Fairtex History: Stories Of The Last 50 Years
The last 50 years of Fairtex has not been easy. The company has survived through some tough losses, but also had some glorious wins. We've grown through our love of Martial Arts though. Fairtex has been lucky enough to help and be helped by many people. Here are some of their stories over the last 50 years.
“When I first opened the gym it was 50 years ago. I started my first gym in Bangkok. We later moved to Bangplee.
We tried for years but no one noticed us. We closed down operations twice. After a few years one morning I went early to look at my fighters. My fighters and trainers were sitting there and gambling at six am. It made me feel so angry and sad. I closed down for six or seven months. I
told myself “You can’t quit because of a few bad people, you can’t give up on your love.”
I reopened again. For one or two years and I go check again and it happened again.
I closed it down twice but finally continued on because of the love I have, I told myself that I wouldn’t close down again.
It’s not easy. Especially when you have so many fighters. At one time I had 40-50 fighters. The most difficult part is finding them a fight. I have to be friends with promoters.
Nothing is perfect and nothing is 100% but you have to keep going.
Hopefully we’ll be here for another 50 years.”
“I got matched up with Mr. Wong’s favorite fighter, Dokmaibaa Bpor Pongswang. He was a powerful southpaw and Mr. Wong loved him so much. It was at 115lbs but my trainer Monlit said the only way I could beat him would be if the fight was at 118lbs.
Back then I made 60,000 baht to fight. Mr. Wong had to pay Dokmaibaa 200,000 baht, a big jump, to fight.
Mr. Wong was a promoter at the time too.
“You have to win this fight,” Mr. Wong told me. He wanted to make me famous, to bring me up.
He wasn’t sure that I’d win.
I had to go away to train. Usually he doesn’t do that but he was nervous. He wanted me to have new sparring partners so I went to Sasiprapra gym for two or three weeks. I trained with Looksawan there. I trained and trained and trained.
Then I beat Dokmaibaa and Mr. Wong was happy.”
Jongsanan moved to America in the late 90’s and established himself in San Francisco California. He’s opened his own gym, Woodenman Muay Thai, and developed successful fighters of his own including Armando Ramos, Ra Karma, and Thai Ngan Le.
“My passion is about martial arts. I was interested at Fairtex. I began working with them. It has been 18 years now. It’s not difficult for me
I started day 1 with Fairtex. It was a small factory at the time. The main business was textiles and we developed equipment.
It started with seven workers. We were mainly running the Muay Thai camp.
We didn’t have experience. We tried to learn from other brands. We tried to develop our own identity. We produced boxing gloves, bags, for our own use. We tried to make the best for fighters and trainers. “
Nurmakin is the CEO of Fairtex and runs the Fairtex Factory located in Bangplee Thailand
“I first went to the first US version of Fairtex in Chandler Arizon in October of 1994. It was my first introduction to the Fairtex family. Chandler was a good warm up for Thailand. I got used to training twice a day and the volume of training. I got used to the spirit and attitude of the gym.
Up to that point I didn’t have the opportunity to have a Thai trainer, someone who could catch what you do. It was eye opening and startling.
The training was very similar to the Bangplee camp but Thailand was ramped up more. The runs were longer. The training was equally intense on the pads. All the clinch work was with the youngsters of the camp. That was an eye opener as I found out what I was lacking.
Jongsanan was still fighting at the time. He was the top guy at the camp. Neungsiam was coming up underneath him. Seeing someone at that level training and prepping was somthing. Seeing how he did everything, seeing prime Jongsanan Fairtex, it was something to emulate and inspiring.
I remember Mr. Philip said he’d be a champ within a year about Neungsiam. Within six months he was Lumpinee champion.
I remember seeing Jongsanan fight. It was a light weight title fight between him and Orono. It was tied going into the fifth for the Lumpinee title. That entire card was unbelievable. Saengtiennoi Sor Rungroj also fought along with other of my favorite fighters. Six of my all time favorite fighters fought that night.”
Bryan Popejoy is the owner of Boxing Works And Trainer Of Janet Todd ONE Championship Kickboxing Champion. Todd has fought Stamp Fairtex twice.
“I first came to Fairtex in 2000. I was 20 years old. I was a fairly good English fighter. My friend, who was promoting a show in London, gave me a bout on five days notice in the UK.
