Sam-A Gaiyanghadao is considered one of the best Muay Thai practitioners in history.
He holds a staggering professional record of 364-46-9, was once named Lumpinee Fighter of the Year, and captured multiple Lumpinee Stadium world championships in the super flyweight and bantamweight divisions.
The 34-year-old living legend has become one of the sport’s most-decorated warriors, and will display his skills on the global stage this coming Friday, 26 January at ONE: GLOBAL SUPERHEROES. He will partake in ONE Championship’s first-ever Muay Thai bout opposite Joseph “The Hurricane” Lasiri (31-5) at the Mall Of Asia Arena in Manila, Philippines.
For Gaiyanghadao, the path to Manila, and Muay Thai, occurred in the unlikeliest of circumstances.
Gaiyanghadao was raised under impoverished conditions in rural Thailand by his parents, who were farmers. He was well on his way to follow them into a life of farming, but a chance encounter with Muay Thai changed his life when he was merely nine years of age.
“When I was 9, there was a festival in my hometown,” he recollects. “There was a Muay Thai ring being set up next to the temple, and my uncle was in charge of organizing the bouts.”
His uncle asked a large crowd who was interested in competing against one of the younger martial artists. A young Sam-A volunteered, despite having absolutely no experience in Muay Thai at the time.
“The crowd was silent. I looked around and thought, ‘Why not me?’” he continues.
“I told my uncle I wanted to compete. He looked at me and clucked his tongue and reminded me that I had never competed before, ever. He obviously was not taking me seriously. But I was dead serious. My uncle knew that I would not take no for answer, so he sent me home to ask for my parents’ permission.”
The response from his mother and father was as expected – they were not thrilled their boy was going to be competing, especially having no experience at all. But Gaiyanghadao was persistent and knew he wanted to give it a try, against his parents’ sound advice. It took some convincing, but his mom and dad finally gave in.
“I begged my parents, looking at them hopefully. They just looked at me and shook their heads,” the legend recalls. “I started rolling on the ground and crying. After a few good minutes of crying and shouting, my parents relented. They knew there was no other way out.”
So they let him compete, and surprisingly enough, he ended up winning the match, which sparked his love affair with the sport that would later change his life.
“After three rounds, nobody was more surprised than I was when the referee held up my hand – I had won the match,” he says.
“However, though my parents were happy about my win, they still were not sold on the idea of me becoming a Muay Thai competitor. I quickly signed on for my second match regardless, but unfortunately, I lost.”
Knowing their son was not going to give up his dreams of becoming a Muay Thai champion, Gaiyanghadao’s parents eventually relented on his wishes, and decided to give their full support. They even hired a trainer to help guide him in the proper practice of the “art of eight limbs.”
“Considering that we did not exactly come from a rich family, it meant a lot that my parents cared so much about my dreams,” he says. “Instead of real boxing bags, we used old rice sacks that we filled with sand. I would train every day after school – Muay Thai became my life.”
Now, 25 years and hundreds of epic battles later, Gaiyanghadao is a grizzled veteran of the ring.
He has been through triumph and defeat more times than he can count, and the reputation he has built as one of Muay Thai’s greatest practitioners is nothing short of legendary. The Thai has even landed a high-profile instructor position at the renowned Evolve MMA gym in Singapore, where he resides today.
This coming Friday, Gaiyanghadao will show off his world-class skills, only this time, he will shift to a different battlefield.
From Lumpinee Stadium to the ONE cage, he will compete at ONE: GLOBAL SUPERHEROES in the promotion’s first-ever Muay Thai bout. His opponent is WBC Muay Thai Super Bantamweight World Champion Lasiri, a 26-year-old kickboxer from Milan, Italy.
It will be the biggest match of Gaiyanghadao’s career, and the first time ever he showcases his skills to 1.7 potential viewers in 136 countries.
“I am very excited for this opportunity to showcase my Muay Thai skills in ONE Championship,” he says. “There will be so many people watching, and I am honored to be able to showcase the beauty of Muay Thai to the world. I am really looking forward to it. It is going to be a great show, and I cannot wait to get into the cage this Friday night.”
From growing up on a farm to becoming a Muay Thai legend, Gaiyanghadao has definitely come a long way. Between that fateful day nearly 25 years ago when he first climbed into the ring, up to this weekend when he debuts in the ONE cage, the Singapore-based Thai cherishes every single moment.
“Martial arts has changed my life for the better,” he says. “And I hope to be able to inspire everyone who will be watching me.”