Brazilian boxer Thiago Teixeira is putting his heart and soul into promoting Kun Khmer to the world after abandoning his association with Muay Thai, the Thailand-variation of the sport of kickboxing. The World Muay Thai Organisation (WMO) has banned Thiago from competition and stripped him of the title he won on April 2, claiming he had brought the sport into disrepute.
Thiago said he considered the loss of the belt a “blatant case of discrimination”, with no clear legal basis.
At an April 8 press conference in Phnom Penh, Thiago said the WMO had stripped him of his belt without speaking to him, but merely published a notice online.
“They have not said what the problem was, and I am disappointed by what the Thai governing body has done to me,” he said.
“I feel bad that they have done this. I have worked hard my whole life to represent Muay Thai and have won many trophies. I have also helped coach many foreign boxers for the association, and this is how they repay me? I really don’t understand it,” he added.
Thiago used a Kun Khmer-style elbow to knock out Briton Joe Craven in the second round of their clash at the APEX Fight Series in Germany, cinching a world WMO title on behalf of Cambodia for the first time. But the WMO later announced that it had stripped him of his title and would not pay him the purse for the fight, claiming that he was not fighting on behalf of Muay Thai.
“Thiago has trained and taught Muay Thai for many years and has competed at the highest level [he even has a tattoo with the words ‘Muay Thai’ written across the top of his back]. He resides on the island of Koh Samui in Thailand and trains and allegedly has ownership in Super 8 Muay Thai, a gym which claims to promote Muay Thai events at a local stadium,” read the WMO statement.
However, Thiago said he had no regret about walking away from Muay Thai nor the Super 8 Muay Thai gym, as most of the foreign boxers were tourists and only two had trained on a regular basis.
He intended to bring the two dedicated fighters to the World Champion Kun Khmer club, run by Khmer Boxing Federation honorary vice-president Srey Chanthorn.
“I don’t regret leaving the sport of Muay Thai, because I never felt like I had support from the governing body. Everything I achieved was thanks to my own hard work and dedication. I am not alone in thinking this way . . . many other fighters – and fans – feel the same way,” he said.
“That’s why I joined World Champion Kun Khmer. I call on international athletes to come here to train and promote Kun Khmer to the world. Kun Khmer is the original form of kickboxing, and it originated right here in Cambodia,” he added.
Thiago said he believed he had now witnessed the Cambodian people’s “true love for the sport, and the high value” they placed on it.
“I didn’t understand the meaning of my Muay Thai tattoo when I got it, as I was just 16 years old when it was done. I have considered removing it in the past . . . Now I will definitely have it erased from my back,” he said.
Thiago was provided a $20,000 prize by Prime Minister Hun Sen, who also confirmed that he will request the King to grant him Cambodian citizenship, providing there are no diplomatic issues with Brazil. Hun Sen’s personal attention had excited the fighter and made him more certain that his decision to promote Kun Khmer was the right one.
“The support from the prime minister is a real honour. This is one of the most exciting feelings I have ever had in my life. I feel good staying in Cambodia and I want to live here forever. I now consider Cambodia my home. I am determined to work hard to promote Khmer martial arts to the world,” he said.
Srey Chanthorn explained that he had contracted Thiago to his World Champion Kun Khmer club on April 4, with the contract being signed after the Brazilian returned to Cambodia with the WMO belt.
“I understand that the problems he faces are enormous, but I was not afraid to sign him,” he said.
“The reason I contracted Thiago is because of the way he gave up his own interests to dedicate his time and health to promoting the sport of Kun Khmer, at home and abroad. I could not betray my conscience, but had to offer him a place with my club,” he said.