Challenger Muay Thai – Bumps in the Road

By Mike LNg

Thailand Versus Reality TV

With one event in the books from January, 2010 The Thailand Challenger was highly praised as the logical successor to The reality TV series Contender Asia.  With a myriad of problems documented with an attempt to make a 2nd season of the reality TV show (Allegedly still on track to begin shooting in June 2010) Challenger was set to be the next big attempt at bringing Muay Thai to international TV audiences. The Challenger series got off to a good start with well matched fights pitting some of Muay Thai’s bigger names against some notables of international Muay Thai with even Contender Asia alum Dzhabar Askerov making a return. And much like Contender Asia the sanctioning is one again under the World Muay Thai Council (WMC).

However, after what was a generally well received first outing there hasn’t been much else going on.  In essence the general idea was basically to glamorize Muay Thai for international audiences.  The inaugural event was held at Royal Paragon Hall, a pretty far cry from the grimy stadiums of Lumpini and Rajadmanern.  The ticket prices were slightly more than stadium prices though they were kept at a reasonable sum. The promoter from Europe, Toli Makris could claim roots from legendary promoter Songchai Ratanasuban.

How ever the promoter seems to have hit a few snags including the strife from the red shirt protests.  From the Elite Boxing (EB) press release:

The current political situation in Thailand has forced Elite Boxing to reorganize its plans for 2010. However, while a number of events in Thailand have had to be cancelled or postponed, EB has reacted by adapting its strategy to take the Thailand vs Challenger Series on the road one year ahead of schedule.

The next instalment of the TVC Series had been scheduled to take place at the Rajdamnoen Stadium in Bangkok at the end of March as part of the highly anticipated Rajdamnoen vs Lumpini inter-stadium event. Two Thailand vs France match ups had been incorporated into a very exciting fight card. However, the political crisis that is affecting the whole country forced this event to be cancelled.

In addition, plans to hold a TVC event at Central World in May have also been shelved. Central World is in the Rajprasong area of Bangkok, right in the center of the current demonstrations and has been closed since the beginning of April.

EB’s plans for the year were further disrupted when – having achieved the major milestone of reaching an agreement to co-host weekly events with One Songchai at the MBK shopping mall in Bangkok – the political tensions have also caused these events to be cancelled indefinitely.

EB has reacted to these changes by adapting its strategy for the year. Managing Director, Toli Makris, informed us, “We received a lot of international interest in TVC after the Grand Opening and we have decided to cash in on that by taking TVC abroad one year ahead of schedule”.

Toli went on to explain how the focus for TVC over the remainder of this year will be to take the Thai team abroad and events are currently being finalized in Germany, Greece and Switzerland at the end of the year.
There is also some lateral expansion developments taking place and EB is now in negotiations about opening its own gym in Bangkok.

I am still hopeful Challenger takes off and is actually successful in bringing Muay Thai to a bigger audience internationally.  But it seems Challenger was to at some point get a movie funded by the Media Authority of Singapore (MDA) and shot entirely in 3d. The 3d portion was to be funded by MDA with theatrical rights being picked up by Golden Village. However as of January 2010 it investors were still being sought out.

Neilia Sutrisno of The  newly formed Group-entertainment said:

“The Challenger evolves around the sport of Mixed Martial Arts. With the exponential growth of UFC (Ultimate Fight Challenge) in the US and K1 in Japan plus Muay Thai being the preferred stand up technique for both sports, The Group is planning to bring this sport to the next level. With Muay Thai already based in 128 countries and with over 500 matches a month globally, we hope that with the right media exposure, The Challenger will achieve similar success.”

Kind of confusing to me.  But I have to imagine this means Challenger is loosely based around the Ultimate Fighter reality TV series in America.  That said I despise the reality TV show approach and the involvement of WMC altogether  signals caution to me personally. Still, I am hopeful for the first time evenly matched, truly international Muay Thai is brought to the USA and beyond.  But it seems at the moment only Australia and Europe have been secured for broadcast deals.  Still hugely relieved that at last a promotion team that has a better understanding of Muay Thai is at the helm instead of the likes of Mark Burnett. With 13 episodes expected and no real plans announced on their format or even their content I can only hope for the best.

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~ by fatsoking on May 7, 2010.

One Response to “Challenger Muay Thai – Bumps in the Road”

  1. Just in case you hadn’t heard, this is apparently a go – my local fight shop says Fadi Merza is one of the guys just moved into the house.

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