Bangtao Muay Thai & MMA header logo

Get to know Series: Alex Schild

Alex Schild Bangtao Muay Thai and MMA interview

When Alex Schild wakes up every morning, it’s hard to know what the day may bring. He juggles multiple responsibilities while assuming various roles. Here at Bangtao Muay Thai & MMA, you can find Alex on the mats, at the gear store, in the office, or simply doing the rounds talking to customers.

One of the four original founders, Alex, along with the Hickman Brothers, Frank and George, and Andrew “Woody” Wood, made the collective decision to open the gym in 2020.

Head coaches at Bangtao Muay Thai and MMA in Phuket Thailand

“I was the one who brought the idea to the boys,” Alex recalls. The uncertainty of COVID changed a lot for many people, and it felt like the right time. Before the gym officially opened in 2022, it ‘unofficially’ opened in Alex’s backyard, right here in Phuket. Since then, it’s quickly grown into the number-one MMA gym in Thailand.

Thanks to old-fashioned grit and determination, they worked hard to quickly build the gym into what it is today, one of the best in the world. Something Alex takes great pride in.

As the head jiu-jitsu coach, Alex is on the mats teaching every day, while also working closely with the fight team. On top of that,he’s got meetings to attend and decisions to help make alongside the other partners. Yet, Alex’s involvement doesn’t end there; he also plays a part in how the gym looks.

Before his role at Bangtao, Alex started a jiu-jitsu tournament in Thailand called Siam Sub Series. And before even that, he launched a clothing line, Sabai Gi, which made Thailand-inspired training gear. “I love being creative and building a brand. I love bringing my ideas to life and seeing how they look.”

Alex Schild and George Hickman at Siam Sub series
Alex Schild and George Hickman at Siam SubSeries
Siam Subseries phuket thailand

Now, as a co-owner, Alex is blessed with the opportunity to cultivate his creativity and help build the Bangtao brand. He, however, isn’t solely responsible for this side of things, as he reiterates, “Again, it’s not all me, but the look, the brand, and even the feel of the gym is something I feel extremely passionate about.”

While his love for it fuels his creative fire, it makes him proud to see people walking around in the t-shirts he designed or had a hand in designing. For Alex, his design process often starts with stickers. Before investing in a new collection, Alex puts his designs into sticker form and starts handing them out.

“I like to see people’s reaction when I give them a sticker. I can see if they really dig it or not.”

After doing a soft run, Alex then takes his ideas to the boys. If they’re good, he’s good – and bam, a new round of t-shirts or shorts hits the gear store. For Alex, the creative side of things is a passion project, and passionate people are one of the things that make Bangtao great.

Georges St-Pierre and Alex Schild at Bangtao Muay Thai & MMA

Considering the gym’s rapid growth and tremendous success, it’s important to recognize the grind and grit that people like Alex dedicated to their craft before the Bangtao boom.

It was at the tender age of 10 that Alex took up wrestling. However, the reason he started wrestling didn’t have anything to do with combat sports. As he recalls, “My best friend in third grade could do backflips, and all the girls thought it was so cool.”

Wanting to impress the girls at recess, Alex asked his friend where he learned to do that. Later that week, Alex followed him to a gymnastics class where he met his friend’s father, who coincidentally was the local wrestling coach. From there, his love for martial arts began.

Alex Schild Highschool Wrestling
Alex wrestling in high school circa 2007

“As a smaller kid, wrestling really evened the playing field for me because you have weight classes. Also, learning how to take people down as the smaller guy was a big advantage for me.”

While it wasn’t apparent at the time, Alex later realized that wrestling laid the foundation for him to immerse himself in MMA and jiu-jitsu. Hours upon hours on the mat taught Alex how to approach fights as both a competitor and coach. As Alex puts it, “It’s just your skills versus theirs.”

Fast-forward to 2005, when The Ultimate Fighter made its television debut. Alex was 16, and this was essentially his first extended exposure to MMA. Broadcast on Spike TV, it was the first time Americans could watch MMA for free. Back then, there was no YouTube, and there was no way in hell that Alex’s parents were going to let him order a pay-per-view of prize fighting; it definitely was not something they supported.

Fighting professional MMA in China, 2018

It took a few more years before Alex would get the chance to train in something other than wrestling. After graduation, he enrolled at the University of Arizona and later graduated with a Bachelor’s in Communication and Sports Management. Surprisingly, he was at a college party when he got invited to train MMA. It only took one jiu-jitsu session for Alex to realize he wanted to be a fighter. But back then, things were a lot different than they are today. In the early days, it was still being called ‘Ultimate Fighting,’ as Alex explains,

“Fighting [MMA] wasn’t mainstream back then. There wasn’t a path to become a fighter; it just wasn’t a big thing. It was just me and a few guys flipping tires and pushing cars.”

Muay Thai at local Phuket stadium 2016

Quite literally pushing cars. Alex called it their makeshift circuit. They were motivated to learn, mainly self-taught, seeking others who wanted to do the same thing. When Alex, a self-proclaimed skinny white boy, told them he wanted to fight, they accepted him and encouraged him to do it. “When I said I wanted to be a fighter at age 20, they didn’t laugh at me. They told me to just come,” he recalls.

That’s when Alex realized: “Martial arts can save people.”

Alex first arrived in Thailand in 2012. As fate would have it, a semester abroad brought him closer to the home of Muay Thai. At the time, Alex was still predominantly a grappler, so he figured that spending some time in Thailand to hone his striking skills would do him some good. But for Alex, it was more than just Muay Thai that brought him here.

“I wanted to live at a gym. I wanted something that would take me out of my comfort zone.”

Social media wasn’t as big back then as it is now. There wasn’t the same amount of resources available online for people, so Alex made his decision simple: be in the mountains in Chiang Mai or live on the beach in Phuket. Ultimately, the Maryland native chose the beach and made his way to Tiger Muay Thai.

The choice to train at Tiger was made even simpler by the fact it offered jiu-jitsu classes too. So there he was: a skinny white boy who had left China with just a backpacker’s backpack, ready to seize the opportunity he had curated for himself. Alex dove right in. He lived on-site in what was, back then, pretty meager accommodation. He was there to be a fighter.

One Warriors Series , Tokyo, Japan, 2019
One Warriors Series , Tokyo, Japan, 2019

“I did the daily grind. I got up every morning, trained twice a day. I committed myself to it.”

Initially, the plan was to head back to China before going home, but Alex ended up staying. As he puts it, “Good food, nice people.” Now, more than 12 years later, Alex is co-owner of one of the most successful gyms in the world, let alone Thailand.

Working with UFC champion Zhang Weili at Bangtao

Over the years, Alex earned his jiu-jitsu black belt under world champion Josh Hinger. He has fought and competed in jiu-jitsu, Muay Thai, and MMA and coached the likes of UFC fighters Loma Lookboonmee and Petr Yan. His wealth of first-hand experience, coupled with a degree in sports management, is a major asset to the gym. But how does someone with so many roles and responsibilities get it all done? For Alex, it’s pretty simple:

“Oh man, I don’t know. I just really love doing all of these things, so that gives me the energy to do it all.”

Muay Thai, 2015