Tiger Muay Thai: the Phuket powerhouse that became a global fitness destination
Since its opening back in 2005 Tiger Muay Thai in Phuket has grown into one of the most widely recognised fight training centres in the world.
Originally focusing on Muay Thai the gym has grown and expanded to cover mixed martial arts, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and offers classes in Krabi Krabong, May Boran and western boxing and has become a home from home for some of the world’s elite fighters.
Back when the gym first opened, most westerners idea of Muay Thai training focussed on Bangkok with the two main stadiums Lumpini and Rajadamnern and a wealth of top gyms producing champions. The arrival of Tiger Muay Thai and other gyms created an explosion of visitors coming to Thailand to train in Phuket.
Phuket has now developed a large Muay Thai and MMA scene. Tiger Muay Thai is at the forefront and has expanded into a world class training environment with five boxing rings, an MMA cage and over 9200 square metres of mat space to work on.
There is also substantial range of fitness equipment and weights as well as strength and conditioning and CrossFit classes onsite. Nowadays Tiger Muay Thai caters to all levels with classes structured depending on peoples ability, ranging from beginners to the advanced class where the focus is on fight fitness, tactics and preparing for competition.
Tiger Muay Thai now has up to 15 classes a day from Muay Thai to MMA and BJJ and several fitness and strength and conditioning classes. The camp also has connections with some of the biggest promotions in the world and it’s fighters feature on televised events in Thailand.
Tiger Muay Thai has produced several champions such as Iranian fighter Amir Naseri who has won the Asian Omnoi stadium title and Thai Fight 67kgs title and Mavlud Tupiev of Uzbekistan a Thai Fight 67kgs Kard Chuek (no gloves) tournament champion.
The Tiger Muay Thai training staff also looks like a who’s who of stars from the golden era with Namkabuan Nongkeepahuyuth, Rolex Gannorasing, Fasuchon Sit Or and many other top names having been on the coaching staff.
The yearly fighter tryouts have also been a conveyor belt of stars coming through since their inception, with a series of tests and competitions, each year a select band of fighters get the opportunity to win a sponsorship deal that includes a years training, accommodation and other perks.
Many of the winners have gone on to achieve big success such as current UFC top ten ranked flyweight Kai Kara-France, UFC featherweight champion Alex Volkanovski and Lethwei star Dave Leduc. Another winner from 2014, George Hickman, has since turn his knowledge to teaching and is the head of the Tiger MMA program.
He is regarded as one of the best MMA coaches in the world today. Hickman explained it’s not just about being a great fighter when people are considered for the tryouts,
“When we are selecting them, we look obviously look for people who have good skills, but also, people who can be coached and are willing to learn, have a hard work ethic and who will make a positive impact to the team.”
The name Tiger Muay Thai has become synonymous with success and sees many high level fighters from around the World come to sharpen their skills such as Petr Yan, Fabio Pinca and Valentina Shevchenko.
Hickman gave his thoughts on why they attract so many big names now.
“I think just over time people have come here because through the success of others and the reputation has grown and grown and that’s why we get so many top fighters working with us.”
The current success isn’t only down to one man alone though and George explained a little of his philosophy in bringing out the best of everyone that trains at Tiger,
“I’m lucky I have a great group of coaches around me, which makes a great team and we all work together. Everyone is different as a fighter, so you have to approach them differently. Our gym is different because we have so many different fighters from around the world and we are in a different country. So, we try to help and polish them and add to their game not so much change their style.”