My Life As A Muay Thai Fighter: Orono Wor Petchpun

Multiple-time Muay Thai World Champion Orono Wor Petchpun was born on August 22, 1978 in Nonthaburi, Thailand. His fighter name comes from another Muay Thai legend named Orono Por Muangubon. He holds 9 championship title belts and is considered to be one of the greatest Muay Thai World Champions of his era. Today, he is a Muay Thai instructor at Evolve Mixed Martial Arts in Singapore.

One of the last memories I have of my childhood in Nonthaburi, was waking up amongst my 7 brothers and 2 sisters, wondering how I could help my parents. They were rice farmers, barely making enough to put food on the table. There were just too many of us and not enough money to go around. I was 10 years old then. I saw my brothers toiling in the fields with my parents, picking and planting rice in the glaring Thailand sun. I knew that if I were to follow tradition, I would probably be in the same field twenty years later, just like the rest of my family.

It was then that I decided that I would help them make ends meet. Instead of heading to the fields, I thought that I would make more money by becoming a fisherman. I needed money to continue going to school and possibly earn a Bachelor’s degree in the future, so that I wouldn’t ever become a burden to my parents.

Each night, after doing my homework and studying, I would set the fishing nets. In the morning, I would wake up a few hours earlier than everyone else to return and pick the fish from the nets so I could sell them for a few baht. I didn’t have to earn much, just enough to get me through school and get a snack here and there.

On Sundays, my father would watch Muay Thai fights on TV. Us boys would gather around him, spectators of the beautiful art of 8 limbs, in our home. It didn’t matter who was fighting – it was thrilling enough to watch the fighters battle it out on the canvas. “I have 8 sons,” my father once said, “And it’s a pity that none of them fight Muay Thai.” What he said kept on echoing through my mind. “What if I became one of those guys on TV,” I thought. “Maybe someday.”

When I was 15, one of my classmates approached me as I fished around my pockets for money. “I noticed that you’re always kind of short on money,” he said. I looked at him defensively, was it that obvious that I didn’t have enough? He looked around and showed me his pocket — it was full of money. “I earned this from a Muay Thai fight,” he told me. “Would you be interested in fighting?” I remembered what my father had said those many years ago and agreed. Plus, the money seemed enticing enough.

Orono as a young, skinny student.

Orono as a young, skinny student.

After school, my classmate and I walked to the Muay Thai camp. It wasn’t too far from school, just a few kilometers. “My friend wants to become a Muay Thai fighter,” my classmate announced as we entered the camp. I had never been to a Muay Thai gym before. The sound of the constant rhythm of kicks and punches on the bags was mesmerizing. There were boys of all ages, as young as 7 to their late teens, kicking, punching, kneeing, elbowing, jumping – it was a flurry of activity, everywhere I looked.

The walls were filled with framed photos of former champions with their belts and trainers and I wondered what it would be like to be one of them.

The gym owner walked up to us and eyed me, looking me up and down. “Too skinny,” he said warily, looking at my long arms and legs. “You’ll get hurt easily and your bones will break.” I shrugged off his comment, remembering the money in my friend’s pocket. “I still want to try,” I told him.

He continued to examine me, walking around me, looking at me from all angles. “How old are you?” he asked. “15,” I replied. The trainer looked away and clicked his tongue. “It’s too late to start,” he told me. I glanced at my friend for help; he was busy talking to his other friends. “It’s OK, I will try.” I told him.

Orono together with his teammates at his first camp.

Orono together with his teammates at his first camp.

I proved him wrong. When I won my first fight, I made 300 baht. It wasn’t much, but it was a start and I was really happy. I knocked out my opponent with a left punch and a knee. He was a student, just like me, and had been training Muay Thai for awhile. My first win made me want to fight even more. I went on to win my next 8 fights, while attending school at the same time.

At my first gym, I learned how to perfect my clinching as well as knees and elbows. My trainers made me focus on these techniques, making me do them hundreds of times until I got them right. When I moved to Wor Petchpun Gym later on, I developed my left kick. My trainer, Waipot Petchpun, told me that all my techniques were fine but my left kick needed a lot of work. He told me that I needed to turn my hip more, turn my foot and swing back as I kicked. Even after years of training Muay Thai, I realized that I still had a lot to learn.

In my Muay Thai career, I’ve been known for my left kicks, left elbow and knees. I’ve won many fights with these techniques, and I’ve even knocked out some opponents with them. I’ve fought many big names such as Yodsanklai Fairtex, Buakaw Por Pramuk, and Saenchai PKSaenchaimuaythaigym. In all my fights, my mindset never changed – nothing ever scared me, I just wanted to win.

In 2001, I fought Buakaw in Lumpinee. It was right after I won my first World Title against Petchek Sor Suwannapakdee and the same year I graduated with my Bachelor’s Degree. In Thailand, especially my province, not everyone has the luxury of a tertiary education. But I saved up enough money for it from all my fights. For me, graduating was important so I could bring honor to my family. I won that fight and I also won the respect of my family – it was the first Bachelor’s Degree in the family.

Of all my opponents, my toughest would have to be Saenchai. Back then, he was still known as Saenchai Sor Kingstar. His technique is really amazing and he’s really light on his feet. There’s a reason why he’s considered one of the greatest Muay Thai legends in history. Unlike other fighters, he’s really agile and always surprising you with an attack. You never know what to expect with Saenchai.

The first time I fought Saenchai, he earned the judge’s nod. He was the more technical fighter that day and proved his legendary status that night. It was a very close fight, but that day, the judges decided that he was the better fighter. I knew I would fight him again someday but I would be better prepared for it.

Two years later, we met again in Lumpinee. I used my height and reach advantage and kept the distance with some teeps. Saenchai would try a fancy kick and I would counter with a strong left kick. I knew that I had to stick to my strengths and soldier on.

I got a couple of good punches in the first round and he scored some low leg kicks. He even tried to do his famous cartwheel kick, but I managed to dodge it. I didn’t let it get to me, I was just focused on winning the fight. I took every chance I could and swept him when I could.

And when I finally got him in the clinch, I used my knees and elbows and cut him. Right above his nose and over his right eye. I won the fight that night; it was one of the most glorious moments of my career. I remembered feeling emotionally and physically drained the whole fight. But somehow, I managed to persevere.


Multiple-time Muay Thai World Champion Orono Wor Petchpun holds pads for BJJ World Champion and UFC Fighter Leandro “Brodinho” Issa.

Looking back at my career, I wish I could have learned the techniques in better detail so I can share those secrets with my students. I learned Muay Thai to become a fighter, so I stuck to my specialties. I never explored the intricacies behind the art – this is something that I truly regret.

Being a Muay Thai instructor is something that I’ve always dreamed of, that’s probably why I’m constantly smiling in class. I want to share all that I’ve learned with my students, so they can learn to love Muay Thai the way I do. They’re there to learn, so I say, why not let them fall in love with this beautiful art?


Train with Muay Thai Legend Orono Wor Petchpun at WWW.EVOLVE-VACATION.COM!

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