Top 10 Muay Thai Legends You Should Know
As I embark on this journey through the exhilarating realm of Muay Thai, it’s essential to acknowledge that crafting a list of the sport’s greatest luminaries is a task not to be taken lightly. Instead of aiming to definitively rank these warriors, my aim is to celebrate the awe-inspiring talents of ten remarkable Thai fighters who have sculpted the landscape of Muay Thai, both in the annals of history and in the pulsating present.
These fighters aren’t just names etched in the records; they are living embodiments of dedication, resilience, and artistry. Their stories resonate deeply with enthusiasts like myself, serving as guiding stars in our pursuit of mastery in this ancient martial art.
From the blistering strikes of the past to the electrifying performances of the present, these fighters encapsulate the essence of Muay Thai, each contributing a unique brushstroke to its vibrant tapestry. Delving into their bouts isn’t merely an exercise in entertainment; it’s a masterclass in technique, strategy, and the unwavering determination that defines the spirit of Muay Thai.
So, without further ado, let’s embark on a thrilling exploration of the top ten Muay Thai legends, a pantheon of greatness where every name tells a story, and every fight is a testament to the enduring legacy of this beloved sport.
Saenchai is undeniably a legend of our time. His inimitable fighting style sets him apart from all others, and his diminutive stature (1.66m) might seem like a disadvantage for clinching, but his remarkable ability to outclass opponents in this area is a testament to his skill.
He is not only one of the top 10 Muay Thai fighters but is widely acclaimed as the greatest of all time. His technical wizardry across all facets of Muay Thai makes his fights appear deceptively effortless. From lightning-fast movements to unconventional kicks and acrobatic leg sweeps, Saenchai stands as the most captivating fighter to grace the ring.
Even in an age when most Muay Thai fighters have retired, this living legend continues to compete regularly, delighting fans worldwide. In recent years, Saenchai has trained and fought out of Yokkao Gym in Bangkok, primarily participating in Yokkao and Thai Fight promotions.
Buakaw is arguably the fighter who ignited international interest in Muay Thai like no other before him. Interestingly, he was the first Muay Thai fighter I ever knew of, even prior to commencing my own training.
You might recall him from the viral YouTube video where he effortlessly kicks down a banana tree, amassing nearly 3 million views. Buakaw’s fighting style is characterized by its aggression, with his potent KO punches and formidable kicks. His relentless forward movement makes him an electrifying presence in the ring.
At 38 years old, Buakaw’s unwavering commitment to training is evident in his exceptional physique and striking power. While he may not be the most technically proficient Muay Thai fighter, his popularity continues to surge. Though he has reduced his ring appearances, he remains active in training and occasionally graces the ring, securing his place as one of the top 10 Muay Thai legends of all time.
Yodsanklai Fairtex first gained recognition on the reality-based television series “The Contender Asia,” which aired on local TV stations. This show featured 16 fighters, culminating in Yodsanklai emerging victorious.
Yodsanklai is renowned for his devastating left roundhouse kicks and his mastery of Muay Thai techniques. His precision earned him the moniker “Boxing Computer.” In June 2017, Yodsanklai announced his retirement due to serious injuries, but he later made a comeback with six appearances on One Championship.
While his best days may be behind him, Yodsanklai will forever be remembered as one of Muay Thai’s greatest warriors.
Namsaknoi, affectionately known as “The Emperor,” is celebrated for his graceful Wai Kru Ram Muay and an illustrious career boasting 285 wins out of 300 fights.
For six years, he maintained an unbeaten record at Lumpinee Stadium from 2000 to 2006, a remarkable achievement in the fiercely competitive world of Muay Thai. Following a dispute over fight winnings with his gym, Namsaknoi retired and eventually found a teaching role at Evolve MMA in Singapore.
Afterward, Namsaknoi ventured into running his own Muay Thai gym on Koh Phangan, briefly returning to Evolve MMA and later joining Rattachai Gym in Phuket as a trainer. Today, he splits his time between Bangkok, where he frequents Attachai Gym, and training abroad.
Petchboonchu FA Group
Petchboonchu FA Group is the epitome of a clinch fighter in the modern era, renowned for his unparalleled clinching abilities. Combined with his devastating knee strikes, he clinched 14 titles of the highest caliber, solidifying his status as the most decorated fighter in Muay Thai history.
