ONE bantamweight Muay Thai world champion Nong-O Gaiyanghadao has been peerless on the global stage since making his debut in 2018. The unbeaten Thai superstar has held the divisional strap for three years and defended it a jaw-dropping five times.
Next up for Nong-O will be England’s Liam “Hitnman” Harrison, who has made it clear that he is the man to dethrone the longtime king.
Harrison earned his shot at ONE Championship gold with a stunning comeback against Muangthai PK.Saenchai this past April. After being knocked down twice in the opening minutes, Harrison came storming back to score three knockdowns of his own and snatch the win before the end of the first round. His electric performance solidified the Brit as one of the baddest men in combat sports.
Although a date for their world title tussle has yet to be announced, Nong-O is already excited to face the Leeds native, as he is his favorite Muay Thai athlete.
“It might seem ridiculous to say that my favorite Muay Thai fighter and kickboxer is Liam Harrison, my next challenger,” Nong-O told ONE. “I’ve been following him for quite a long time. I love his style. His fights are always exciting and fun to watch. Also, he is a good guy in the Circle. He doesn’t take advantage of his opponents.
“I first met him at the [ONE Elite Retreat] in Phuket. He walked up to greet me. At that time, I still didn’t know him, so I introduced myself. I said, ‘My name is Nong-O.’ And he said, ‘Oh, I know you well.’ I was quite surprised that he recognized me. Since then, we have started to talk whenever we meet at ONE [events]. I respect him so much.”
Nong-O credits Hitman’s vast fight experience as part of the reason he was able to come back against Muangthai, and the Thai legend feels that one area is where the two athletes are equals.
“Liam could come back, [after being knocked down twice by Muangthai], because he has more experience,” Nong-O said. “He could read the game better than Muangthai. He knew that Muangthai had two knockdowns already, and he would rush to seal the deal. But Liam is a veteran. When he was [being] counted, he would not rush to get up. He waited to recover and get back up strong.
“I think Liam’s skill set is very good. He is a strategist. He is a veteran fighter. Compared to me, our skills and experience are equivalent. [The result will] depend on our physical condition on the fight day and how well you prepare yourself, as well as our game plan in the Circle.”
Although he is complimentary of Harrison’s aggressive style, Nong-O is not prepared to call him his toughest challenge to date. He believes that belongs to his fellow Thai fighters. That said, the reigning bantamweight king is well-aware of the dangers Harrison will bring into the Circle with him – and he is prepared to go into deep waters with him.
“If counting only foreign opponents, I would say yes, [Harrison] is the most dangerous opponent I’ve ever faced,” said Nong-O. “He fought many famous Muay Thai fighters, including the Thai legend Saenchai. Of course, Liam’s most dangerous weapons are punches and leg kicks. His powerful punches can knock you out in one blow. For his leg kicks, I’ve seen many of his opponents get knocked out by them. I often study his techniques and trainings on YouTube, and I found he is a good striker.
“For our world-title fight, I believe that both of us will go all out. And I am sure that it will end with a knockout, either for him or me. It depends on whose weapons will hit the target first. He has heavy punches and kicks. I have them, too. Let’s see who will do better in the Circle.”
Nong-O has a lot of good things to say about his future opponent, but he is also a warrior and a champion. So, as he prepares for his next world title defense, the Evolve MMA competitor had one final message for Harrison.
“Liam, I will go all out in our upcoming fight,” Nong-O stated. “You should prepare yourself well because I’m about to knock you out, for sure.”