MIXED MARTIAL ARTS
PHOE Thaw may be a mixed martial arts champion, but he’s far from satisfied. Coming off a resounding victory in a two-round featherweight championship tournament at ONE Championship’s State of Warriors this weekend, one of Myanmar’s premier fighting talents is already eyeing a packed 2017 schedule that includes an international karate competition in the Philippines.
“My first goal, for the ONE Championship Myanmar featherweight title, has been achieved, but I’m not done yet,” he told The Myanmar Times.
The North Okkalapa-based fighter, who entered the State of Warriors cage at Thuwunna Stadium with two mixed martial arts victories to his name, made quick work of his competitors on October 7. In the event’s opening fight, Phoe Thaw dispatched ONE debutante Kat Pali by TKO in just 22 seconds before defeating fellow semifinalist Saw Yan Paing with a rain of elbows and fists that forced a TKO at 3 minutes and 23 seconds into the first round.
“Even though I arrived confident that I could win at State of Warriors, my heart was still pounding when I arrived at the ring. There isn’t any stage quite like ONE’s. But I was able to focus on my form as soon as I started fighting and take down both of my opponents,” he said.
In preparation for the State of Warriors tournament, Phoe Thaw’s shot at a mixed martial arts title, he spent 10 days in Cambodia training with grassroots martial arts charity Fight for Cambodia.
“I got plenty of benefits from the Cambodia trip,” Phoe Thaw said previously, adding that the experience gave him the opportunity to hone in on mixed martial arts ground techniques and Brazilian jiu-jitsu that are absent from traditional lethwei.
Phoe Thaw’s mixed martial arts career began with an undercard match at ONE Championship’s Kingdom of Warriors in July 2015, the regional promoter’s first foray into Myanmar, where he defeated Kyawl Sin Htoo in a mostly standing brawl that ended early due to medical intervention. At ONE: Union of Warriors in March, he relied on his new jiu-jitsu skills to overcome Saw L Lay in just 2 minutes, 27 seconds.
Already adept in jiu-jitsu and aikido in addition to lethwei and karate, Phoe Thaw is a formidable match for Myanmar’s local fighters, but he has still yet to be tested by a foreign opponent. In 2017, he plans to change that.
Phoe Thaw told The Myanmar Times that he’s targeting an ambitious calendar of six ONE Championship bouts for 2017. ONE Championship declined to identify any future unannounced fights where Phoe Thaw might feature, citing contract policy, but confirmed that fighter, who trains at A Phyu Yaung Thwe Thit (“White Blood New Generation”) gym, is signed on.
The 32-year-old stand-out won’t be waiting for ONE, however – he’s already planning to compete at the Southeast Asia Kyokushin full-contact karate tournament in the Philippines on December 3-4.
Athletes from Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand will also compete.
“The last fights weren’t too much of a challenge, because I was only facing lethwei specialists, but next year I’ll face foreign fighters trained in a greater variety of styles. Their ground games are much better than most Myanmar fighters’, and their jiujitsu skills are amazing. So I’ll need to adapt my striking strategy to match them,” Phoe Thaw said.
But first, he’s got one more order of business: a proper mixed martial arts nickname to go with his international career.
“I really want an MMA nickname. All the international MMA fighters have nicknames that reflect their unique talents and styles. I don’t know if I should name myself, or wait for my fans to propose a nickname, but I’m willing to consider it,” he said.
A champion in lethwei and now in mixed martial arts: Phoe Thaw poses after his trophy victory at ONE Championship’s State of Warriors at Thuwunna Indoor Stadium on October 7.