Petchboonchu honed his skills at FA Group gym in Chatuchak, Bangkok, known for its emphasis on clinch training. He exemplifies the Muay Khao style, dominating opponents with superior clinching and aggressive knee strikes.
After retiring from the elite circuit, Petchboonchu dedicated himself to teaching Muay Thai full-time at Evolve MMA Singapore between 2016 and 2017. He was preparing for One Super Series before injuries forced him into permanent retirement. Today, he works for One Championship, scouting Thai talent for the promotion while being based in Bangkok.
Before the era of Petchboonchu FA Group, there was Chamuakpetch Harpalang, a legendary figure from the golden age of Muay Thai. Chamuakpetch is one of the sport’s most decorated champions, having secured the Lumpinee title four times and the Rajadamnern title five times across seven weight classes.
Nicknamed the “Computer Knee Striker,” Chamuakpetch was a master clincher and knee fighter, renowned for his precise and devastating mid- and long-range knee strikes. He even earned the prestigious “Fighter of the Year” award in 1985, a distinction reserved for the very best in the sport.
Chamuakpetch’s victories include triumphs over fellow golden age legends such as Samart Payakaroon, Kongthoranee Payakaroon, and Sangtiennoi Sor Rungroj.
Dieselnoi Chor Thanasukarn
Dieselnoi, standing over 6 feet tall, was the man with knees that seemed to reach the sky. He dominated the lightweight division at Lumpinee Stadium from 1981 to 1985, remaining undefeated throughout his reign due to a lack of worthy competitors in his weight class.
With an unyielding and aggressive knee-fighting style, Dieselnoi was an enthralling presence in the ring. He embodied the quintessential Muay Khao style, fighting in a manner distinct from other knee fighters of his time.
Dieselnoi engaged in memorable rivalries with fellow golden-age legends like Samart Payakaroon and Sagat Petchyindee. Today, Dieselnoi dedicates his time to visiting gyms in Bangkok and Pattaya, passing on his invaluable knowledge to the next generation of Nak Muays.
Samart is frequently regarded as the ultimate Muay Thai fighter of all time, earning the title of the “GOAT” in Muay Thai. Trained under the legendary Yodtong Senanan at the Sityodtong camp, Samart was honored with the prestigious Sports Writers of Thailand Fighter of the Year award three times.
Samart excelled with his boxing skills, clinching four Lumpinee championships before transitioning to boxing and clinching a WBC junior featherweight title. He was also renowned for his unparalleled mastery of teeps (push kicks), a technique that remains unmatched to this day.
After his peak fighting years, Samart briefly ventured into singing and film, starring in a major role in a French production. Today, he operates the Samart Payakaroon gym in Bangkok.
Watching Somrak’s fights is nothing short of mesmerizing. His superiority over opponents was evident in his confident demeanor.
Somrak is a source of national pride for Thailand, representing the country in boxing and securing its first Olympic gold medal. Despite never winning a Lumpinee championship, it is said that he was so exceptional that the stadium’s major promoters barred him from competing—a story fit for a legend.
In addition to his busy schedule as a singer, celebrity, and trainer, Somrak made occasional appearances in fights. He even featured in the 2017 Thai Muay Thai-prison film, “Prayer before Dawn.”
Sagat, the one-eyed villain in the iconic video game “Street Fighter” by Capcom, likely introduced more people to Muay Thai than anyone else, including Buakaw. The character of Sagat in the game is believed to be inspired by the real-life fighter Sagat Petchyindee.
With his eye patch, bald head, and prominent scar, Sagat was a formidable fighter who meant business. He may well be the most iconic Muay Thai fighter in the sport’s history. For anyone who grew up playing arcade games in the 90s, Sagat was an integral part of their childhood.
In reality, the genuine Sagat (as seen in the image) now coaches at 13 Coins Gym in Bangkok, offering private training sessions.
Attempting to rank these legendary fighters would inevitably lead to disputes and disagreements. Nevertheless, we can collectively acknowledge that the 10 fighters featured here have left an indelible mark on the sport, each in their unique way. There are countless other outstanding fighters worthy of recognition, but the limited space here necessitates these selections.
If you have a favorite fighter who didn’t make the list, I’d love to hear about your choice for the greatest fighter. Meanwhile, be sure to explore my picks for the current top active fighters in Thailand and the greatest foreign Muay Thai fighters of all time.