I said, “yeah sure.”
As a thank you he said he’d pay for me to go to Fairtex for 3 weeks.
I went to Bangplee several times. At the time all the rings were at the back. You would see the peacocks and chickens walking around in the front. Of course Aphidet was there, Jakkit, Coke and Kaew Fairtex.
They sorted out a schedule for me and I was fighting in Pattaya. I would train with Aphidet in the mornings and I would train with Neungsiam and Jakkit in the afternoons. It was fantastic. I was two or three days in to the schedule and had a fight in Pattaya.
I thought I wasn’t doing too badly. Mr. Wong was there he pointed to me. “You must train more.
You must do more clinching, farang must do more clinching.”
I was thrown about everyone. It was my first experience of clinching.
Training with Aphidet in the mornings was great. I was surprised how big he was. He taught me good techniques, lots of old school tricks. He made training fun. He worked a lot on skill and technique.
He himself was a fun person and would play pranks on everyone.
Every day one of the trainers would buy M150. He bought drinks for everyone. One of the gardener’s would steal a drink. The coach would be furious. One day Aphidet drunk one of the m150 and put whiskey in it. Then the gardener drank it and was red in the face. Everyone couldn’t stop laughing.
I fought my first fight in Pattaya. The next stint was three months and then I fought at Lumpinee in 2001. I won by third round. It was an amazing experience. They didn’t forget me either.”
Kieran Keddle is a promoter in Canada with Muay Thai World Cup. He is a trainer for Elite Brae Side and a WBC Muay Thai representative.
“There were always people passing through. I would get to see them train.
I went to Chano’s wedding. I was the white kid in the corner.
At one time it was the only shop for Fairtex gear. A lot of people would come would just come to shop or tour. There were so many people that would come to the gear shop because the factory was right next to the gym.
Y2K Fairtex was a little kid when I was the gym. Now he’s on ONE Championship.
We started the first MMA program for Fairtex. It was a lot of trial and error.
Corley is the owner of Heritage Muay Thai in Houston Texas. He is a former fighter is the author of Muay Thai Grit: Stories Of An American Nak Muay
“The first year we went was in 2000. We came in a group of 7 or 8. In later trips we took up to 25 people. It was part of our calendar at Lumpinee Crawley, our gym in the UK. Everyone would always ask us when you’re going next.
I couldn’t believe it the first time we went, meeting Aphidet and seeing what he’d achieved. He’d been announced hardest kicker by the decade by the King. I spent a lot of time with Aphidet. He wanted to teach me how to teach people.
The trips were brilliant for our club and the relationship with the gym and trainers. Mr Wong opened a lot of doors for us . He’s a very hospitable man. The first time we went there we got to use the swimming pool at his house. The hospitability was always amazing.
It was really bonding for people. You couldn’t find a better introduction Thailand. We’d trained and have a little bit of a holiday.”
Jarvis is the owner of Lumpinee Crawley in the UK. His son George Jarvis is a ranked WBC Muay Thai fighter.
“We used to go every year to Fairtex. We’d take our gym students from Touchstone. It was one of our stops in Thailand. We were always really welcomed. It was a great atmosphere, it wasn’t a big gym at the time when we went.
I was on a lot of shows in Yodsanklai. It was always nice to see familiar faces when we went.
Mr. Wong would always sit in the restaurant and say hi to me.
I went a few times on my own to prepare for fights. One time I fought for the WBC title. I remember I was training and was feeling so good. There were a lot of people were watching and talking about my training. I trained 200%. I worked with Kru Half all the time.
Some friends came to the fight. When you can fight in a stadium in Thailand as part of their fight career it’s always a real experience.
It was a really welcoming all the time going to Fairtex.”
Kitchen is a former WBC Muay Thai Champion and works with Enfusion a popular kickboxing show in Europe.
“It was August 10th 2007 that I took his photo of Attachai “The Divine South Paw” Fairtex. Attachai was towards the tail end of his stadium career. He fought Saenchai and all that. As a fighter he came along at the end of the golden era.
Attachai was still a big acquisition though. Fairtex was looking to expand globally with their fighters. They were trying to get the brand to go international with their fighters. But even when I first came in 1991 they were already a big name.
