Guest post by Evolve MMA, Asia’s premier championship brand for martial arts. It has the most number of World Champions on the planet. Named as the #1 ranked martial arts organization in Asia by CNN, Yahoo! Sports, FOX Sports, Evolve MMA is the top rated Muay Thai gym in Singapore.
Muay Thai has a fierce beauty evident in every strike, split-second block, and sweep. This is one of many reasons the discipline commands a loyal and enthusiastic following. Spectators also love the variety of techniques that come alive in your average Muay Thai fight.
Competitive Muay Thai fighters weave together technique and talent to showcase the grace, simplicity, and raw power of their craft. It would be interesting to see how the top fighters of the modern era add to the breadth and depth of Muay Thai. Today, we’ll take a look at the best professional fighters of this era.
Making The List
Skill and talent go a long way in making a professional martial artist. Hard work and consistency are equally important when pursuing a combat sport at a competitive level. There’s even an argument to be made that putting in the work trumps talent on many counts.
These qualities are common to the Muay Thai fighters that we talk about in the upcoming sections. Together, natural talent and a strong work ethic combine to give us Muay Thai warriors that continue to elevate the sport. Here are 20 of the best Muay Thai fighters of the modern era you must know.
Nong-O is a seven-time Muay Thai champion who also happens to be an instructor at Evolve MMA in Singapore. After winning the titles, he went on a three-year hiatus to take up life as a Muay Kru, or instructor. He resumed his competitive career in 2018 and went on to win the ONE Muay Thai Bantamweight Championship.
A career that includes teaching and competing has given Nong-O a unique mastery of his craft. Nong-O fights with a calculated and technical style, punctuated with explosive yet surgical attacks. Many of his matches are masterpieces that belong in the annals of Muay Thai.
Panpayak is a martial artist and Muay Thai instructor from Thailand who is now an instructor at Evolve MMA in Singapore. He holds four Lumpinee stadium championship titles and two Rajadamnern titles. These achievements saw him win the Thai Fighter of The Year award three times in a row.
Panpayak often goes up against elite fighters like Superlek, and he wins way more matches than he loses. His current record stands at 247 wins against 41 losses. He uses an orthodox boxing stance and a tactical approach to fend off and counter his opponents.
3) Superlek Kiatmoo9
Superlek holds two Muay Thai world championship titles, and his kicking techniques play a large part in his success.
The fighter’s pedigree explains the start of his Muay Thai career. As the nephew of the famous Muay Thai World Champion Singdam, Superlek spent his childhood with his uncle at the Kiatmoo9 gym. So Superlek did what any kid would do at a Muay Thai gym: he trained.
Superlek started his training at the age of eight, which means that he spent years honing his technique. The result is kicks that are swift, precise, devastating, and absolutely fun to watch. A Superlek bout always comes through with a flurry of calculated strikes.
4) Rodtang Jitmuangnon
Many elite Muay Thai fighters start martial arts training at a young age, and this includes Rodtang. The fighter started his Muay Thai training as a timid seven-year-old. He would soon attain the skill level to start making money off his craft.
At 14, Rodtang moved from his home in north-east Thailand to Bangkok. There he joined the Jitmuangnon gym as a full-time member of the competitive team.
Rodtang stands out because of his endurance and aggressive approach. This elite fighter loves going after opponents with a hail of strikes that lower their defenses and leave them open. He can absorb and fend off an attack with the same skill that he dishes out the pain. Rodtang is a fan favorite, and his fights will keep you at the figurative edge of your seat.
5) Janet Todd
Todd is an American Muay Thai kickboxer and the current ONE Kickboxing World Champion in her weight division. She also holds the 2017 Pan-American championship title in her weight division. The straw-weight fighter has 38 wins against 11 losses, with eight of her wins being knockouts.
She is an orthodox (right-handed) boxer with a calculated fighting style that serves her well in the ring.
