It may take years for us to understand the important strides the sport of Muay Thai made last year. 2012 can be remembered just like any year, a mere footnote in. Then again, 2012 may also be remembered by "Thai Boxing" enthusiasts as the year Muay Thai was finally put on the map in America.
On a local scale, Bad Blood Muay Thai has continued to grow, with the addition of the Bad Blood Qualifiers, and the announcement that BBMT would be putting on professional Muay Thai fights in 2013. At the international level, the IOC observed the IFMA world tournament; an audition for the sport of Muay Thai to be added as an Olympic event.
Perhaps most significant to the sport's presence in the U.S. was the announcement of the AXS.TV- Lion Fight Promotions broadcast partnership. Last November it was announced that AXS.TV would be broadcasting Lion Fight 8 live on January 25th as part of its AXS.TV Fights series.
Lion Fight is a relatively young promotion, hosting its first event less than two years ago. Yet in its brief existence this promotion has struck a deal that completely alters the landscape of American Muay Thai (the same could be said for AXS.TV.) The ripple effect has already reached Arizona.
Brothers and training partners Damien Early and Nick Chasteen spend most of their evenings training at Best Muay Thai in Tempe. Both men are multiple time amateur champions; Chasteen fights for his ninth title tonight. Early is fighting for the second time as a professional, after his debut with K-1 last year ended with a third round KO victory.
Both fighters have a flair for the theatrical even though they approach their fights in different ways. Young, highly skilled and dedicated, the two have all the makings of future stars, they need only seize the opportunities presented to them; opportunities like tonight's fights.
If Muay Thai ever reaches the status of Boxing or MMA in America, tonight's show will be a landmark event. While traditional Kickboxing events like K-1 have been broadcast in the U.S. before, Lion fight is the first live Muay Thai event to be broadcast nationally. The fight card features 8 professional bouts headlined by world champions Gregory Choplin and Yodsanklai Fairtex. We may not see both Chasteen and Early on TV tonight, but the historical gravity of this event is in and of itself a reason to watch. A list of cable and Satellite companies who carry AXS.TV is available here. If you don't already watch AXS.TV, it's worth taking the time to find.