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MMA in Thailand: Origin, History, Growth, and Development

One Championship Event in Bangkok, Thailand

What is MMA?

Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is a full-contact combat sport that allows striking and grappling, both standing and on the ground, using techniques from various combat sports and martial arts. MMA in Thailand has grown exponentially in popularity over the past decade. Many fighters and combat sport enthusiasts come to Thailand for their training.

In MMA, a fighter can win by knockout, submission, or decision, making it a thrilling sport to watch and participate in. The sport has grown in popularity over the years, with organizations like the UFC, Bellator, Rizin, UAE Warriors,  and One Championship hosting events that attract millions of viewers worldwide.

MMA is often seen as the ultimate test of a fighter’s skills and abilities. It requires a high level of physical fitness, mental toughness, and technical proficiency. Fighters must be proficient in striking and grappling techniques, and they must also be able to transition smoothly between these different aspects of combat. This makes MMA one of the most challenging and demanding sports in the world.

Here, we’ll talk about MMA in Thailand, from its origins to its current status as a hub for MMA training and a desired destination for MMA camps.

Origin and History of MMA in Thailand

Thailand only welcomed MMA about ten years ago, making its history in the country quite brief. At first, the sport wasn’t even legally allowed, and traditional martial arts enthusiasts put up quite a fight against it. But as MMA started making waves worldwide, it gradually found its place in Thailand, a country with a deep-rooted martial arts legacy.

A lot of the credit for MMA’s popularity in Thailand goes to Muay Thai’s practicality in the sport. Muay Thai, or Thai Boxing, is a centuries-old martial art. It’s often called the “Art of Eight Limbs” because it uses fists, elbows, knees, and shins, making it a fantastic striking art for MMA.

Even though the Thailand MMA scene is a recent addition, it’s quickly made itself at home. This is largely thanks to the country’s extensive martial arts history, especially Muay Thai, which has laid a solid groundwork for MMA’s growth.

The rise of MMA in Thailand also owes a lot to the country’s rich martial arts tradition and the increase in global MMA promotions hosting events in Asia. This combination has created the perfect setting for the sport to flourish.

And let’s not forget the Thai fighters who’ve made a name for themselves internationally. Their success has played a key role in making the sport popular back home.

Growth of MMA in Thailand

MMA in Thailand has been on a real growth spurt in recent years. More Thais are getting into the ring, and amateur events are popping up left and right. Plus, local MMA fight opportunities are on the upswing, with promotions like Fullmetal Dojo, Fight Circus, SEA FC, and TFC throwing events right here in Thailand. ONE Championship, one of the world’s largest martial arts organizations, has seen its brand awareness surge in Thailand after launching weekly fight events in the Land of Smiles in 2023; a testament to MMA growth in Thailand and its potential to attract big names and promotions.

One Championship MMA in Bangkok Thailand
One Championship MMA event in Bangkok Thailand. Image by One Championship

On top of that, MMA’s growth across Asia is giving the sport a popularity boost in Thailand. Places like Singapore, Indonesia, Korea, and Japan are hosting big-name events, and this extra exposure is getting Thai audiences pumped about MMA.

You can also see MMA’s rising popularity in Thailand in the growing number of MMA gyms and training camps popping up around the country. These places offer everything from beginner classes to pro fight prep. They also give fighters a chance to train with seasoned coaches and spar with other skilled fighters.

The success of Thai fighters on the international stage is also fueling the growth of MMA in Thailand. As more Thai fighters bring home wins from international competitions, they’re boosting the sport’s reputation in the country and inspiring a new generation of fighters.

With MMA’s popularity on the rise all over Asia, you can see its growth in Thailand in the increasing number of MMA gyms and training camps. These top-notch facilities are churning out some of the world’s best fighters.

MMA Training Camps and Gyms in Thailand

Thailand is a hotbed for some of the world’s top MMA gyms. As MMA’s popularity in Thailand continues to rise, so does the number of MMA training camps in Phuket. That being said, you can also find MMA training camps in Bangkok. And new facilities are popping up all over the country. These gyms offer everything from beginner classes to pro-fight prep. [image: MMA gym in Thailand]

The first big-name MMA camp Thailand had that really made a splash globally was probably Tiger Muay Thai, located in Phuket. Muay Thai and MMA fighters from all corners of the globe come here to sharpen their skills and get ready for fights. This is also where Alex Schild, Andrew Wood (known in the MMA world as “Woody”), George Hickman, and Frank Hickman cut their teeth as MMA coaches before opening Bangtao Muay Thai & MMA.