6) Sangmanee Sathian Muay Thai Gym
Sangmanee holds multiple titles from the fiercely competitive Thai stadium circuit. His martial arts career boasts seven championship wins across several weight classes.
Sangmanee started his Muay Thai career as a six-year-old, training and competing in the countryside of northeast Thailand. His father personally handled training and arranged matches until young Sangmanee turned seven. The young fighter soon took up training at the Sor Tienpo gym. At age 15, Sangmanee would join the 13 Coins gym in Bangkok. He would go on to win many bouts as a member of the 13 Coins team.
Sangmanee is a southpaw and a strategic fighter, assets that deliver victories against the best Muay Thai fighters in the game. He holds wins against champions like Superlek, which is no easy feat. Sangmanee now trains at the Sathian Muay Thai Gym.
7) Rungkit Wor.Sanprapai
A seven-year-old Rungkit comes across children sparring and decides to join in. He started training and transitioned to competitive Muay Thai at 12. The rest is history, as the Muay Thai historians say.
Rungkit is a technical Muay Thai fighter who uses a combination of strategy and force to impose his will. His Muay Femur style won him five championship titles between 2016 and 2018. As an elite fighter, Rungkit has had classics against warriors like Superlek and Sangmanee.
8) Kongklai AnnyMuayThai
There’s a genre of Muay Thai fights where the underdog gains the upper hand in the end. Kongklai is the type of fighter who bounces back when his opponent seems to be winning. His fights keep audiences at the edge of their seats, wondering whether he’ll recover from his opponent’s continuous assault. In the end, Kongklai gets his fans on their feet with short, brutal comebacks.
This entertaining fighting style won Kongklai the 2020 Fighter of The Year Award from the Sports Authority of Thailand. Kongklai has more than five Muay Thai championship titles under his belt, thanks to a knack for serving knockouts and his tactical approach.
9) Capitan Petchyindee Academy
It’s no surprise that many champions on this list happen to hail from the Thai countryside. Muay Thai is an aspect of Thailand’s culture that goes beyond championship titles and flashing lights. It is into this culture that Anueng Khatthamarasri is born. He would grow up to become Capitan, one of the best Muay Thai fighters in the sport.
Capitan has an aggressive, strategic fighting style. He has a talent for learning and adapting to his opponents’ tactics on the fly. Capitan is also versatile, and he will use whatever opening and whatever ‘weapon’ that gives him an advantage. He can knock out an opponent with a precision kick or do it with a devastating punch. This skill set secures Capitan a place among today’s elite Muay Thai fighters.
10) Marie Ruumet
Ruumet is an Estonian kickboxer and Muay Thai fighter whose ferocious strikes unfold with the grace of a ballet dancer. She can mount a swift attack with a combination of powerful elbows, knees, and kicks. Her speed, reach, and technique combine into a devastating blitz that keeps you glued to your screen.
She is a strategic fighter who enters the ring with a plan and sets about destroying her opponent’s defenses. Ruumet will then switch up her fighting style to keep her opponent guessing. She is also flexible enough to counter and convert most strikes from her opponent. So far, Ruumet seems to have a bright future ahead of her.
11) Anissa Meksen
Meksen is a former Flyweight World Professional Muay Thai champion. She also holds two Glory kickboxing championship titles in the bantamweight division.
As a professional Savate, kickboxing, and Muay Thai fighter, Meksen has a powerful fighting style. She is swift, graceful, and precise with her strikes, which makes her a formidable opponent for most.
12) Tawanchai P.K. Saenchai Muaythaigym
This is a technical, strategic fighter who anticipates and counters his opponent’s moves. Like most competitors who practice the Muay Femur style, Tawanchai leverages precision techniques and fight IQ to gain an advantage.
Tawanchai mounts a solid defense and will seize every possible opening to deliver devastating attacks. He changes his fighting style from one match to the next. After studying his opponents’ strengths and weaknesses, he crafts a unique game plan.
