Your First Muay Thai Fight


Preparing for your first Muay Thai fight is usually preceded by months if not years of training and conditioning, but you may still find yourself with a lot of questions about what happens before the big event. This post explores some of those questions and should be seen as a resource for anyone who is curious about what takes place before a Muay Thai fight. It doesn’t matter if the fight is just a few days away or if you’re just starting your training and want to know what to expect.

The Matchup

As Alby Tam of Bay Area-based Combat Culture and Kru Rob from Square Circle in New York explain in the above video, your coach will be your lifeline to the fight. He or she will determine if you are ready and facilitate with others to plan the fight and will help decide what kind of opponent you should go up against. Rob, who has been coaching fighters for roughly 15 years, notes that you may end up going up against someone who is your equal, but it’s also possible that your coach may recognize the need for you to be challenged by someone who has a bit more experience than you.

After the Matchup

Once the matchup has been set, your coach will handle all communication with the other side’s coach. They’ll agree on a set of rules, as well as a set weight. You may also have to sign what’s known as a fight agreement, which is basically a contract that says you are committed to participating in the fight and that you will follow the rules.

As an amateur, you may need to pay what is known as a fighter’s fee. It is usually a fairly small amount. Sometimes your gym will pay the fee, sometimes you will be expected to pay out of pocket. If you need to travel, there will also be expenses associated with that—hotel room, meals, transportation, and so on. Your coach will usually handle these expenses or clearly tell you that you have to cover them. If you are not clear on anything, ask your coach well before the trip.

Before the Fight

Once you get to the destination, you should expect to spend a lot of time waiting. You will wait before the weigh-in and you will likely wait around before your fight, as all participants are expected to arrive well before the first punch of the night gets thrown.

What if I don’t make weight?

You will know if the weigh-in takes place the day before the fight or the day of the fight well before you step on the scale, and you will need to plan accordingly. You and your coach should also know what your comfortable weight range is, and you should already be within a few pounds to the set upon weight several days before the fight.

If you are off weight, your opponent’s coach will decide if the fight continues or not.

What Should I Bring?

Rob has a really short list: a dry set of clothes, a towel, deodorant, a snack, and water. Rob emphasizes that water is better than Gatorade or other beverages. Anything that has flavors or colors is frowned upon because it might contain prohibited substances. To avoid any headaches, just bring water.

What if my opponent drops out?

Your opponent may drop out weeks, days, hours, or minutes before the fight is set to begin. If they drop during the matchmaking process, the hope is that a replacement fighter will be found relatively quickly. If they drop out just a few minutes before the fight is set to begin, you’ll unfortunately have to wait to fight another day.

What if I’m nervous?

Virtually everyone gets nervous the first time they do something, especially when they’re doing it in front of a group of people. In most cases, the more fights you take part in, the less nervous you will feel. Another common experience is that you will feel the most nervous while you are waiting for your fight to begin. The good news is that, once the bell rings, those nerves have a tendency to disappear as your training kicks in, but you still feel that sense of heightened awareness as your adrenaline keeps pumping.

The Fight

Once you step into the ring, you will be accompanied by your team, who will stay in your corner. This will be your home base prior to the fight and between rounds.

What do the people in my corner do?

Your coaches and members of your team will make up the people in your corner. Their role is to serve you and support you. They are there before the fight, after the fight, and in between rounds.

They will wrap your hands before the fight and make sure that you have grease or Vaseline on your face. They will also be the ones getting you water between rounds, treating any cuts or swelling, and telling you if you need to modify your strategy for the coming round.

What if I get knocked down?

If you get knocked down, do not immediately try to get back up. Get on one knee, see how you feel, and then either call it or get back up.

On the one hand, this is about putting safety over pride. If you’re already struggling to stay on your feet, you may not be able to defend against direct hits to the face that can do serious damage. On the other hand, you may look worse off than you actually are if you get up too quickly, since you may not have fully regained your equilibrium. If you wobble as you get back to your feet, there’s a good chance that the ref will call the fight regardless of how you say you feel.

Take a breath, slowly get back up, make sure you’re stable, and then get back to the fight.