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Two fighters take turns walking out to the ring. Chommanee Sor Taehiran, a well known Thai champion, enters to the cheers of the mostly Thai audience while Polish challenger Martyna Krol follows with her own confident walkout. At the ropes, Martyna fixes the top portion of her ill-fitting, mandatory two-piece fight uniform.
She slips into the ring under the bottom rope and adjusts the unsupportive bra top again. Over in the red corner Chommanee faces her coaches and rubs her eyes, careful not to smear the makeup she's wearing for this event. The headlining fight of the night is going to be broadcast live in front of potentially millions of viewers all over Thailand, and the promoters want the fighters to be beautiful.
This is Muay Thai Angels; the beauty of the fighters is part of the supposed appeal to a mass audience. The announcer chants sud suay muay thai! Muay Thai Angels might be an all-female promotion, but it's not the only promotion at the Sports Authority of Thailand tonight. Both male and female fights are draws for particular audiences; perhaps the combination will win the WMC the viewership numbers it desires. You have to be beautiful.
One thing is for sure, the men aren't forced to wear makeup.
Sarah Rankin Earlier in the evening, New Zealander Sarah Rankin sits patiently backstage while a Thai makeup artist glams her up for the ring.
Sarah's opponent Nong Am, only 17 but already well known in the Muay Thai circuit, is sitting a few feet away, her coach wrapping her hands.
Nong Am looks up and smiles as a fellow Thai fighter approaches, wiping drops of sweat from her brow. Nong Am's friend Saifa, 20, has been training at her family's gym in northern Thailand since she was 11, the lone girl of the pack.
Nine years later, she's studying sports sciences at university in addition to training full-time, hoping to become a P. Saifa Saifa takes a swig of water, tells Nong Am she won her fight against Italian Miriam Sabot on points, but that it was a hard fight. Saifa and Nong Am, each having fought over 80 times, are in agreement when it comes to fighting foreigners: All eight of the Angels fights tonight feature match-ups between Thais and foreigners.
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No one, regardless of nationality, is exempt from the makeup requirement, not even Lommanee. A tom "tomboy" or butch woman who reportedly identifies as a male, Lommanee is looking particularly feminine while her hands are being wrapped. Apparently short hair and androgyny weren't enough to save Lommanee from getting the full makeup treatment.
She's been professionally beautified as well. On the opposite end of the spectrum is Polish fighter Martyna Krol, who showed up to the event with makeup already done.
She was the only woman I interviewed who attested to regularly wearing makeup to her fights. It's Saifa's first time wearing makeup during a fight, and she has an idea as to what it represents: The promoters want to get women interested in Muay Thai. Pretty fighters are a highlight of the Angels promotion, and if this gets more women involved in Muay Thai, I think it's a good thing.
She hasn't fought yet, says she's a bit worried about having to wear makeup during the fight. What if the makeup runs into her eyes? What if she gets cut from an elbow and the makeup goes into the wound? But you have to wear makeup for Angels. It draws a bigger audience when the fighters look pretty. The promoter says if we look outstanding in the ring, people will want to watch us.
And these shorts are way shorter than normal. Even during my fight, I was worried I was in danger of exposing too much. Saifa and her boyfriend Anantadej Petchsupapan, who met at a Muay Thai gym, always make it a point to support each other's fights. He watched her win earlier this evening, now she's cheering him on in his first fight of a four-man tournament. He's a year-old giant of a Thai man, imposing and intimidating, like a tough Muay Thai version of Addams Family's Lurch.
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His fight against Frenchman Remi Vectol lasts all three rounds, but Anantadej confidently secures the win and a spot in the tournament finals. The crowd cheers for the women just as loudly as they did for the men. Neither of them reports knowing how much the men are making. For Sarah, though, money has never been a big motivator: Photo of the world's largest thai dating scams being made sure, latin women looking for singles dating free to find your single woman.
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- Meet Shawn Yacoubian of Yacoubian Muay Thai Academy in Chatsworth
- The World Muay Thai Angels: Marketing the Women Fighters of Thailand
- Muay Thai/Thai Boxing
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