Muay Thai is Thailand’s national sport and has always enjoyed popularity in its home nation. It is estimated that there are around 65,000 professional fighters in the country and many more who train in this combat sport.
One of the reasons that Muay Thai has grown in popularity in recent years is because of MMA’s growth. Many fighters use Muay Thai as a great base for developing their skills and fans and beginners often look to Muay Thai to understand the basics.
Known as the art of eight limbs, Muay Thai fighters learn how to fight with their fists, feet, elbows, shins, and knees from an early age. Transitioning to MMA from Muay Thai is a lot easier than transitioning from a discipline like boxing that only focuses on striking with the fist.
Clinch work is also crucial to Muay Thai and allows fighters to practice fighting close to their opponent.
Just look at the success of Anderson Silva, a true MMA legend. A lot of this success can be put down to his having a black belt in Muay Thai. Other notable MMA fighters with a Muay Thai background include Jose Aldo, Valentina Shevchenko, and Edson Barboza whose Muay Thai journey started when he was just 16.
The sport is also recognised for its great conditioning, preparing fighters to attack, defend, and ensure they are fit enough to compete at the highest level.
However, Muay Thai is not just a stepping stone for MMA and it has enjoyed great success and popularity during 2023. The sport is ready to build on this in 2023 and could be set to become even more popular.
The International Federation of Muaythai Associations’ High Standards
The International Federation of Muaythai Associations has dedicated a lot of time and money in order to adhere to the high standards of the World Anti-Doping Agency. This includes investing almost 15 million Thai Bhat into education programmes and competition testing via the International Testing Agency.
This dedication shows the commitment of the IFMA to ensure competitions maintain strict levels of integrity at all competitive levels. By doing this, Muay Thai is more likely to be recognised by large international sporting institutions, helping to spread the popularity of the sport.
Paris 2024 Summer Olympic Games
Perhaps the biggest news for the sport of Muay Thai is the announcement from the International Olympic Committee that it is set to be included in future Olympic Games. While the Paris 2024 Olympic Games has had a rocky preparation, the IFMA will be keen to feature.
This will bring significant attention and publicity to the sport with fans being able to tune in and watch from all over the world. Fans will also have the opportunity to place bets on individual fights and outright competitions by visiting reputable betting sites. Narathip Sukanankul of B2C notes that although betting is not fully legal in Thailand, there are many offshore sportsbooks available to Thai bettors, and international fans of Muay Thai. This makes it easier for consumers to find the best odds by comparing operators based on the markets they offer, promotions, and security.
The TV viewing figures for the Olympics exceeded 3 billion in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Summer Games which eventually took place in 2021, so we can naturally expect a huge number of bets will be placed on its events, too. The Olympics is the ultimate showcase for sports and athletes, and Muay Thai fighters will be keen to show that they belong on the world’s biggest stage.
Following strong representation across global sporting events in 2023, and recognition from some of the world’s most respected sporting associations, Muay Thai finds itself in a great place heading into 2024.
Muay Thai made its first appearance at the 2023 European Games in Krakow following its inclusion by the European Olympic Committee.
80 athletes from 23 countries took part in 10 events during the games. The men’s event was split into 60 kg, -60 kg, -67 kg, -71 kg, -81 kg, and -91 kg weight classes and the women’s event was split into -51 kg, -54 kg, -57 kg, -60 kg, and -63.5 kg.
The competition began on Sunday, June 25th and finished on Tuesday the 27th. The event saw winners from Belgium, Ukraine, Turkey, Moldova, Sweden, and Estonia.
The Muay Thai medal table placed Ukraine at the top with Igor Liubchenko, Oleksandr Yefimenko, and Oleh Pryimachov winning gold. Yehor Skurikhin was the sole Ukrainian silver medalist, while Vladyslav Mykytas and Anastasiia Mykhailenko picked up bronze medals.
Turkey matched Ukraine’s 6 medal tally, but they could only muster 2 gold medals through Gülistan Turan and Bediha Tacyıldız. Their 2 silver medals and 2 bronze medals were won by Sercan Koç, Kübra Kocakuş, Enis Yunusoğlu, and Ezgi Keleş respectively.
2023 World Combat Games
The Riyadh World Combat Games 2023 took place from October 20th to October 30th and featured some of the most popular combat sports in the world including boxing, kickboxing, fencing, judo, and Muay Thai.
Of the 14 gold medals available for Muay Thai at the games, 11 different nationalities won, proving the global popularity of the sport.
The Australian Muay Thai women’s team clinched two golds and the men’s titles were won by competitors from the United Arab Emirates, Iran, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq.
Youth World Championships, Senior World Championships, and African Recognition
The Antalya Youth World Championships of 2023 welcomed the future of Muay Thai fighters. The youth divisions that took part were from age 10 to 17. Ages from 8 to 17 also took part in cultural disciplines including Wai Kru, the paying of respect to teachers by fighters.
More than 100 countries took part in the event and with more than 1500 participants, this was the largest IFMA Youth World Championships in history.
The event began with the largest ever Muay Thai youth grading with more than 1200 youths taking part in the Khan 1 celebration.
Approximately 150 bouts took place every day and the opening ceremony saw VIPs including delegates from the National Olympic Committee attend.
The action kicked off with the youngest age divisions and the event had an international flavour with participants from every corner of the globe attending. The size of the event goes to show how bright the future of Muay Thai is.
Muay Thai achieved official recognition by the UCSA (Union of Africa Sports Confederations) for the first time in 2023 while Thailand hosted the IFMA Senior World Championships to mark the 30th anniversary of IFMA.
Muay Thai in 2024
The Olympics should give the sport a huge boost in 2024, and there are several other great events being held around the world including the WBC Muaythai Festival in February, the Muay Thai Grand Prix in 2024, the 2024 Nordic Championships in January, and the African Muaythai Championships in February.