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Get to Know Series: Sam-A Gaiyanghadao

Sam-A Gaiyanghadao Muay Thai legend article hero image

In the world of combat sports, the journey to a professional career that spans over three decades is a grueling one. Even the most dedicated athletes would find it difficult to maintain the mental and physical perseverance required. The sport is not just about physical strength and agility; it’s about mental fortitude and the ability to adapt to the ever-changing landscape. In Thailand, we have a term for these exceptional fighters; only a handful earn this distinction, and they carry it with them throughout their careers and into retirement. They are forever known as Yod Muay.

Sam-A Gaiyanghadao is a Yod Muay.

The 40-year-old Buriram native hasn’t hung up his gloves yet. He’s been out of action for a year but admits he’s still got the fight in him. Born into poverty, Sam-A’s childhood was typical for Isaan. His parents were rice farmers and day laborers who foraged for food. Their modest stilt house was no match for the elements. During the monsoon season, rain and wind would wreak havoc as he and his family sought shelter. The skills he learned growing up included fishing, farming, lizard catching, and rat hunting. That was, of course, until he found Muay Thai.

Sam-A as a young fighter
Sam-A as a young fighter.

He got his start at an annual temple fair in his village, where his uncle was the matchmaker. He didn’t, however, have permission from his parents. That didn’t deter the then nine-year-old Sam-A. He walked over a kilometer to the temple, hoping to find an opponent. As luck would have it, there was another kid, gymless just like him, who was the same size and also hadn’t fought.

Prior to the matchups, Sam-A outfitted his mango tree with a homemade punching bag. It was an old rice sack filled with rice husks. He kicked it alone, in the heat, for about two weeks before he got bored. This was how one of Thailand’s most decorated fighters got their start.

He won the fight easily but admits he wasn’t focused on Muay Thai.

“To be honest, I just wanted to show off to my friends. That was all.”

But someone else there that night saw something in the young boy from Buriram, the man who refereed his fight. About a week after the fight, the referee came to visit Sam-A at home and offered to take him to matchups in the next village over. This fight however, the lack of training caught up with him and Sam-A lost.

“I was really disappointed. I let people down. I caused them to lose money.”

Sam-A at 10 years of age.
Sam-A at 10 years old.

Just two fights into his 400+ fight career, and Sam-A was already at a crossroads. This time around, his parents, who initially did not support his fighting, encouraged him to take it seriously, and despite their limited resources, they managed to hire a trainer for their son. But their makeshift gym didn’t last long. Sam-A’s potential was apparent early on, and his lack of training partners started to show in the ring. That’s when the owner of a local gym came by and asked Sam-A to join their team. And from 10 years old, Sam-A was raised in a gym.

He was a three-time child champion long before he debuted at the prestigious Lumpini Stadium. His path was not an easy one. He had to travel long distances, give up weight, and even change his name just to find opponents. He fought all over the countryside, earning money for those who believed in him. Just a child at the time, Sam-A was thrust into the demanding world of Muay Thai, fighting as often as possible. Side bets were placed, and money was collected. A mere farmer’s son, Sam-A was earning more than he could have ever imagined, surpassing the annual rice harvest in terms of yield.

Sam-A fighting in his early fight career
Sam-A fighting in his early fight career

Once he was old enough, his gym put his name in for Bangkok. This is a make-or-break period for many fighters. The grueling weight cuts, the demanding formalities, the exhausting travel, and the even more arduous training camps have often proven too much for other kids in the countryside. However, Sam-A’s story is one of resilience and determination. Despite the challenges, he thrived. He went on to become a two-time Lumpini Champion in two weight classes and won the Thailand title in four different weight classes, all before he decided to quit.

Sam-A beat a lot of his opponents with swift knees and kicks.

Right when Sam-A was at the peak of his career, he hung up his gloves and retired. Needing to make money for his family, he chose a construction job in Bangkok where he was making $10 a day under the boiling hot sun.

“I didn’t have the fight left in me. I was tired of everything. I didn’t even think about my future. I just wanted to stop.”

The hard labor taught him a lot, and he soon realized Muay Thai was his true calling. He gave it a year, hoping for the best, but in the end, the earning potential was no match for fighting. So he packed his bags once again and headed back home to give fighting another try. But this time, he had no training partners, a common trope for Isaan fighters. Despite the uncertainty, he boldly asked Sia Nao if he could train at Petchyindee in Bangkok, showing his steadfast commitment to his return.

It was at 26 years old that Sam-A became the Sam-A Gaiyanghadao that we all know and love. Before that, he fought under the name Sam-A Tor. Rattanakiat for the first half of his career. He saw great success at Petchyindee, winning another four titles in addition to many accolades. He stayed with Sia Nao until he retired at 33 years old when he went to work at Evolve in Singapore.

After a two-year break from competition, Sam-A returned to the ring in 2018 after signing with ONE Championship. His record with the promotion was an impressive 7-3. During that time, he managed to secure the ONE Muay Thai Flyweight title, the inaugural ONE Kickboxing Strawweight title, and the inaugural ONE Muay Thai Strawweight title.

He left Evolve in 2022 and joined the team at Bangtao Muay Thai and MMA shortly after. Having now taught all over the world, Sam-A still sees something special here at Bangtao. He’s also learning something new almost every day.

“I am exposed to everything here: MMA, BJJ, fitness, and Muay Thai. It’s really cool seeing how everything works together and how much Muay Thai can be used in MMA.”

Adding, “I think it’s really amazing that people come from all over the world just to learn Muay Thai, but also that they come to learn it so that they can use it in MMA. Working at Bangtao has been a really eye opening experience for me.”

Sam-A inspiring the next generation of fighters as a coach at Bangtao. What a line-up in this photo, with legends Lerdsila and Ajarn Wat pictured here too!
Sam-A inspiring the next generation of fighters as a coach at Bangtao. What a line-up in this photo, with legends Lerdsila and Ajarn Wat pictured here too!

In his highly decorated career that has spanned over three decades, Muay Thai has taken Sam-A to more than 10 different countries, something he never thought he’d achieve.

“When I was a kid, I didn’t even think I’d get to fight in Bangkok, let alone a foreign country.”

His achievements have not only brought him personal success but have also had a profound impact on the Muay Thai community in Isaan. He has shown and continues to show village kids what’s possible and has made a name for himself internationally. Even today, his left kick has been deemed one of the greatest in the world.

The win against Wang Junguang not only earned him the inaugural ONE Strawweight Kickboxing World Title, but it also meant he became the first two-sport, two-division World Champion in ONE Championship history.
The win against Wang Junguang not only earned him the inaugural ONE Strawweight Kickboxing World Title, but it also meant he became the first two-sport, two-division World Champion in ONE Championship history.

Sam-A’s career is a testament to the power of resilience and determination. Despite his humble beginnings in the countryside, he never let his disadvantages deter him. His journey was far from easy, particularly when he started fighting in Bangkok. The lack of consistent training partners and trainers in Buriram posed significant challenges. It wasn’t until his time at Petchyindee that the playing fields began to level, showcasing his unwavering commitment to his craft.

Now, at 40 years young, Sam-A still isn’t ready to hang up the gloves for good, and he credits his evasive technical style, honed during his time at Tor. Rattanakiat, for helping him through over 400 fights practically injury-free. But it’s more than just his fighting style that gave him a three-decade-long career. He works hard and takes care of himself, and there are no shortcuts there.

Sam-A is part of our Muay Thai Coaches team at Bangtao Muay Thai & MMA. He is available for private sessions. Please contact our front office at to check availability before booking. Train with a Legend!