Kickboxing and Muay Thai fans are typically cut from the same sort of cloth. While there are notable exceptions, both kickboxing enthusiasts and muay thai fanatics have a mutual respect for what the other side is doing. This is most evident in the bond that the two sports share in international competition- it's not uncommon for kickboxers to take a fight in muay thai and do well (See Karim Ghajji vs. Aikpracha) or vice versa (Too many examples to name, but Buakaw, Kem, and Artem Levin are MT practioners that have often competed at the highest level of kickboxing).
It goes without saying that Muay Thai has a larger and more technically gifted talent pool than most of kickboxing, especially at lower weights. However, kickboxing is still one of the most exciting sports in the world and when two skilled athletes are trying to punch each other in the face, just about anything can happen. This is my very subjective list of 6 Thai Fighters that would make a seamless transition into the kickboxing ring. A few disclaimers to keep in mind before I start the countdown...
1. This list is not in order of talent. It is numbered by who I would personally most like to see in a kickboxing promotion.
2. Thai's are hands down the best combat sports athletes on the planet. That being said, most of them probably won't make the transition over to kickboxing in the immediate future. If there's no reason to believe they'll switch sports, they won't be included on this list.
3. I'm not including any Thai fighters that have extensively fought kickboxing in the past.
Ok, that's it! Let's go ahead and get right down to our first entry...
#6- Simon Marcus
Chance of seeing him in kickboxing: Likely
Simon Marcus is what most people would call "on fire" right now. After going 6-0 in 2012 to add to his already unbeaten record, Marcus made an impression on American muay thai fans when he dispatched the always abrasive Joe Schilling twice in one year. If that wasn't enough, most recently Marcus competed in China where he scored two KO victories in the same night. Let's just be honest, the guy looks like a Greek God. He's terrifying. If Simon Marcus ever wanted to mug me all he'd need to do is glance in my general direction and my wallet would leave my pocket, sensing the prescence of an alpha male.
Marcus was originally scheduled to make his kickboxing debut at GLORY 5 London against fellow Muay Thai practioner Steven Wakeling. However, he opted for a long awaited dream match-up with Artem Levin instead. While we may not see the Bwad Boy move to kickboxing as planned, there is a very high chance he'll make the transition sometime in the future.
Read More for the full list
#5- Pornsanae Sitmonchai
Chance of seeing him in kickboxing: Possible
If you've never watched Pornsanae fight, you've been missing out. This 125 lb. Thai is one of the most exciting figures in combat sports today. He's a knockout machine, who prefers keeping his distance and swarming with punches and punishing low kicks, rather than engaging in clinch battles. His style is nearly perfect for kickboxing, and win, lose, or draw, he'd no doubt be an absolute pleasure to watch.
Pornsanae has had a rocky past few years, but he's recently stepped it up to reclaim his spot as one of the top 10 Thai's at his weightclass with wins over Yokwitaya, Kongnapa, and Kwankao (x2). What makes Pornsanae a possible kickboxing prospect is his willingness to try something new. Last October he competed in John Wayne Parr's first Caged Muay Thai event, losing to Michael "Tomahawk" Thompson. In January he fought to a controversial draw with Yosuke Morii in Japan. The man just loves to fight. Do you remember that movie Royal Rumble, where a bunch of Japanese students are abducted and forced to fight to the death for freedom? That's the type of thing Pornsanae would volunteer for.
There would be plenty of fights for him in Japan, and I know I'd personally be psyched if they ever happened.
#4- Kevin Ross
Chance of seeing him in kickboxing: Imminent
Kevin Ross may not be the most skilled fighter on this list, but he might have a much bigger part to play.
A new sport can become successful in a country only if all the conditions are right. One of the most important conditions is that there must be someone for the audience to identify with, to cheer for, and to support as one of their own. Legendary boxing promoter Don King referred to these people as "Heroes." They are the Mike Tyson's, the Anderson Silva's, the Badr Hari's, Mike Zambidis's, and Daniel Ghita's of the world. Every country needs it's own rallying point, and Kevin Ross may just be that man for the USA. This alone nets him the #4 spot on our countdown.
By far one of the most talented and technical muay thai fighters from the US, Ross recently inked a 2 fight deal with GLORY. If he does well, he could become the American posterboy of kickboxing. His fast paced, exciting style has already won over countless foreign muay thai fans, including John Wayne Parr who wanted Ross to fight in his Caged Muay Thai series.
