By Mike LNg
Before I begin this article be warned: There is commentary ahead following the news brief. If you care only about the news portion of this article stop reading once you reach the bold print.
The International Federation of Muay Thai (IFMA) After much legal wrangling has been ruled the sole authority to host and select athletes in domestic and international Muay Thai amateur events. The ruling comes down from the Thai Supreme Administrative Court, May 27th, 2010. Despite much public overtures of rhetorical support from IFMA, IFMA and rival Amateur Muay Thai Association of Thailand (MAT) fought a years long battle in court to win the sole authority power of Amateur Muay Thai in Thailand. Recently, IFMA went so far as to post a press release making it sound very much like MAT happily passed over the reins without a court battle and even went as far as publishing the AMTAT logo prominently on their site with an accompanying press release describing how the IFMA now grants the AMTAT organization permission to do what they’ve always done: sanction Amateur Muay Thai events internationally.
The IFMA president Sakchaye Tapsuwan was quoted as saying the decision was a relief as the case had been in court for five years.
“We are now in charge of hosting every (amateur) Muaythai event,” said Sakchaye. He said he would now register his organisation with the National Olympic Committee of Thailand (NCOT) which previously refused to recognise the IFMA.
MAT boss Santiparb Interatat said he was surprised but accepted the ruling.
“I am still president of the Asian Muaythai Federation,” he said. “From now on, we will carry out our activities in Thailand under a new organisation called the Muaythai Association.”
The IFMA is backed by the Sports Authority of Thailand and Nat Indarapana, a member of the International Olympic Committee, while Santiparb enjoys the backing of the NOCT. In essence both organizations still have separate committees both backed by their choice in requisite powers of the Thai government. MAT has never dabbled in professional Muay Thai while the IFMA’s parent organization (with precisely the same staff) World Muay Thai Council (WMC) are an independent sanction for professional Muay Thai.
What follows is my offering of food for thought.
If the WMC cannot get professional Muay Thai right, why trust their sister organization IFMA with amateur Muay Thai? Especially when it consists of the exact same executive staff responsible for the WMC’s current state of no-rankings, titles granted and revoked at will, multiple same weight world champions, blacklisting fighters and camps, and so many conflicts of interests up front that even an international boxing promoter as infamous as Don King would balk at the prospect of doing the same thing in boxing in the USA because of its outright illegal nature.
Since the inception of WMC, they have not had a coherent professional ranking to the present: well over 20 years later. The WMC have had multiple simultaneous world title holders, operated their own Muay Thai camp and have managed fighters from this camp. All of these activities pretty thoroughly undermine the WMC’s credibility as any meaningful independent sanction to be taken seriously and in my opinion will ultimately doom any effort for Muay Thai to be ever become taken seriously as an internationally recognized amateur sport. If Muay Thai cannot govern itself in any meaningful way both in conduct, rankings or at minimum avoid blacklisting its own practioners in the interests of a promoter how can it be looked upon internationally as anything more than something of a comic impression of a real sport? How can the heads of the biggest, worst run professional combat sport organization possibly make this much headway into representing Muay Thai professionally as well?
It seems the answer is the obvious one: Thai admiration of title and inflated official position is as great as the international love for manufactured authority and title. On the backs of many well crafted press releases and continued legal ploughing in court the IFMA has been granted official Thai backing. The press releases and sanction money funneled through WMC’s professional front of non-ranked world title events made it possible. And Muay Thai’s professionals and fans’ deference and ignorance of and about it fueled it.
I just wonder how many people are going to be smart enough to see the difference between good hype and what is truly good for the sport. The only people that can ever change Muay Thai for the better are the people in it. Much like any true big international sport: if unwatched sanction simply cannot be trusted. Also much like any true big international sport the strongest corrective force in the sport is its fans and practitioners. One has to remember despite all the figureheads and shaking hands with important old men in suits any sanction only has the power fans and fighters give them. No matter which branch of government decides which sanctioning party worthy of their authority, a sanction’s worthiness is granted by the fans.
In the present day it’s not a matter of making Muay Thai get more attention. In my opinion there are more than enough people willing and able to hype events, I do it as well. What’s lacking is professionals and participants in Muay Thai willing to make Muay Thai worthy and deserving of more attention. I’ve got a lot more to say on this topic but this should suffice as it applies to the IFMA.
Thanks for reading.