Now that ONE Championship is promoting Muay Thai fights, it would make perfect sense for Sagetdao Petpayathai to step back from MMA. Why go to all the effort of learning wrestling and grappling when you can just compete using your world class striking skills?
However, the multiple-time Lumpinee and Rajadamnern champion has already compiled a 3-0 MMA record and hopes to improve on it this Friday. He’s set to face Ma Jia Wen at ONE: Spirit of a Warrior and says he remains firmly focussed on the sport of MMA.
“I would be interested in competing in a Muay Thai fight for ONE Championship, but at the moment MMA is my main focus,” he said.
Saketdao originally moved to Singapore to work as an instructor at Evolve MMA. The first time he witnessed a ONE championship show, he realized immediately that this was a sport he could excel in.
“When I first joined Evolve MMA, I was in Amir Khan’s corner for one of his fights. During the fight, I got to see MMA up close for the first time and realized that this is something I could do.”
His coaching commitments mean that time is at a premium. Saketdao is constantly in demand for private Muay Thai sessions at Evolve MMA, but it means he’s also able to work with all the BJJ black belts there.
“I needed to learn about grappling and ground fighting, so I began training here at Evolve MMA. I enjoy MMA because there are a lot of different sides to it, and it’s a fun experience for me learning the different aspects of the sport,” he said.
The routine for a top Muay Thai fighter in Thailand is extremely repetitive. When you fight every month, it’s a constant cycle of training and competing, so Saketdao appreciates the sort of variety that MMA provides.
There’s also a huge contrast between the live audiences at a Muay Thai event in Bangkok and ONE Championship. The former is likely to be packed with gamblers who have a financial stake invested in the outcome of the fight.
The live crowd at ONE Championship events is typically bigger and likely to support a fighter based on personality or nationality, rather than their own personal betting pattern. While this means the fighters probably won’t be getting a lucrative tip from anyone in the crowd, there is much more patriotic pride at stake and Saketdao feels this strongly.
“I am proud to have had the opportunity to compete at Lumpinee and Rajadamnern, but the main difference is that ONE Championship is broadcasted to a bigger audience from around the world. There is an added excitement and pride that comes with representing my country for the world to see. “
During his Muay Thai career, Saketdao fought Singdam four times, Saenchai six times, and Petboonchu at least seven times. He says that the greater diversity which ONE Championship offers, as well as the higher pay scale, makes it a very attractive proposition for fighters from Thailand.
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“I think one of the main reasons top Muay Thai fighters move to bigger stages such as ONE Championship is that they are able to earn a lot more when fighting there. Also a lot of the top Thai fighters have faced each other on many occasions. Fans are interested to see them go up against other opponents.”
In 2015, his Evolve MMA teammate Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke became the first Thai fighter to win a ONE Championship belt. This is the ultimate goal, but Saketdao says he is not in a hurry to achieve it.
“For 2018, I hope to fight as often as possible and to get a few more wins. Next year is when I am looking to push on further and start challenging for the ONE Championship title.”
With three wins in three fights for ONE Championship, he already looks like a serious contender in the featherweight division. A fourth successive victory would intensify the title talk and Saketdao looks set to stay the course in his MMA career.