For many combat sports athletes, the fight life is something they chose to pursue at some point in life. Granted, it can happen at different ages and stages of life, but it’s something they ultimately fell in love with for whatever reason. However, there are some fighters in the world that were born into it. That was the path that was pre-determined for English Muay Thai phenom Jonathan Haggerty.
Haggerty grew up in London, as the second child of four. His dad, Jon, had a background in MMA and Muay Thai, and he opened Team Underground MMA smack dab in the middle of the U.K.’s capital city. The younger Haggerty was born into a fight life.
“My dad has his own gym, so I was in the gym since the age of six,” Haggerty told Combat Press. “So, growing up, fighting was, you know, something that I wanted to do. It was something I loved. And, growing up with a fighting family also, I could only see one way and that was to fight.
“It was pretty tough, you know? I wanted to go out sometimes, but, you know, my dad always had me going training, day-in day-out. So, it was quite tough when I was starting the party days. It’s not a bad thing, because where I am now is where I wanted to be. So, it’s all paid off really. I’m thankful for my parents for always guiding me. It was pretty smooth growing up. You know, people knowing that I could fight, you didn’t really get them bullies. So, it was quite easy going. Quite easy.”
Haggerty is now 25 years old, and he made his pro Muay Thai debut eight years ago in England. His family kept him on the athletic path to keep him out of trouble. While it wasn’t the easiest way to grow up, the dividends keep paying off every time he enters the ring. He already holds a 19-4 record with 11 knockouts, has held multiple titles – including winning the ONE Championship flyweight title when he was only 22 years old – and three of his four losses came at the hands of Lumpinee and Rajadamnern Stadium veterans Rodtang Jitmuangnon and Superlek Kiatmoo9, who, like Haggerty, are two of the best Muay Thai artists in the world.
In addition to his base fight camp at Team Underground, Haggerty also trains Muay Thai at Knowlesy Academy and Keddles Gym. And, nobody can ever accuse the young fighter of not putting enough time in.
“I’m at Knowlesy and Keddles every day,” said Haggerty. “I train twice a day, sometimes even three times a day. Strength-and-conditioning-wise I don’t really do any weights. I just do natural body weight – speed, explosiveness, and I like to run a lot. You know, I think running builds up my strength as well. So, I run up hills – hill sprints. It’s pretty full-on. I think lifting weights ain’t for us.
“I’ve compared fights before, from when I have done weights and when I haven’t done them, and, the one where I did do the weights, I felt fatigued. A lot of fatigue was kicking in. You know, my legs were burned out. My arms were burned out, and, after that, I didn’t touch no weights and I felt superior. And I felt good.”
After his pro debut in England, over the last eight years, Haggerty has been able to fight in Thailand, Indonesia and Singapore, as well. So, unlike some Muay Thai fighters who have never been to the birthplace of the sport, Haggerty has been able to be there fighting in front of crowds that have the same enthusiasm as the soccer fans have in his hometown.
“It’s amazing,” said Haggerty. “You know, it’s just funny how Muay Thai can take you all around the world. It’s brilliant, really. And it’s something that I’ve loved to do. I like traveling also, so it’s a bonus really. And, it’s unreal to be doing what I love and traveling at the same time. It’s great.”
After picking up ISKA and WBC Muay Thai titles, Haggerty eventually landed in the patented ONE Circle for his pro debut in Jan. 2019. He picked up a win over Italy’s Joseph Lasiri, which set him up for a title shot against Sam-A Gaiyanghadao, who had won the strap a year prior. After five action-packed rounds, he walked out the newly crowned champ.
“That was like a dream, you know?” Haggerty reminisced. “It’s like I was in one big bubble. And when I came home to the U.K., it was like I never done it, you know what I mean? But I had the belt to show that obviously I did do it, and it was a dream come true. Some people tried to rip me off and didn’t think I could do it. But I believed deep down – my whole team and my family did also – that I would go in there, and I would be the flyweight world champion. And, so, I took the risk, and I prospered.”
Unfortunately for Haggerty, his reign as a ONE champ would prove to be short-lived. Only three months later, he lost the title to Rotang by decision. About four months after that, he would again come up short in the rematch, when Rodtang won by three knockdowns in the third round. 11 months later, in Dec. 2020, Haggerty was able to bounce back with a win over Taiki Naito in the ONE cage, and he picked up a win over Arthur Meyer in Nov. 2021 in Siam Warriors Superfights in Ireland. This set him up for a tough bout in ONE.
In Feb. 2022, Heggerty faced Mongkolpetch Petchyindee, and after a three-round clinic, he walked away with a very decisive unanimous decision. The Brit dominated the Thai fighter throughout the bout, picking him apart every step of the way. He did enough to impress the ONE staff, and he got his name in the hat for the upcoming ONE flyweight Muay Thai grand prix, which kicks off tomorrow night in Singapore.
Tomorrow night, at ONE 157, there will be four grand prix quarterfinal bouts and two alternate bouts. Many of the aforementioned fighters will be making an appearance, including Rodtang, Superlek, and Naito. Lasiri will also be on the card, but he is fighting for the strawweight title. For the first round of the tournament, Haggerty drew Walter Goncalves. It will only be Goncalves third fight under the ONE banner, after dropping his first two, but the 23-year-old’s kickboxing record is 71-6, so he has plenty of experience. Regardless of his opponent’s back ground, Haggerty is prepared to make a statement and move on to the next round.
“I know that he’s Brazilian,” Haggerty explained. “And, I also know that he’s five-foot-three[-inches tall], which it says on the ONE Championship app, so that’s quite small, if you ask me. He likes to change from Southpaw to orthodox. He’s quite tricky and doesn’t stay in one spot, so I have to chase the fight. I’m not sure if I’ll chase the fight, but I’ll have to catch him somewhere, one way or the other, and I will.
“I think where Mongkolpetch stayed in front of me, and didn’t sort of move about, I think it was easier to hit him. So, I could pull my fakes off, and he would fall for them. But, with Walter, he might be a bit evasive and moving off a bit more, so I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeves to stop him. Let’s just hope it all goes to plan.”
The tournament has a stacked field, so no fight looks easy in this one, but Haggerty is confident he’s the one to beat. Rodtang might still hold the strap, but the winner of the tournament, if it is anyone but him, will pick up the ONE silver belt and will still need to face Rodtang for the undisputed title. Haggerty doesn’t care who he meets along the way, as long as he walks out on top.
“I’m excited to fight anyone in the tournament,” said the Brit. “I don’t want to come up against Rodtang or Superlek yet. I would like to face them in the final. But whatever comes my way, I’m sure I’ll overcome it.
“I’m in it to win it. I’m in it to win and to take the belt. And, I would say take the number-one spot, but I already am the number-one spot., so let’s just get that belt now.”
Haggerty has tasted ONE glory once before, and he plans to taste it again. He has a long road ahead of him, so achieving the ONE title twice before he even gets close to 30 years of age would be a huge accomplishment. And, for anyone who has yet to seen him fight, tomorrow’s battle should be a huge treat.
“I’m an exciting fighter,” said Haggerty. “I bring it all the time, you know? I leave everything in the cage, and there’s no quit in me. I’m ready to go.”
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