Phoe “Bushido” Thaw has proven to be Myanmar’s most talented featherweight martial artist, and now he is ready to test himself against international competition.
“I am excited about my match against Sor Sey,” the 33-year-old states.
“I am undefeated against local athletes, and it is the first time I am facing a foreign athlete. People are counting on me, and want to see what my skills are capable of against a foreigner.”
Thus far, Phoe Thaw has shown to be a very capable martial artist.
A graduate of the University Of Dagon, the Yangon-born Phoe Thaw first decided to try his hand at lethwei in 2015. He was always fascinated with the style because it was the country’s traditional martial art discipline, but soon he came to appreciate the health and self-defense benefits.
“I like lethwei because it is Myanmar’s national martial art, and I love the method of training, and it is good to use in case you get into a real fight,” he explains.
“The training is really good, both mentally and physically. Lethwei can make you very healthy, and extremely strong in terms of physical condition.”
Phoe Thaw was motivated to put his skills into practice, to which he achieved immaculate results. He went on an unbeaten run in the lethwei ring, earning himself a record of 3-0-2.
Nonetheless, the Yangon resident was not entirely fulfilled. He craved something more, and discovered what he was looking for on his computer.
“I learned about ONE Championship for the first time on the internet,” admits the featherweight warrior, who watched a few clips online. “ONE Championship is a very entertaining and attractive event. It gives an opportunity for athletes to succeed both inside and outside of the cage.”
That convinced Phoe Thaw to be get involved in the all-encompassing cage.
On merely the strength of his lethwei background, “Bushido” made his professional cage debut at the organization’s inaugural Myanmar event, ONE: KINGDOM OF WARRIORS, in July 2015. He faced Kyal Sin Htoo, and earned a technical knockout victory.
Having tasted success, Phoe Thaw took this new career path seriously, as he began to develop his ground game, all while continuously seeking the advice of ONE Middleweight World Champion Aung La N Sang.
All of that has played a crucial role in his development, and that startling improvement showed in subsequent bouts. He went on to TKO Saw L Lay in March 2016, and followed up the victory with a pair of first-round TKOs later that October to become the ONE Myanmar Featherweight Tournament 2016 Champion.
In November 2017, however, Phoe Thaw had his most thrilling performance yet. He met Saw Ba Oo in a back-and-forth encounter, which highlighted both athletes’ world-class striking. In the end, it was “Bushido” who had slightly better endurance, a more fine-tuned stand-up game, and a stronger arsenal of submissions, which earned him the split decision victory.
While he takes pride in the victory, he is perhaps even prouder that he entertained all of his countrymen inside the Thuwunna Indoor Stadium with a show-stealing performance.
“That bout was really amazing. Our bout was the most exciting to the people who watched. We surprised the crowd, but Saw Ba Oo did not surprise me,” the Yangon native says.
“I knew the split decision meant I still need to train, and compete harder and better. I need to fix my cardio, and [improve my] physical strength.”
Following the victory three months ago, Phoe Thaw had little time to waste in implementing changes and improving his skills. He has certainly worked on his cardio and added more strength to his frame, but has also made a concerted effort to better his communication, confidence, and teamwork with fellow coaches and martial artists.
By the time 23 February rolls around, the very best version of Phoe Thaw will meet Sor Sey, a 35-year-old kun khmer specialist who trains out of the highly reputable Cambodian Top Team.
Although this is the first time “Bushido” will be squaring off against international competition, he is not stressed.
“I have no worries about Sor Sey. I do not know too much about him. He seems like he has good punching and kicking, but I have a stronger kick and knees than him,” the Yangon featherweight says.
If anything, Phoe Thaw is excited.
As a budding Myanmar sports hero, Phoe Thaw has seen the popularity of martial arts rise in both Yangon and throughout the rest of his home nation. More people are filling up the gyms, the events are getting sold-out even quicker, and people look up to their local warriors as role models.
“Within the past couple of years, many people have become highly interested in martial arts after ONE Championship made the leap into Myanmar,” he states.
“The interest in the athletes, and the various kinds of martial arts, have constantly gotten higher year by year. People believe that both me and Aung La N Sang are succeeding in creating an awareness in the country.”
Assuming Phoe Thaw is able to beat his Cambodian nemesis at ONE: QUEST FOR GOLD, that awareness will only continue to grow.