Grand opening of Bangtao Muay Thai & MMA, Phuket, Thailand in April 2022
Grand opening of Bangtao Muay Thai & MMA in April 2022

These training camps are famous for their tough training routines and top-notch facilities. Training at these gyms gives fighters the chance to learn from seasoned coaches, spar with high-level training partners, and soak up the Thai culture. People come to Thailand for everything from a quick week-long training getaway to full-on training camps that last several weeks. This unique mix of factors makes Thailand a go-to destination for MMA training.

UFC Fighters and Professional Athletes Training in Thailand

Loads of UFC fighters and pro athletes choose to train MMA in Thailand. The country’s top-tier facilities, seasoned coaches, and the chance to learn Muay Thai right from the source make it a favorite spot for many.

Take Rafael Fiziev, for example. This up-and-comer in the UFC’s lightweight division is known for his striking skills, which he sharpened while training in Thailand and teaching at Tiger Muay Thai. He’s also fought in some big kickboxing and Muay Thai fights before transitioning to MMA. His success speaks volumes about the quality of MMA training you can get in the country.

UFC fighter Rafael Fiziev in training with Bangtao Muay Thai & MMA Head Conditioning Coach Andrew Wood
UFC fighter Rafael Fiziev in training with Bangtao Muay Thai & MMA Head Strength & Conditioning Coach Andrew Wood

But Fiziev isn’t the only one. Plenty of other fighters have also chosen to train at an MMA gym Thailand can call its own. This includes fighters from the UFC, Bellator, PFL, UAE Warriors, Rizin, and One Championship, which just goes to show that Thailand’s reputation as a top spot for MMA training is well-deserved.

World-Class MMA Coaches in Thailand

Thailand is home to some of the world’s top MMA coaches. Take the Hickman brothers, Frank and George, for example. These guys are famous for their wrestling and MMA know-how. They’ve coached a bunch of UFC fighters and are currently based in Bangtao Muay Thai & MMA in Phuket.

Then there’s Alex Schild and Andrew Wood, or “Woody” as he’s known in the MMA world. Schild, a pro-MMA fighter, entrepreneur, and coach, is famous for his technical smarts and grappling skills. He’s also the first and only BJJ black belt under Josh Hinger, a multiple-time world champ and ADCC bronze medalist. Woody, meanwhile, is a strength and conditioning whiz who’s helped loads of fighters get stronger and in better shape for their fights.

Frank and Woody were also part of Alex Volkanovski’s team as coaches on The Ultimate Fighter.

These coaches have played a significant role in shaping the MMA scene in Thailand. Their expertise and dedication to the sport have helped produce some of the best fighters in the world.

Bangtao Muay Thai & MMA

Bangtao Muay Thai & MMA has quickly become one of the best MMA gyms in Thailand. It’s drawn in a bunch of pro MMA fighters, including big names like Alex Volkanovski, Weili Zhang, and Jiri Prochaska. Other fighters who’ve trained at Bangtao include Brad Riddell, Brendan Loughnane, Ali Motamed, and Casey O’Neill.

UFC fighter Brad Riddell trains with Bangtao Muay Thai & MMA Head MMA coach, George Hickman in Phuket Thailand
UFC fighter Brad Riddell trains with Bangtao Muay Thai & MMA Head MMA coach, George Hickman in Phuket Thailand

Bangtao offers a full-on training program that covers all the bases of MMA. The gym’s facilities are cutting-edge, and the coaching staff is experienced and knows their stuff. Whether you’re a newbie wanting to learn the ropes of MMA, or a pro fighter getting ready for a fight, Bangtao has the tools and expertise to help you hit your goals.

Training at Bangtao also gives fighters the chance to train alongside some of the world’s best fighters. This can give them priceless experience and help them up their skills and techniques. Plus, the competitive vibe at Bangtao can help push fighters to their max and bring out their best.

On top of the all-star coaching lineup to give that MMA gym Thailand style feel, Bangtao also offers a supportive and friendly training environment. The gym’s staff and members are warm and welcoming, and they’re all about helping each other get better and succeed. This sense of community can make the training experience more fun and rewarding.

UFC Champions Who’ve Trained in Thailand

Weili Zhang

Weili Zhang is a Chinese mixed martial artist and UFC Strawweight Champion. She’s made a name for herself in the MMA world with her go-getter fighting style and powerful strikes. Zhang has trained at various gyms worldwide, including in Thailand, to sharpen her skills and get ready for her fights. She first popped up at Bangtao Muay Thai & MMA for her fight camp leading up to UFC 275 in Singapore, where she knocked out former UFC Strawweight Champ Joanna Jedrzejczyk with a spinning back fist.

