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Celebrating the 2nd Anniversary of Bangtao Muay Thai & MMA

Bangtao Muay Thai & MMA officially opened in April 2022, but the idea to open a gym had taken root much earlier. In 2020, while a global pandemic had been declared, four friends were looking to make their own luck and try their hands at business ownership. As the world was facing a future of unprecedented uncertainty, for many stuck at home, it became a moment of decisive action or retreat. Together, the Hickman Brothers, George and Frank, together with Alex Schild and Andrew “Woody” Wood chose to take a leap of faith – and if Bangtao’s second anniversary has shown us anything, it’s how much a leap of faith can pay off when you’re willing to put the work in.

Throwback video from the grand opening of Bangtao Muay Thai & MMA in April 2022

The name Bangtao only came about after the lease was signed. By this point, the boys were all in. Before that, the four friends had little to go on regarding names. Everyone had their own ideas, but nothing stuck out. Anyone familiar with the area knows that Bangtao is the name of the neighborhood where the gym is located. After minimal debate, the name was chosen, and the setup of the business and gym began.

They broke ground in October 2021, and by January 2022, the gym was already conducting free classes. The gym opened its doors a month before Thailand welcomed back tourists, and the response was overwhelming. The demand was so high that the gym needed more space almost immediately. This led to the start of an expansion project, a clear testament to the gym’s rapid growth and success.

How it started (circa September 2021)
How it started (circa September 2021)
full size mma cage at Bangtao Muay Thai & MMA in Phuket Thailand
The new full-size MMA cage and expanded matt space at Bangtao. We’ve come along way!

Now, just two years young, Bangtao is one of the most successful combat sports gyms in the world. In addition to its star-studded MMA coaching team, some of the world’s top Muay Thai trainers have also been brought on board — giving a home to the legends of the sport and hard-working coaches alike.

Despite the success, the gym maintains its family atmosphere. Not many places in the world will have UFC Champions on the mats alongside newcomers to the sport. Bangtao is a gym where everyone is welcome. This has long been part of the vision for Bangtao’s founders, where everyone’s success matters.

For each of the founders, this milestone means something a little different. Still, everyone agrees — what they have built and curated and the fantastic group of people who make every day at Bangtao possible is incredible.

Here’s what Bangtao’s founders and the Managing Director have to say about our second anniversary:

George Hickman

“The fact that we are celebrating our two-year anniversary is pretty mind blowing to me. I never imagined the gym would have grown so much in the first two years. I’m just very happy to have assembled the team of people we’ve got. I feel really blessed to have everyone on board. I never imagined in a million years that the gym would be as successful as it is today.”

Frank Hickman

“It’s been a great two years, that’s a testament to the amazing staff that we have here at Bangtao. They go above and beyond for the customers to make sure they are taken care of. Also, it’s been incredible meeting new people, new faces, shaking new hands and traveling the world a bit more. I’ve really enjoyed these last two years. Meeting so many amazing people has definitely been my favorite part. Building foundations, making friends, that’s important to me.”

Andrew “Woody” Wood

“For us to do what we did in two years is absolutely mental. I think it’s a testament to us as coaches, our investors, and everyone else involved — all the staff, past and present, all the fighters and guests that have come through have all made it what it is. I’m proud of everyone who’s been involved. It means the world to me.”

Alex Schild

“This two-year anniversary means a lot because it proves we weren’t just a flash in the pan. When we first started people were very curious; where we’d go after leaving Tiger, there was a lot of hype that followed us. That could have all faded very quickly. In the first year, people wanted to check us out and see what was going on. We keep getting better and this two-year anniversary really solidifies that we’re doing the right things and we’re here to stay.”

Will Elliot

Bangtao Muay Thai & MMA founders and Head coaches
Left to right: Will Elliot (Managing Director), Frank Hickman (Co-Founder and Head Wrestling Coach), George Hickman (Co-Founder and Head MMA Coach), Jon Jones (UFC Heavyweight Champion), Alex Schild (Co-Founder and Head BJJ Coach), Andrew “Woody” Wood (Co-Founder and Head S&C Coach)

“Life’s path is certainly interesting. It’s been incredible to see the growth of not only the gym, but the people involved. From meeting George, Volk, Alex, Woody and the boys at Tiger between 2009 – 2014 to working with them to build and develop Bangtao from early 2023, it seems like we’ve come full circle; with everyone’s paths converging in the right place at the right time. The team all bring their own expertise and skillsets to the table, which has helped propel Bangtao to one of the best MMA and Muay Thai gyms in the world. We are blessed to have wonderful staff at the gym and of course, our incredible customers who have made Bangtao what it is today”.  

While it took a leap of faith to get Bangtao off the ground, the success can be attributed to the amazing team of people who show up rain or shine to keep things running smoothly. From the amazing staff at the front desk to the people in the kitchen, it takes a lot to keep things running smoothly. Bangtao has faced its fair share of challenges, from financial hurdles, to logistical issues, but it will always come out stronger on the other side.