ONE: ‘Immortal Triumph’ sees the world’s largest martial arts organisation make its debut in Vietnam, with a stacked card of ‘Super Series’ matchups set for the Phu Tho indoor stadium in Ho Chi Minh on September 6th.

The co-main event sees Thai bantamweight Saemapetch Fairtex in action. He looks to continue his unbeaten run in the ONE Super Series against Azize Hlali, who accepted the fight at very late notice.

Saemapetch was originally due to face Lumpinee 147lbs champion Rafi Bohic but the French fighter had to pull out for medical reasons. Hlali brings a wealth of experience to the table, having competed against some of the biggest names in the sport including Buakaw Banchamek, Kongsak PKSaenchaigym and Charlie Peters.

Early start

Saemapetch like most Thai fighters got into the sport at a very young age, attracted by the rewards on offer and the ability to help his family, but also excited by the dynamics of the fight,

“I had my first fight at 11, I saw friends fight up in my home province of Chiang Mai and found it very exciting to watch, I loved the power of the fighters. I come from a very poor family to so it was a chance to make some money and help the family out. I drew my first fight and got paid 500 baht and I gave it all to my mother and father.”

Saemapetch continued fighting and soon attracted the attention of a bigger gym in Chiang Rai, moving to Sor Chawalit gym when he was 12 years old. He forged a strong reputation there, eventually winning the prestigious Poon Sua tournament at Channel 7.

During his national service Saemapetch won the Army Amateur Muay Thai Championships, before the opportunity to make his name overseas arrived unexpectedly,

“After I finished my National service Yodsaenklai’s trainer approached me and asked if I would be interested in going to Fairtex. I jumped at the chance, I had always followed and admired Yodsaenklai’s career and knew it would give me a chance to fight overseas and make some big money.”

International audience

Saemapetch made his overseas debut in China where he won by KO and he has now had several matches overseas in Australia, also scoring a KO win over Charlie Peters in London. The only real blemish on his overseas career so far came in Australia, when he dropped a decision verdict to another ONE Super Series fighter in Tyler Hardcastle,

“The fight with Tyler was a tough fight for me, I went into the fight with an injury to my elbow and every time he landed with a kick it was agony, it saw me run out of gas real quick.”

It should be an interesting contrast of styles in Ho Chi Minh, with Hlali known as a slick, technical fighter and Saemapetch known for his aggressive, hard-hitting style. The Thai was looking forward to facing Bohic, but is fully prepared for whoever is put in front of him.

“I have been working very hard for a few months now, I injured my hand in my last fight so had to have a longer break between fights, but it is healed 100% now and I am ready to go to war. I don’t care who I fight, whoever the promoters put in front of me, I will fight anyone.”

New rules

At 25 years of age Saemapetch still feels he has a long way to go in the sport, yet he feels he has found his home and has his focus firmly set on his target.

“I feel happy now fighting under ONE, they pay very well and the way they treat everyone and look after you is second to none. I don’t really want to fight anywhere else now and I am determined to work hard and get the chance to win a ONE title.”

Saemapetch is comfortable fighting under any rule set and hopes a win over Hlali will bolster his title aspirations,

“Muay Thai or Kickboxing it doesn’t matter, if I can win both events better. I don’t really like to clinch and knee too much when I fight, I prefer to fight on the outside so both rule sets are perfect for me.”