By Jack Smith
Growing numbers of Australians are packing up and heading over to Thailand in pursuit of a professional Muay Thai fighting career.
The national sport, which has a rich history and is deeply respected in Thailand, is now attracting Australians eager to immerse themselves in the culture.
Muay Thai has become popularised by organisations such as Ultimate Fighter Championship in America which has brought mixed martial arts to western audiences.
International interest in Muay Thai saw the sport become recognised by the International World Games Association in 2013, which led to the martial art being added to the 2017 Southeast Asia Games for 2017.
A popular training camp for aspiring fighters is Tiger Muay Thai in Phuket.
The gym offers all-inclusive training and accommodation packages starting at 40,000 baht, equivalent to about $1,500 AUD per month.
Australian amateur fighter Samuel Drake, who spent one month at the training camp in Phuket, remembers his time in Thailand fondly.
“It was intense, they live Muay Thai over there, it’s like a religion, all you do is eat, train, sleep and fight, it was an amazing experience,” he said.
Visa options for those thinking of making the trip include 90-day student visas as the Thai Immigration Bureau considers Muay Thai to be an educational experience but stays can be extended for up to a year.
Working visas are also available to those who teach English in their time off from the intensive training.
Lukas Symes, who trains at Suwit Muay Thai training camp in Phuket, describes this as the most rewarding way to experience the culture and help the community.
“I’ve been here on and off for just under a year and I can’t describe how great it’s been, you’re learning from the masters of Muay Thai and teaching kids at the same time, you couldn’t get this anywhere else in the world,” he said.