Weili Zhang, UFC Womens Strawweight World Champion in fight camp at Bangtao Muay Thai & MMA, Phuket, Thailand
Weili Zhang, UFC Strawweight World Champion in fight camp at Bangtao Muay Thai & MMA, Phuket, Thailand

Alexander Volkanovski

Alexander Volkanovski is an Australian mixed martial artist and UFC Featherweight Champion. With a background in rugby, Volkanovski is known for his strength, stamina, and technical striking. He’s spent time training in Thailand, where he took advantage of the top-notch training facilities and seasoned coaches to get ready for his title fights. His time in Thailand led him to develop a relationship with the folks who now run Bangtao Muay Thai & MMA. Volkanovski is a part owner of the gym and was there for their grand opening in April 2022.

UFC Featherweight Champion Alexander Volkonovski with the team at Bangtao Muay Thai & MMA, Phuket, Thailand
UFC Featherweight Champion Alexander Volkonovski with the team at Bangtao Muay Thai & MMA, Phuket, Thailand

Jiri Prochazka

Jiri Prochazka is a Czech mixed martial artist currently competing in the UFC’s Light Heavyweight division. Known for his knockout power and dynamic fighting style, Prochazka has quickly climbed the ranks to become a top contender in his division. He held his fight camp at Bangtao Muay Thai and MMA leading up to his fight with Glover Texeira in UFC 275 in Singapore, where he won by submission.

The fact that these champions chose to train in Thailand speaks volumes about the quality of MMA training you can get here in Thailand. Their success on the global stage continues to inspire a new generation of fighters in Thailand and beyond.

UFC Light Heavyweight Jiří Procházka training at Bangtao Muay Thai & MMA
UFC Light Heavyweight Jiří Procházka training at Bangtao Muay Thai & MMA

Thai Fighters Transitioning from Muay Thai to MMA

Several Thai fighters have made a successful switch from Muay Thai to MMA. Some of the big names include Loma Lookboonmee (UFC), Topnoi Kiwram (Rizin, UAE Warriors, Road to UFC), Peter Danesoe (Road to UFC), and Pongsiri Mitsatit (ONE FC). These fighters have brought their striking skills from Muay Thai into the MMA ring, adding a unique twist to their fighting styles.

These fighters have not only achieved success in their own careers, but they have also helped to pave the way for other Thai fighters to make the transition to MMA. Loma Lookboonmee is the first fighter in Thailand’s history to sign with the UFC. Their success has shown that Muay Thai skills can be effectively used in MMA, which has encouraged more participation in Thailand MMA.

Loma Lookboonmee, from Bangtao Muay Thai & MMA, made history as the first thai fighter to compete in the UFC
Loma Lookboonmee, from Bangtao Muay Thai & MMA, made history as the first thai fighter to compete in the UFC

On top of these successful switches, loads of other Thai fighters are currently training in MMA and showing a lot of potential. This new wave of Thai MMA fighters is expected to make a big splash on the international MMA scene in the next few years.

Why Train MMA in Thailand?

Training MMA in Thailand comes with a whole host of perks. The country’s deep-rooted martial arts history, top-notch training facilities, seasoned coaches, and the chance to immerse yourself in Thai culture make it a prime spot for MMA training.

In Thailand, MMA training isn’t just about learning to fight. It’s about embracing a lifestyle that values discipline, respect, and constant self-improvement. The training routine in Thai MMA gyms is designed to push athletes past their limits, helping them tap into their full potential.

Plus, Thailand’s tropical climate and stunning landscapes make it a perfect place for training. The warm weather is great for weight-cutting, and the gorgeous beaches are the perfect spot for some rest and relaxation after a tough day of training.

On top of the high-quality training, living in Thailand also lets fighters lead a healthier lifestyle. The country’s warm climate, beautiful beaches, and tasty food make it a great place to live and train. Plus, the cost of living in Thailand is pretty low compared to many Western countries, making it a budget-friendly option for fighters.

Finally, training MMA in Thailand gives fighters the chance to learn Muay Thai right from the source. Muay Thai is a key part of MMA, and there’s no better place to learn it than in Thailand, where the sport originated.


MMA in Thailand has come a long way. From its Muay Thai roots to becoming a hotspot for MMA training, the journey has been nothing short of amazing. With top-tier gyms, seasoned coaches, and a rich martial arts culture, Thailand keeps drawing in MMA fans from all over the globe.

The growth of MMA in Thailand is a testament to the country’s love for martial arts and its commitment to promoting the sport. As more and more fighters choose to train in Thailand, the country’s MMA scene is set to continue its upward trajectory.

Whether you’re a pro fighter getting ready for a fight or a fan wanting to learn MMA in Phuket, Thailand has something for everyone. So why wait? Kick off your MMA journey in Thailand today!