Tawanchai has taken his skills to the global stage as he looks for new adventures after winning multiple championship titles in his native Thailand.
13) Iman Barlow
Barlow practices Muay Thai and kickboxing, a combination that comes together to create an effective fighting style. The Barlows ran a Muay Thai gym in their backyard, and this is where young Iman got her first taste of the sport. She would hang out at the gym as a baby, learning how to kick and throw a punch as soon as she could walk on her own.
The British fighter would travel to Thailand to compete in Muay Thai tournaments as a child. She would soon gain years of experience and a pressing attack style that’s fun to watch. Barlow is a one-time Bantamweight World Professional Muay Thai champion. She has a talent for winning decisive victories, sometimes by knockout.
14) Jonathan Haggerty
Haggerty is a British Muay Thai fighter who makes the list because of his tactical and strategic approach. He introduces his unique take on Muay Thai, which only adds to the richness of the sport. Haggerty has relatively few fights to his name, and yet he won the 2019 ONE Flyweight Muay Thai Championship title against the more seasoned Sam-A.
Haggerty has an aggressive fighting style that involves a balanced mix of punches, elbows, and kicks. The Brit seems the type who learns and evolves with every match. His unique Muay Thai style makes him one of the more entertaining fighters to watch.
15) Kiewpayak Jitmuangnon
The Sports Authority of Thailand awarded Kiewpayak with the 2019 Fighter of the year title. Kiewpayak also holds the 2016 Lumpinee Stadium Flyweight Championship title. He has a technical, right-handed (orthodox) fighting style with fast strikes. This fighting style allows Kiewpayak to mount blitz attacks that take a lot of skill to fend off.
16) Sawsing Sor Sopit
Sawsing is a featherweight Muay Thai fighter who started her training at nine. She is the 2013 World Professional Muay Thai champion in her weight class.
This technical fighter from northern Thailand uses a balanced mix of punches and powerful kicks to devastating effect. Her technique has won her five championship titles across different Asian and European Muay Thai tournaments.
17) Superbon Singha Mawynn
He is one of the best kickboxers of the modern era, thanks to his ability to land accurate and devastating kicks. Superbon is a veteran with years of experience who started in the amateur Muay Thai circuit. He got a lucky break as he struggled to balance school, finances, and a fledgling martial arts career.
Just as he was about to quit Muay Thai, Superbon met Buakaw Banchamek, a kickboxing and Muay Thai legend. Buakaw asked Superbon to train and compete under the Banchamek name.
The training paid off, and Superbon developed a swift, aggressive striking style. This evolution in Superbon’s skill secured wins against champions like Sittichai SitsongPeenong.
18) Prajanchai P.K.Saenchaimuaythaigym
Prajanchai holds six Muay Thai championship titles, with four wins coming from the super-competitive stadium circuit. He is a technical fighter with an adaptive fighting style that features right-handed boxing.
His technical approach to Muay Thai gives him a versatility that allows him to succeed as a boxer.
19) Tapaokaew Singmawin
Tapaokaew is a Muay Khao (knee) fighter with an explosive fighting style that is exciting to watch. He often mounts aggressive attacks to keep his opponents on the defensive. Tapaokaew competes and wins in the stadium circuit, often in the lightweight division.
20) Ferrari Fairtex
This welterweight Muay Thai fighter has an impressive record, winning fights against champions like Sangmanee Sor Tiempo and Tapaokaew. He competes in the Thai stadium circuit, and he continues to hone his technical fighting style with each bout.
Ferrari is a right-handed Muay Femur with graceful, fluid execution that makes for a solid defense. He also mounts pressing attacks that can end in the odd knockout victory.
Elite Muay Thai Fighters Showcase The Art In The Discipline
Watching elite Muay Thai fighters is almost as fulfilling as getting in the ring yourself. Each fighter in this list contributes to the evolution and growth of the sport. Check out their bouts for inspiration or tips on how to level up your Muay Thai game.