The Myanmar Times - - Sport -

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.

Photo: Naing Lin Soe

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.

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