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Revealing the Controversy: One Championship and the Battle for Muay Thai's Soul in Thailand


In Bangkok, there has been a recent surge of controversy surrounding the "One Championship" Fight series. The organization has secured regular fight nights at Lumpinee Stadium, the spiritual home of Muay Thai, but whilst some have celebrated its success, a group of traditionalists remains wary, concerned that the slight modifications to the rules format are disrupting the essence and authenticity of the traditional Muay Thai art form.

A post was made on social media by an influential Muay Thai journalist and Lawyer that outlines the concerns some people in Thailand have about this issue:

“Everybody wants money”. It’s about Muay Thai vs Boxing One Championship. First of all, this is my personal opinion. Please comment reasonably. Don’t use emotion in commenting. First question. “Is Boxing One Muay Thai ??? Need to separate properly first ???? Thai boxing has rules and regulations by Thai law. Boxing 2542 by the rules that I watch. Boxing one is not in the rules of Muay Thai according to the rules of boxing. Both the number of lifts and the punching style and the power of the fight. Creating a favor of sadism by using money to lure. Which one is the right way because everyone wants money. He forgot the word Muay Thai art. So I think one is Muay Thai. Don't get lost in the point and use Muay Thai as food. In the name of one. What I've always been thinking about. Why Lumpini, which is a national treasure. Let One in. Come because the whole world knows that Lumpini boxing is the number 1 in the word Thai boxing. Everyone from abroad wants to come to Lumpini boxing!!!! But Lumpini is willing to let one use the name Muay Thai in marketing. All the time, let one organize Muay Thai in the form of one. Even though Lumpini is the standard of Muay Thai???? And spend a lot of money to hire Thai boxer to fight boxing one in Muay Thai style but not using rules as prescribed by Muay Thai !!!! Who will you choose to go to Muay Thai or Boxing One? It’s up to each individual’s personal right!!! Because "everyone wants money, but don't give money to buy Thai boxing for one". Muay Thai is a national treasure. Let's uphold the word Muay Thai art. Take science and art. Don't use barbarism and disc for all marketing to cover up the word Muay Thai Art.

(Translated by google so bear in mind it might not be a perfect translation but the gist is clear)

Mr. Takrowlek Dejrat

Lets bullet point the comments made here:

  • Money - One is paying huge bonuses for KO's or exciting and brutal fighting and generally purses on The One are a lot higher than in Thai Stadiums.

  • Rules - There are some slight deviations from Board of Boxing Sport(Thailand's governing body for Pro Muay Thai) Muay Thai rules. The most notable being the much smaller gloves.

  • Lumpinee Stadium - Is famous in it's own right and should compete with One not form an alliance.

  • Muay Thai as an artform is being compromised.

  • Barbarism - The rules of One Championship encourage Knock Outs and brutal fighting.

I think it is fair to accept that there are two sides to this story and we shouldn't lurch into the now, all but common, diversive aggression. We should accept the opinions of senior influential Thais and give these issues some consideration.

So let's look at the positives that The One Championship brings.

One Championship is not afraid to invest in its fighters, paying them on average ten times more than other organizations. In some instances, fighters with extensive careers have had life-changing paydays from just a single appearance on One. Money talks, and One is backing up its commitment to the fighters with substantial financial compensation.

One Championship has earned high praise from almost every fighter who has competed in it, as the promotion is renowned for its excellent treatment of fighters. From being treated like superstars to having all their needs catered to without exception, One Championship shows great consideration to its fighters. The promotion's commitment to treating fighters with respect and dignity has earned it a reputation as one of the best fight promotions in the world.

The One Championship Muay Thai fights are nothing short of exhilarating, with small gloves that often result in explosive, momentum-changing punches. It's not uncommon to see more cuts and stoppages in One Championship Muay Thai, making it an appealing spectacle for global audiences. The fast-paced and action-packed fights are a testament to the skill and dedication of the fighters, providing viewers with a thrilling and unforgettable experience.

For a long time, global audiences have been turned off by the complicated scoring system and unappealing clinch work of traditional Muay Thai. However, fights emerging from Lumpinee Stadium in alliance with One are now offering non-Thais an easy-to-understand alternative. With a more straightforward scoring system and a focus on exciting, striking-based action, these fights are gaining popularity and drawing in new fans from around the world. This represents another opportunity to globalise Muay Thai after the last opportunity, during the rise of MMA, was missed.

So What do you think?

As someone who has spent 30 years living, training, and fighting in Thailand, I am personally in favor of One Championship and the evolution of Muay Thai. Despite its insistence on sticking to tradition, the sport has become heavily reliant on foreign fighters and audiences, without fully appreciating them. While Muay Thai remains a beloved sport in Thailand, foreign audiences are not captivated by it as much as they could be. The potential to build a massive global audience and replace the dwindling Thai audience is not lost, and One Championship is leading the way in making that a reality.

During my time training at a gym in Northern Thailand, I witnessed the rise of MMA and its quick surge in popularity. It presented a golden opportunity for Muay Thai to thrive and become the world's most popular stand-up striking sport. However, instead of embracing the opportunity, Thailand looked inward and even banned MMA for a while. As a result, Muay Thai saw a decline, and ironically, it was foreign students (many of whom had an interest in MMA) who managed to keep many gyms in business. The failure to adapt and capitalize on the changing times ultimately hurt the growth and global appeal of Muay Thai.

While I strongly believe in preserving the art form and traditions of Muay Thai, it is important to recognize that the very essence of the sport requires it to evolve or risk becoming obsolete. Just over a century ago, the Thai king revolutionized Muay Thai by introducing a ring, gloves, weight categories, and rounds. Perhaps it is time again for some less stringent adaptations with the goal of making the sport appealing to a global audience and hailed around the world as the greatest and most thrilling fighting sport. It's all about finding a balance between preserving tradition and adapting to modern times to ensure the sport's continued growth and success.

Let's revisit those bullet points:

  • Money - Bonuses for spectacular KO's have always been awarded at Lumpinee Stadium, it does not seem logical to object because the bonuses are larger.

  • Rules - Thai Fight has had "Kad Chuak" rules fights with no gloves and the Muay Thai institution applauded this format as traditional. Thai Fight, Max Muay Thai etc has shorter rounds and less emphasis on clinch for a long time. There were few objections as Thai fighters were usually over matched and beat foreigners easily. If One is breaking traditions then so are the other "Export" promotions.

  • Lumpinee Stadium - Has the opportunity to be known all over the world and uttered in the same breath as "Madison square Garden" rather than to be just a household name in Thailand.

  • Muay Thai as an artform is being compromised. The adjustments to the traditional format are small in comparison to the changes made 100 years ago which time has shown have helped not hindered the sport.

  • Barbarism - It is true that there is more blood flying around on One Championships but the institution already approves of KO bonuses and Kad Chuak fights. This could be an issue to be addressed in general and we should not single out One for this.

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