birmingham. He racked up a number of victories as a junior, before competing at an adult level at just 16. Unfazed by fighting much older opponents Damien began filling his trophy cabinet, including several English, European and World Titles, as well as fighting and beating some top level Thai fighters. He’s seen as a legend of the UK Muay Thai scene, and when he returned to the ring in March 2016 it was to a very excited reception – and he didn’t disappoint. He currently holds two world and four european titles, and never fails to be exciting in the ring. His power is phenomenal – he broke his hand during a fight, and it became a reoccurring issue, always breaking on the exact same point, which is very unusual. On one visit to the hospital to get it fixed his doctor told him ‘You must punch very hard Mr Trainor’.
(Video Credit nathepps, Youtube)