Will the Real Independent Sanction Please Stand Up?
By Mike LNg
It’s been since November 2010 when WBC Muay Thai announced their 48th convention held in Cancun, Mexico. On the agenda was the establishment of WBC committees in every representative nation in their membership. The UK established a committee and Australia appointed Pamorn Martdee as their president. It looked like the wheels were moving forward and something resembling an actual world independent sanction was starting to take shape. But, notably the USA’s committee and rankings are nowhere to be seen past the November, 2010 date of the convention.
Case for the World Muaythai Council
I’ve made it known though the World Muaythai Council (WMC) was senior in existence it had yet to make any ratings international or otherwise. That too appears to have changed as the online incarnation of Muay Siam has now a listed ranking for WMC. I credit this new evolution by the WMC to the pressure of real Muay Thai fans and people who want to see clarity and something in the way of integrity enter the sport. How this clarifies the picture with title revocations on a whim with little to no opportunity to defend one’s title, simultaneous weight champions and the ever growing number of Muay Thai Against Drugs (MAD)champions is not addressed by their rankings or indeed even recognized. How does one grant a championship without solid ranking and where do the MAD champions stand? Not only the ‘world’ MAD champions but the regional ones as well. Or the Z-1 champions of Malaysia where it’s verified that WMC representatives rarely make an appearance at all? Needless to say there are more trinkets than there is authenticity.
In essence WMC acted as the promoter’s best friend making a trinket title up for stakes and therefore hopefully upping the prominence or perceived value a fight on any given card may have. Adding to it WMC’s shenanigans in the Contender Asia and Contender Asia 2 and it’s apparent that the WMC’s agenda is for gathering sanctioning fees and bloating their own egos. But sadly it doesn’t stop there.
The WMC’s same staff members are also International Federation Muaythai Amateur (IFMA) members and directors and there is a line that exists between IFMA and WMC goal and staff wise that is for the most part largely rhetorical and less a concrete reality. The need for discrete responsibility and authority apparently is not a priority within WMC or IFMA and it shows.
Participants are sold the idea that Muaythai with belly and shin pads with headgear is a version of Muaythai that represents the sport fit for the world to see. The reality is, it is an event that professional fighters dominate and indeed amateurs will face professional fighters. Yes, International Fedration Muaythai Amateur (IFMA) has professional fighters participating in it. The central goal (at least rhetorically) is that ultimately Muay Thai will become an Olympic sport and thus raise its public profile but with the playing ground so uneven to begin with and the use of elbows pads and protection similar to what one might see in Olympic Taekwondo does this accurately reflect what Muay Thai is? Further more the current trend is for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to eliminate events due to time constraints and not add them. Muay Thai combined into the single word muaythai does nothing to remove a nation’s origin from the name of the event which bars it from Olympic inclusion, one of the IOC rules the name change seeks to circumvent. Mismatches and falsehood in terminology not withstanding with Yodsanklai and many other of Thailand’s best participating its been reported also IFMA enjoyed a healthy surplus in funds from selected countries participating. I am still struggling with seeing how mismatching amateurs and overbilling them develops amateurs in the sport.
Some participating countries in the IFMA world championships would be billed in essence a double rate than what their accommodations normally would cost. A cursory look over Priceline.com in comparison to the amount I was quoted verifies this. Were the rooms that much more in quality that the 2X rate was justifiable? According to a member of the American team who paid only the normal rate, “no”. This begs the question why were only certain nations billed a double rate and not others? And further who ultimately benefits at the overcharging?
Case for WBC Muay Thai
WBC Muay Thai made a strong case for themselves as an international sanction that could establish itself as something meaningful to the world. Nearly from its first date of operation WBC Muay Thai had international rankings. After working through its own placement of fighters it began resembling something that really did look like a believable ranking of fighters competing internationally. But regionally per a country a problem persisted and as of this writing continues to: national championship being fought for with nothing put down in ink for each nation’s national rankings. In essence, WBC Muay Thai played the same game to an extent that WMC plays. WBC established contracts with promoters and a championship bout would be held at that promoter’s discretion for WBC Muay Thai.
WBC Muay Thai seemed to display some awareness of this issue which could serve to undermine their position and their gaining momentum as an independent sanction that seemed to want to do things right. To this end they announced a ranking committee was going to form for each country. But to this date my request for a notification on this progress has gone on unanswered and WBC Muay Thai continues to have national title matches in many of their member nations with no ranking for the nation.
Now I don’t pretend to know the mandate on this but for the time between mid November 2010 and now in the United States to not gather a ranking for a nation this small in Muay Thai is beyond excessive. Both the rankings and the committee have yet to be announced. The timeline for WBC Muay Thai to establish a meaningful presence in the United States is rapidly ticking away to the zero mark. At this juncture some of the promotional only titles may hold greater value than what WBC Muay Thai may hold for a national basis. As of this writing, for the national level I see no transparency or effort at all to get a national database of fighters ranked in any country. However the issue with both WBC Muay Thai and WMC are not without a solution.
Proposal for a Solution
The independent sanction model for combat sports has its original basis in the sport of international boxing. Boxing fans and hopefully fight fans in general understand that the fights give the titles value. Not the other way around. A meaningful fight between two known high quality combatants is what is remembered and more than the title. If rankings cannot add authenticity to that then the title holds little to no value. The sanctioning bodies need to include this method in their ranking efforts (such as they are).
In international boxing when a title is to be put up for grabs the sanctioning body announces this. The fight for the championship is then put up to a purse bid process. All interested registered promoters may bid on the amount of the purse to be rewarded to the winner. This puts the fighter and his or her team in a position to negotiate. In boxing the best bid wins and the winning promoter must put up a percentage of the portion for the purse up front to secure the date. If both sides fail to agree the date is either scratched or with enough time the incumbent title holder is stripped for not defending the title. As it stands now the option for fighters in Muay Thai for negotiating a contract consist of: Take it or leave it. It seems to me even in the United States where the Muay Thai scene is comparably small to many other countries there is enough competing promoters to participate in a purse bid and in my opinion it should happen.
Furthermore, a title defense should happen within 9 months of winning the title against a contender who is truly a contender. The definition of this can vary depending on the sanctioning body from an 11th ranked fighter all the way down to 15th ranked. Do we really need to see any more one-sided beating from a mismatch in the name of a ‘world championship’ defense? Things like that will add fuel to the argument that Muay Thai is not credible. Part of a sanction’s job is to ensure fighters can be matched fairly and safely. Of late the World Professional Muaythai Federation (WPMF) matched Bovy Sor Udomson against a much younger and naturally larger fighter for a WPMF title. I’d like to have seen the ranking that put either as number one contender given Bovy’s cumulative injuries and out of shape state or based on the other’s accomplishments that border on the sub-mediocre.
None of this can happen though until the authoritative parties are made accountable. I am for the most part on the periphery of the sanctioning parties claiming to do the best for Muay Thai and representative of the will of the king of Thailand. The reality of it is independent sanctions hurt the sport when they don’t see a value in doing things right or with the proper amount of attention. If its become too much of an effort for old, wealthy men who desire clout and the niceties of having access to fighters than they should seek someone with both the resources and the love of the sport to do right by it.
I am confident change is on the way. The arrival of WBC Muay Thai proves that there is a need for this change to occur. WBC Muay Thai began filling a niche which was inadequately filled or not filled at all prior to their existence. But for whatever reason this progress in the right direction has either stalled or stopped altogether. If it’s the wrong figure head whether it be a Thai general, Fox or whoever the USA representative is that’s responsible I ask them to yield or pull over wholly until the right vehicle for taking Muay Thai where it needs to be arrives.