Contender for Credibility Part 1

By Fatsoking

International Muay Thai has a problem. There it is I said it.  I love Muay Thai but I don’t love it blindly.

An analogy I made to a friend once is that Muay Thai was like my old mother sometimes. She forgets what she’s doing sometimes and she falls occasionally.  But I always want to help her and I love her no matter what anyone  says. When I began this post I was cognizant of the issues plaguing international Muay Thai that many fans like myself have revisited themselves ad infinitum:  the innumerable independent sanctions, the politics, the confusion in rules and the frank misrepresentation and lying. I normally wouldn’t speak of it and would wish to only focus on the positive aspects of the sport.

By no means do I have any desire to engage in witchhunting or overheated rhetoric resulting in empty rage and still no resolution. But some of the propaganda being put out is frankly misleading and telling by the information omitted. Therefore as one of you – a fan and one who loves the sport I felt something should be said.

Many promises have been made to remedy these multiple issues and chief among these independent sanctions with promises made is the World Muay Thai Council.  The WMC has in the past made overtures to bringing Muay Thai around internationally, to bring meaningful rankings internationally and to overall ensure the integrity of Muay Thai internationally. The tagline of the WMC’s materials even read ‘One world, One Muay Thai’.  Usually publicly spearheaded communiques from WMC arrive in the form of Stephen Fox, vice-president of the WMC.

Stephen Fox, Vice-President of the WMC

Stephen Fox, Vice-President of the WMC

Without a doubt the biggest contributing factor to the WMC’s increased profile has been the show:  Contender Asia.  Contender Asia much like its international boxing counterpart was based on the premise of bringing the spotlight on to international Muay Thai’s contenders and through a series of tournament bouts determine who was the true contender.  Here is where the foundations with this premise go awry.  Unlike the international boxing Contender this show was very skewed in its casting choices.  We have 3 Australians in John Wayne Parr, Soren Monkongton, and Bruce Macfie who all have participated internationally at a high level.  Other notables of the cast includes from France Rafki Bakkouri, an A Class champion, and from United Arab Emirates, Dzhbar Askerov who defeated Jomhod Kiatdisak.

Then for the remainder we have David Pacquette from the United Kingdom, Jose Sans from Spain, Zidov Dominik from Croatia,  Sean Wright from Scotland, Kim Khan Zaki from Singapore, and James Martinez from the USA. From Canada we had Alain Sylvestre and Trevor Smandych. Lastly the sole representative from Sweden was Joakim Karlsson. Notably missing is anyone from Holland or Japan, two extremely active and high level international Muay Thai nations. Why their omission?  Certainly among these countries a worthy Muay Thai contender should exist for the international level. The only answer that makes sense was marketability.  The Contender Asia television show was initially broadcast on AXN television.

One has to question the presence of some of these choices especially given the representatives from Thailand which were Yodsaenklai and Narupoel both from Fairtex both a margin better than most of the other competition and quite a bit better than Martinez, Zidov, an undersized Smandych, and a Krohn’s Disease stricken Sylvestre. I for one could see exactly how this was going to proceed.

Narupoel summarily dispatched Trevor Smandych with ease.  At a point during the bout Narupoel is told to in essence not to harm Smandych severely and to carry him through his fight by his own corner. Next Sean Wright easily TKOs James Martinez who mounted no dangerous offense for his short efforts. Soren easily defeats Sylvestre who is shown being constantly sick and eating a very specific diet because of his Krohn’s disease. And Yodsaenklai of course easily defeated everyone put in front of him despite suffering an eye injury in his fight with Narupoel.

Yodsaenklai Fairtex, the most dominant middleweight Thaiboxer in the world.

Yodsaenklai Fairtex, the most dominant middleweight Thaiboxer in the world.

The issues with credibility are already rife from the start some of these names weren’t even Contenders in their own nations.  Pitting them against virtually anyone else in the tournament was guaranteed failure in producing a well matched fight and in even being fair. That said I am glad the boxers got a payday from it and I am glad the sport got more attention. I blame none of the boxers for taking part in it and the opportunity was good. With fights opportunities few and far between I cannot in good conscience blame any of the fighters for participating in a higher profile show and making a payday.

Predictably the show did well in Australia and Singapore markets.  When the show was later broadcast to American audiences via the Versus channel it lasted some episodes before it was pulled from television broadcast.  Low ratings were the direct cause.

