Fight 172 – vs Faa Chiangrai Sor. Sakuntong
January 29, 2017 – Lopburi, Thailand – called in on the morning of the fight – see full video here
Pi Nu called me at about 7 AM and asked if I could fight that night, probably at around 9 PM. It would be in Lopburi, which is a 4-5 hour drive from Pattaya, so I just told him I had to see if I could get a car for the day and I’d confirm. The place we rent from had one, so I had a fight that night. It’s one of these things that I love about Thailand: a fight can just fall into your lap. I’d trained the day before, there was no preparation, I did know my opponent and so the pressure of having “done” anything for the fight was gone. It’s just, “can you go?” and if the answer is yes, then you go. So yeah, no pressure.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t my favorite fight experience, just in terms of how it played out. A few of my gymmates were also fighting on this card, so when Kevin and I arrived at the location they were already there, having arrived hours in advance – Thai style. Angie was on the card, one of her very early fights – maybe her 5th or something – so I sat down with her and we used this bizarre little shack to change into our fight clothes because there was no bathroom anywhere nearby. I’m used to roughing it like this, but it was new to Angie and I could tell she was pretty stressed by it. Her stress kind of communicated itself to me a little, just out of sympathy I think. With a number of fighters on the card, it also means that cornermen are basically getting us ready in an assembly-line fashion and you may have to go meet your team at the corner rather than having them with you as you walk to the ring. I don’t mind any of that, but I’m very unaccustomed to fighting with my gym, as strange as that sounds. Most of my fights are on my own, traveling around Thailand and finding a corner when I’m there. So I had this weird thing of being completely adroit at having an appropriate distance to the folks working my corner, but not accessing that ability because I kind of defaulted into this assumption that because I know them, I train with them, I should be taken care of by them. It’s not like that; I should have treated it like being cornered by strangers, because I fight so infrequently with them it’s kind of an accurate way to approach it. Instead I found myself out of sorts. It felt like a no-man’s-land. I was with my gym and I wasn’t. I did not take the right perspective.
Everybody from the gym lost their fights, except for this one Italian kid who was nearly twice the size of his opponent. I wasn’t mentally focused when getting into the ring and my performance was greatly affected by that. Faa Chiangrai and I have fought each other so many times now, it’s a situation where you are quite familiar with each other and that’s a bit of a good thing for your overall progress, because it forces you to grow and adjust rather than being able to bank on one or two moves that work against opponents who don’t expect them. I’d won a string of fights against Faa Chiangrai and so thought I kind of had my tactics down, but she pushed hard in her snuffing of my clinch and running away the whole fight, so I was forced to chase her down and then looked ineffective when I would finally catch her. She fought the right fight, I fought an old fight. So, that felt bad to lose but it also felt particularly awful because of this assumption that I should have been familiar with my corner and they should have been familiar with me, giving meaningful instruction, etc. But none of that is the case. Chicken Man was my corner and he barely said anything to me, and when he did I felt obligated to follow his instruction because he’s from my gym, whereas if he’d been some guy I’d asked to corner for me at a festival fight I would have been more mentally inclined to solve the problems myself in the ring. A bit of a Catch 22 that just put an additional obstacle in front of me in this fight.
When you fight a lot and when you take fights on same-day notice and all this stuff, it’s just part of the process of gaining experience. Loss is part of that. Frustration is part of that. Being able to orient yourself in the turbulence of so many factors outside of your control is the most important thing to take and become good at out of these experiences. So even though I was disappointed in this fight, I had the opportunity to get a lot of feedback from all of those factors and grow from it. Knowing better doesn’t guarantee you’ll then do better, but it really helps.