Fairtex had just opened the Pattaya location. At the time they were really stepping onto the world scene. There was a real buzz about them then. It was when a lot of high profile fighters, like Yodsanklai, went to Fairtex.
Fairtex has always been an institution.”
Rob Cox is a renown Muay Thai journalist. He has worked in the industry for more than 20 years and has fought, judged, commentated, photographed and documented. He is a ONE Championship judge.
“In 2009 and 2010 I went to Fairtex Bangplee. It was a different experience each time. In 2009 it was a full on camp. It was bigger than the Pattaya gym then. There were fighters coming to train from everywhere. Teams from all over the world were there. It had a full kid’s program too. It was just packed.
It was a great experience. I went to Bangplee with Jongsanaan. I flew in and we went to eat. Walking down the street, he hadn’t been there for 10 years, and someone said hi as if he’d just been gone for a day or two.
We were there for ten days or a week before IFMA (International Federation of Muay Thai Associations) started.
It was an amazing experience. For the USMF (United States Muay Thai Federation) it was a little bit of at statement for Muay Thai. We got a couple of gold, silver, and bronze. It was a really unified team. I cornered Eric Luna for his gold medal.
I went to the King’s cup. There were a million people out in the parking lot. It really shaped me personally and how I and approach Muay Thai. It made a deep lasting impression on me.”
Rudi Ott is a former professional fighter and was on many of the same fight cards as Jongsanan Fairtex in America. He was a head coach for the USMF and owns Smash Gym in the Bay area of California.
“I know Prem, we’ve always been in contact. We were at an event and he showed some interest in working with Glory. That’s how we worked out a deal.
Having them on as a sponsorship and having our name associated with Glory is great.
I’ve also worked privately with Fairtex, they’re so professional. They let you know if they’re stocked or not. You order it Monday and you get on it on Wedensday.
Chano is the main guy that I’m in touch. I went to the factory a few times, I’ve been to a few factories. The Fairtex factory is huge and the quality check is great.
I met Mr. Wong at Prem’s birthday he wore his golden shoes. I like that he’s failry well dressed.
The way he dresses fits the image I have of him.”
Timmers is a matchmaker and organizer for Glory Kickboxing, a premiere international kickboxing Organization.
Yohann Drai Fairtex
“I went to Petchsaman at first and then I saw a French guy that was at Fairtex, Alexi. I went to Fairtex around 2015 to see him train. I asked Prem if I could start training with them. At that time there were no foreigners at the gym, only Thais. It was not as open as now.
So they tried me out for two or three months and then after a while Prem found me a fight in Kun Lun. I fought a Lumpinee Champion. I won that fight on points. Prem kept me at Fairtex because I had a big heart. Yod was my corner at the time.
Mr Wong is the guy there. He represents Fairtex and always pushed me hard. All I did was because he was behind everything. He took care of the fighters and gave them vitamins and supplements. He would pay for the health care.
When I lost twice he said “maybe you have a curse.”
He took me to a monk to be blessed. After that I won my fight at Lumpinee and many good things happened to me.”
Yohann Drai is an accomplished Muay Thai and kickboxer. He owns a gym in France and is a signed fighter on ONE Championship.
“I was looking for sponsors and Fairtex was a logical choice. I walked in at that time Kaew was still there and Yodsanklai. They were always training at the same time in same ring. Mr. Wong was shouting instructions. Hewas sitting on an tennis empire chair yelling.
It was an interesting introduction to the gym. The history behind the gym was so much.
I came once a month to do some work. Then all of the sudden Stamp was sitting there. I knew the buffalo story a little bit. That was the first female Muay Thai story.
I jumped on it. If you look back on the Fairtex story there had never been a Thai girl. At that time Stamp was just a little girl. It was a cool story. And look at them now. Stamp being a former ONE Champion.
Now Fairtex has Wondergirl, and Smilla. The female roster is really strong and important. Who would have known that when I first walked in.
Ruge is the owner of Muay Ties a popular youtube site that streamed Muay Thai bouts. He currently works with ONE Championship.
“The first time I went to Thailand and to train I went to Fairtex. I went to Bangplee and my Thai experience was amazing. I loved it. I only ever trained with a trainer in Australia in his garage.