The show itself served to undermine Muay Thai not only in the credibility department but via distraction. With some of the true international Muay Thai best pitted against virtual unknowns the outcome was predictable.  Along the way we are treated to Dragon Boat races, ice chipping, relay races and the sort of activities that have nothing to do with Muay Thai. At times one is uncertain if this is a fight tournament or a game show. Wisely after the first season of the international boxing Contender virtually all these ‘challenges’ are no longer present.

Fine and well one may say, it is what it is. Why protest it so strongly?  After all it is a reality TV show that Mark Burnett produced along with the international boxing Contender and of course the Survivor reality television show.  Why am I being so demanding of a reality TV show for integrity?  Because of the entity known as the WMC. From my outline above you can see where the WMC has fallen flat on their rhetoric and the reality of their actions. How does an independent sanction sort through their rankings to justify these match ups? For a start where are their rankings? I’ve never seen even one instance of a meaningful ranking by the WMC in weight class or level.

Without any clarity in rankings how do fights become meaningful in the WMC?  That’s partially the function of any fight sport sanction is establishing clarity in rankings as well as rules and regulations. In the 2nd part of this opinion piece I will show further undermining by the WMC against their own Purpose statement of ‘One World, One Muay Thai’.

Mark Burnett, Reality TV Show Producer

Mark Burnett, Reality TV Show Producer

While those questions are being sorted ask some more of yourself:

Why was the Contender population 3 among Australians but no more than 2 for every other participating country?

Why is the Vice President of the WMC participating as the mentor character?  Is this an attempt to match UFC’s Ultimate Fighter where an organizational head has so much public face time? The UFC could actually be somewhat excused from the same level of responsibility as the WMC as the UFC is a promotion and nothing more. The WMC on the other hand is by their own definition a sanction specifically focused on guiding integrity and honesty in the sport of Muay Thai.

When was the last time you saw Jose Suliaman heading up a role in reality TV? And yet the WBC could be arguably the biggest and most solidly run independent sanction in combat sports.

These are some of the questions to consider between now and part 2 of this article.

As always thanks for reading and leave please comments pro or con on this article.

To read part2 click here.

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~ by fatsoking on July 18, 2009.

10 Responses to “Contender for Credibility Part 1”

  1. interesting! an investigation into the workings of WMC and in particular the Vice President would I am sure open up a real can of worms

  2. For sure. But it needs saying. Part 2 will explore this topic even further.

  3. Hi there,
    very interesting piece. permission to link your blog to mine.
    Keep it up!
    Regards:
    Musaddik BoxxTomoi Zainuddin
    Malaysia.(home of WMC CA2)

  4. Thanks Musaddik! And thanks for coming by too!

  5. Surely something is incorrect from the start. I looked up ‘Contender’ in the dictionary, and it states “noun, competitior, esp. a strong one”

    I think ‘Mis-tender’ should be its original name, since not all of the competitors in season one were ‘strong ones.’

    It ranged from novice pro fighter’s to world beating athletes.
    Why were they ALL not world beaters. Mis-tender.

  6. And you are the number one contender for whiny internet warrior with self-inflated sense of importance. Its a fucking TV show. No one genuinely believes that the winner is the De Facto “best mt fighter ever” or whatever nonsense they were claiming. You seem to have a gripe with just about every single aspect of the show, down to the tasks they have to complete. I dont remember seeing boxing related tasks in the original contender, in fact it would get pretty fucking old if every task had to be MT related… I personally loved the dragon boat race, and its hardly as if the contenders felt they were taking part in something beneath them. I loved seeing Yodsaenklai taking the tasks so seriously, and, now read carefully because this is why people watch reality TV, getting to see some of my MT idols, and just interesting characters regardless of their skill, interacting in an unguarded way.

    Apparently every choice was made according to ‘marketability’ and this may be true, as most people realise that this is JUST A TV SHOW. But, credit to them, we witnessed full Thai rules fights with Wai Krus and, as most people who’ve not seen mt before believe, irritating thai flute music. The biggest threat to muay thai internationally is watering down the sport as they have done in holland, japan, france and the USA. I was worried the producers wouldn’t allow clinching or elbows to make it more appealing to a wider audience, but they didn’t, perhaps this is where the WMC came in I don’t know but I’m fucking proud this wasnt the case.

    Judging by the online forums, you would guage that most mt fans appreciated Zidov’s presence on the show, despite being streaks behind the competition (no offense zidov, mwah i love u). Winning the contender asia only has relevence if u beat some big names along the way, i never saw a WMC title on the line, did you?

