Thailand has banned MMA.
The Thai sports ministry ruled this week that MMA is “too brutal” and it is henceforth prohibited to stage MMA events in the South-East Asian country.
Ministers said that mixed martial arts is “causing erosion” to the sport of Muay Thai and “damaging the image” of Thailand’s native martial art.
However, there are those in the fledgling Thai MMA industry who think that the government may have been pressured or swayed by the Muay Thai industry.
Muay Thai is huge business in Thailand. It fills arenas all over the country, generates a lot of tourist traffic, airs on television a lot and provides employment for a large swathe of young men who would be otherwise unengaged.
MMA is very new to Thailand but it had the potential to steer would-be star Thai boxers into the cage instead of into the Muay Thai ring. While it has yet to produce any serious MMA contenders, its rich combat sports pedigree meant it was probably only a matter of time.
Former Thai boxers such as Rambaa Somdet and Yodsanan Sityodtong have transitioned to MMA with various levels of success, but the real money would come from someone being able to emulate the kind of international success that Buakaw Por. Pramuk managed when he transitioned to K-1.
None of that will have been seen as beneficial to the Muay Thai industry, which is notoriously conservative, and so MMA has been dealt a crippling blow before being able to get off the ground properly. The ban does not affect MMA training, which – ironically – numerous camps are beginning to offer.