Whether Kevin will be a champion kickboxer is up in the air, but there's a lot riding on his shoulders to be great.
#3- Aikpracha Meenayothin
Chance of seeing him in kickboxing: More than Likely
The top 3 fighters on this list are all championship material. Aikpracha Meenayothin is no exception. This guy has basically beaten the who's who of 70 kg international Muay Thai: Fabio Pinca, Yuri Bessmertny, Yohan Lidon, Jordan Watson, Frank Giorgi, Marco Pique, and Dong Wen Fei have all been road bumps to him.
A former Lumpinee champion, Aikpracha is known for stalking forward until the oppurtunity presents itself to land a killer knockout blow. People say that Aikpracha doesn't get into staredowns; he's really looking through your eyes and strangling your soul with his mind.
Last year he was signed to the Yokkao fight roster where it was announced he would be competing in kickboxing rules sometime in the future. There were rumors he might take on Giorgio Petrosyan early in 2013, but it seems that they didn't have much weight in them.
The top three fighters on this list are potentially interchangable. The only reason Aikpracha lands where he does is because of a recent KO loss to Karim Ghajji, and a potential scare against Yuri Bessmertny earlier that night. While Bessmertny and Ghajji are no doubt talented fighters, the top of the 70 kg kickboxing world is at least equally as threatening. Regardless, I have little doubt Aikpracha will find himself in the top 10 very soon.
#2- Nathan "Carnage" Corbett
Chance of seeing him in kickboxing: Cross Your Fingers
If you didn't see this coming you must have something in your eyes. Go ahead and get it out. I'll wait.
Nathan Corbett is one of the most terrifying forces of nature in the world. 95 kg of muscle and elbows, Corbett is without a doubt the best unsigned heavier division fighter in the game right now.
With wins over Tyrone Spong (Watch the fight if you think this is debatable), Steve McKinnon, Pavel Zhuravlev, Stephane Susperregui, and Frank Munoz, the man is a wrecking machine.
Yes, Corbett might not be as technically talented as some of the other fighters on this list, but his prescence in kickboxing would almost certainly shake things up. While Aikpracha would be an exciting addition to any kickboxing roster, he probably would not have the sheer "game-changing" status Corbett might.
Not only would he have some very interesting fights at 95 kg like Danyo Ilunga, Zabit Samedov, and the Stoica brothers, there would be plenty of room for him at heavyweight with potential fights like a rematch with Tyrone Spong, and hypothetical barn burners with Gohkan Saki and Daniel Ghita.
The question with Corbett is whether he'll actually make the move. Longtime rival Steve McKinnon has jumped to GLORY, as have many of his past opponents. If Corbett doesn't want to get stuck facing middle of the road Muay Thai fighters, he'll almost certainly be forced to make the switch eventually.
#1- Sitthichai Sitsongpeenong
Chance of seeing him in kickboxing: Imminent
Sitthichai Sitsongpeenong has been on a roll. Stablemate of Kem Sitsongpeenong, this Thai sensation has already wracked up wins over Aikpracha, Singmanee, Damien Alamos, and Petchasawin, to name just a few of his high profile victories.
But the reason that Sitthichai comes in at #1 isn't just his win list (losing only once since 2011), it's the way he's looked while doing it. To put things in perspective, Sitthichai recently beat Fabio Pinca at Best of Siam 3, and boy was it one-sided. As one onlooker commented, "He made Pinca look like a C level fighter." Now Fabio Pinca doesn't have the best track record against high level Thais, but he's almost always managed to stay competitive. Not with Sitthichai. Remember that Pinca is the same guy that went toe-to-toe with Giorgio Petrosyan in one of the best fights of 2012.
Not only is Sitthichai constantly improving and easily beating some of the best international fighters at 70 kg, he's only 21 years old. The kid hasn't even hit his peak yet and he's already on top of the world.
The final reason that Sitthichai comes in at #1 over Corbett and Aikpracha is that his first kickboxing match has been confirmed for GLORY 7 Milan, against Davit Kiria. Unlike a few of the others on this list Sittichai has a definite fight, and we'll probably be seeing much more of him in a kickboxing ring in the future.