    Ok, we get it, u hate the WMC. Fine. International MT has leaps and bounds to go before it can become anything like international boxing. But apart from Stephan Fox being on the show, i was unaware of the WMC’s involvement. This show had no titles to win, just a cash prise and an increased profile, notches on your belt and a nice fucking holiday. I doubt anyone else had any illusions to the contrary.

    To say that this show was somehow bad for muay thai is a joke. For years i tried to get my mates to see just a little of the love i had for this sport. Once i showed them the contender asia, they were hooked. They downloaded episodes even before me, weighing up different fighters strengths in different areas, asking me about the rules and how it was scored. Look through the forums, this show was LOVED by even the purist MT fans. You are just another wannabe journalist trying to catch some attention by slating something popular, it’s disgusting, it is damaging, and it’s old.

    I don’t know enough about the 2nd season to be able to comment regarding the cronyism, corruption and conspiracy u support by the most tenuous of connections. I’ll let this stand as a defence of the 1st season and leave it at that, because whilst it certainly wasn’t perfect, the Contender Asia was a great show and I am grateful for it.

    • I’m an e-warrior? Look at your reply with all the crying and cursing like a 13-year old who just added a fresh batch of cursewords to your vocabulary. So even though you’re basically being exactly the whiner you complain about I’ll address your low wit complaints that I can make out as relevant. To be honest I was debating letting your cryfest infest my site at all. Since, its not too focused on the topic and has become an airing ground for your grievance with me whatever that may be. But I thought I’d let your ignorant reply go up so I can publicly address your ‘concerns’. So please understand first of all its an opinion piece. Hence the term ‘commentary’ as objectivity, credibility, and integrity are different for everyone. For example someone may call a shit sandwich fine cuisine but its my opinion that it’s still a pile of shit.

      The international boxing Contender doesn’t have dumb challenges that have nothing to do with the sport since the first season aired over 4 years ago. They learned from it so they would seem. Subsequent airing were about the sport and daily fighters lives.

      If it got old for you watching fighters actually doing what fighters do and prepare for fighting then you’re interest doesn’t lie with the sport and you’re just a typical reality TV viewer. No fault or wrong there. Just don’t expect anyone else to buy into something so completely wrong from the start. It’s their choice and my choice not to. I’m not expressing why you should care about the sport I am expressing why I and people like me who take the sport seriously should expect more.

      More to the point as you’ve noted many times yourself: it’s just a show, it doesn’t matter, and they made false claims about determining the best MT fighter in the world from the start. This doesn’t cause you issue and you welcome stupidity being spread about Muay Thai. For the rest of us who don’t want MT made into a mockery on TV we do care. Japan, France, and Holland among others do Muay Thai more correctly than virtually anyone else in the west. For you to claim otherwise is a complete showing of a lack of education and involvement in Muay Thai on even a peripheral level. I’d love to see you make a stance otherwise for some of the busiest countries in Muay Thai outside of Thailand.

      Judging by online forums Zidov also had no place on the show. But I used my own opinion instead which aren’t influenced by forums.
      Once again, I fault no fighter taking an opportunity in a sport where internationally opportunity are infrequent and not the best paying.

      WMC I don’t hate. I want them to do the right thing. There’s a big difference. As widespread as the WMC has become why would one not want a big independent sanction to be around to do things correctly? If sanctions are only around to hand out trinkets like it’s Christmas then why have the WMC involved at all? Their own claim is to maintain integrity in Muay Thai. Obviously the WMC is at cross purposes with their rhetoric. If anyone had any illusions to the contrary its because of WMC’s well marketed and oft repeated rhetoric of maintaining integrity. The WMC is a position to do much good for Muay Thai internationally. They just consistently choose not to.

      To maintain that this show is good for Muay thai is purest ignorance. Can this show do good for Muay Thai? Absolutely. But you and others who want exposure at the cost of integrity and at the expense of fighter, camps and trainers getting put out unfairly is just flat out blind and ignorant. It’s like getting fed at the cost of removing an arm – its not worth it for most.

      Thanks for coming by though and try to make your point next time without being an irrational crybaby moron.

  7. Keep up the good work in promoting the sport and the fighters

    In Thaiboxing if only I was around now

    Best to all the Contenders

  8. The World needs to see Mauy Boxing in its right full stage as much as MMA is taken it in as a form for the striking side .
    I feel contender will help to put it out there.

    looking forward to reading on how we can promote one of the best
    fighting Arts and best fighters

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