“Smokin” Jo Nattawut had a nail-biting kickboxing affair with Tawanchai PK Saenchai in his last ONE Championship appearance at ONE Fight Night 15, and his controversial decision loss has many clamoring for a rematch, but this time in four-ounce gloves.
That will have to wait, however, as Nattawut returns to the global stage at ONE Fight Night 17 on Prime Video wearing the small leather opposite promotional newcomer and American striking star Luke Lessei.
Part of Nattawut’s motivation is to continue growing Muay Thai in the United States, as he currently resides in Washington. The 34-year-old sees a bright future for the sport in his adopted home – one that bring the biggest fight purses in combat sports history.
“You know, for real, now, Muay Thai in the US is growing every single day. It’s growing so much. Everything about Muay Thai is growing more. The gym business. All the businesses about Muay Thai because of one thing — some people watch MMA and sometimes they get bored, sometimes they watch boxing, they get bored. But everybody. when they watch Muay Thai, like, man, they love it. 90% of them, right,” Nattawut told Combat Press.
“You know the history of the UFC. They lose money, lose money, lose money back in the day, right? But they kept pushing, kept pushing. You get some billionaire behind them then pushed. And Muay Thai, if it keeps going like this nonstop, it’s gonna be at the same level as boxing and the UFC.”
“I believe that in the next 10-20 years we will see Muay Thai fighters get paid like $40 million for one fight. $50 million for one fight in the next 10 to 20 years. If we keep going like that, I’m sure that’s gonna happen, but we have to keep going this way.”
Perhaps the biggest reason Nattawut sees Muay Thai exploding stateside is the quality of striking under ONE’s roof.
Many of the pound-for-pound greatest strikers compete in ONE across both kickboxing and Muay Thai, and star-studded cast will pay dividends according to the “Smokin” one.
“High-level striking. It’s everything. Just a high-level of striking, world-class striking that people will see in the ONE Championship show,” Nattawut stated.
Both kickboxing and Muay Thai have traditionally been slow to take hold in America. However, ONE has helped both sports gain significant fan support over the past few years.
Specifically, it has transformed Muay Thai with a global rule set that features the use of four-ounce MMA gloves. The nonstop excitement generated connects across the board, according to Nattawut.
“It’s really important. It doesn’t matter if you are an MMA fan, you are a boxing fan. When you watch Muay Thai, you love it. You enjoy it. There’s no other way around, right? Everybody says that all the time. That’s what I see all the time.” he expressed.
“So we need to keep Muay Thai there for the main event. Always. If it’s good, put Muay Thai in the main event or MMA in the main event in a ONE event card, that’s OK. I just want people to see Muay Thai more. Get more eyes, get more views. Eventually we will get up there really fast. It’s just an exciting sport and it’s beautiful striking. It’s not sloppy.”
Nattawut’s theory will be tested front and center this Friday, as ONE Fight Night 17 will feature an all-Muay Thai card live from Lumpinee Boxing Stadium in Bangkok, Thailand.
He’ll play an integral part in the sport’s rise and have a chance to put himself back in the direct path of Tawanchai and the ONE Featherweight Muay Thai World Championship if he can take can take out Lessei this Friday.
ONE Fight Night 17 airs live on Prime Video at 8 p.m. EST/5 p.m. PST on Friday, Dec. 8. The event is free for all Amazon Prime subscribers based in the U.S. and Canada.
Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. These cookies do not store any personal information.
Any cookies that may not be particularly necessary for the website to function and is used specifically to collect user personal data via analytics, ads, other embedded contents are termed as non-necessary cookies. It is mandatory to procure user consent prior to running these cookies on your website.