Reigning ONE flyweight Muay Thai world champion Rodtang Jitmuangnon is training harder than he has in years for his highly anticipated clash with Superlek Kiatmoo9.
On September 22, the two Thai superstars will step inside the ring at the legendary Lumpinee Boxing Stadium for a fight that fans have been dreaming about for years. The pair were scheduled to scrap in March, but Rodtang withdrew from the contest, citing an injury sustained while training. However, ‘The Iron Man’ would go on to defend his title against Edgar Tabares at ONE Fight Night 10 on May 5, leading many to believe that ‘The Iron Man’ pulled out of the fight for fear of losing.
“Before the fight was made, everyone around the world said Rodtang was scared and the fights would never happen but I know these guys behind the scenes,” ONE CEO and founder Chatri Sityodtong said in an interview with the South China Morning Post. “I talk to these guys all the time. Rodtang is not scared of anybody. This guy is on a tear and a high in his career. He hasn’t been beaten in many years. When you have that confidence you’re unbreakable.”
Both men enter the bout undefeated in the art of eight limbs under the ONE banner, but they got there through very different means. While Superlek is known for his incredible discipline and work ethic, already fighting four times in 2023, ‘The Iron Man’ has a penchant for taking things relatively easy during training camp.
“Talk to experts around the world and in Thailand. People think Superlek is going to win, but I don’t know. The more I think … Rodtang has been training very hard. He was not training at all before, I think he trained two days for the Edgar Tabares fight, literally a two-day camp, and his wife outed him on that one. I had no idea he trained two days, but that’s the level of talent he has,” Sityodtong said.
Despite the lack of training, Rodtang has scored 12 straight Muay Thai victories in ONE Championship, beating some of the biggest names in the sport including current ONE world champions Joseph Lasiri and Jonathan Haggerty on two separate occasions.
Sityodtong believes Rodtang’s casual approach to training could ultimately cost him, but acknowledged that ‘The Iron Man’ is taking his fight with Superlek seriously and is training harder than he has in years for the long-awaited showdown.
“That’s the downfall of every great fighter. When you saw [Mike] Tyson in his heyday when he was coming up he was disciplined, training like a madman. But towards the end of his career when he lost to Buster Douglas, he started having problems at home and then he didn’t train. Eventually got knocked out, it happens to the best of them,” Sityodtong said.
“But Rodtang is very motivated, and he’s been training very hard every day. From my understanding from both camps, they are both in unbelievable shape.”
Rodtang is the Highest Paid Fighter in the History of Muay Thai
Today, Rodtang ranks as the highest-paid Muay Thai fighter in the history of the sport, earning 10 million baht, or roughly $285,000 per fight. That success has allowed ‘The Iron Man’ to buy a home for his parents, a dream car for himself, and amass a very respectable collection of shoes. But as we’ve seen with fighters like Irish megastar Conor McGregor, money changes everything. Rodtang is still competing and dominating at the highest level, but if he doesn’t focus on the task at hand, he could find himself on the losing end for the first time in years.
“It’s human nature,” Sityodtong added. “When you have nothing you are willing to train all day, all night. When you have everything, it really takes a special extraordinary athlete to say I want to train even harder and be the very best in history. I think that it’s widely known Rodtang doesn’t train very hard. Ever since he won the world title in ONE, he hasn’t been razor-sharp and trained every day.
“When you have a two-day training camp, that’s pretty insane to me, actually that was shocking to me. Whereas Superlek is known to be very disciplined. He trains day in, day out, whether he has a fight or not. To each his own at the end of the day. Rodtang is fighting for his family, Superlek too, and for the right to be the pound-for-pound best in the world.
“By now, both are so experienced, each has fought 300 fights. I think Rodtang is up to 400. These are killers who have been fighting all their lives. They know their bodies and how to peak, they also know how to relax and stay calm and level-headed. A lot of times in camp, when you’re training hard and being singular-minded, you can almost mentally mess with yourself before you even step in the ring, so I think [the water park visit] is Rodtang’s way of letting the steam off.”
Fight fans can catch Rodtang vs. Superlek as part of ONE Championship’s stacked ONE Friday Fights 34 event on September 22. The festivities are scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m. EST and will air live and for free on the promotion’s YouTube channel.