I trained with Ram and Rambo. Ram showed me a lot of techniques that I still use today. They brought me into their rooms and showed me their fights.
I’ve been over four extra times. It was little stints of three or four weeks. We had our honeymoon in Pattaya. My wife and I trained together there.
I only had one fight in Thailand. We went over for a bit of training. The trainers asked if I wanted to fight and I fought at Max Muay Thai and won. It was in 2016. It was the night before my birthday and then we went out with all the boys. I didn’t answer my wife’s phone calls and she thought I was in trouble and hurt. I ended up alright after I called her in the morning.
I always wanted to associate myself with Fairtex now I’m sponsored by them.
I’m happy to be a part of Fairtex history.”
Tonna is a fighter out of Muay U in Caneberra Australia. He is a ONE Championship fighter.
“The first time I came to Fairtex was in 2016 to meet with Prem to become a sponsor for Rebellion. The hospitality was great. I got to see Yodsanklai, Saemapetch, and Thong Fairtex training. There were a few of the French boys too.
We met with Prem. It was straight forward and easy. There was no need to bargain. Then we went from there.
I started dealing with Chano straight away. He’s very reliable and professional.
The fight shorts and everything have been the way we wanted.
As part of the sponsorship we had Thong come out, Kompetchlek twice, and Saemapetch three times. The guys have been very headache free. I really get along with the trainers. Despite the fact that there’s a language barrier. The Fairtex guys are organized. Prem has come here too.
Saemapetch was a runner up in our 65kg tournament. He had a couple decent wars. He fought Apisit, and Alexi. In the final he lost to Singpayak.
Saemapetch also fought Jordan Godfredtsen. That night Kompetchlek Fairtex fought David Pennimpede who won.”
Nadji is the owner of William Street Boxing Gym in Melbourne. He is also the promoter of Roots and Rebellion, popular Muay Thai shows in Australia.
“I was there for two months from January to March. I trained with Danchai a lot. I really liked him.
Danchai would try to murder me every day. The rounds were five minutes. At the end of each round I would do 50 kicks on each side. I would do 30 kicks and the last twenty would murder me.
When I was there Stamp wasn’t there so it was interesting being the only girl. It was cool that they let me stay and train and fight there.
Mr. Wong was so nice but terrifying. He would watch us train. I always wanted to do my best. I pushed myself beyond my limits.
He was so sweet. One day I went to lunch by myself and he made me come over sit with me.
Mr. Wong pulled me aside and said, “You need to win if you’re representing my gym.”
I went to Chiang Mai with Danchai, he took me there to fight.
I was supposed to fight Nongbenz but she got in a motorbike accident. So we looked for another person. They brought in another girl, but she was too big.
“Mr. Wong will kill me. No, we’re not gonna fight her,” Danchai said.
“I really want to fight,” I said.
Another came up. She was shorter and stockier. Who knows if she was experienced. We were about the same size. The promoter said okay.
Then the fights started. We walk up into the ring. I sealed the ring and then this drunk in his crowd got into a fight in the crowd. It turned into a big brawl.
I was pulled out of the ring. There was a massive fight. I went to the back and we waited.
Eventually we got back into the ring after things settled down in the crowd.
We went five rounds with the girl. Danchai told me not to throw punches as much. He wanted me to work my technique. It was a blast.
And I won. I represented Fairtex.”
Natalie Morgan is a professional fighter out of The Yard in Los Angeles. She was a part of Angel Fight and has fought in a variety of promotions in the US and around the world.
“I started working at Fairtex in the summer of 2017. I worked there for three years. At that time I was gonna go to Pattaya to build my own gym but then a friend hooked me up with Fairtex. “Why don’ t you see if you can team up with them,” my friend said.
So I did.
They’d had various MMA or Jiu Jitsu coaches in the past. They hadn’t really made a business out of it.
When I got there I met Prem. They were interested in MMA and BJJ. They demolished the tennis clubs, then helped them plan out the BJJ room.
When I started there I was just giving Stamp private lessons. It was funny. Stamp didn’t speak a lick of English. She’d just gotten to Fairtex and was the only girl there.
Buffalo Girls was one of my favorite movies. I’d seen it before I’d ever met her. I thought she was so funny and talented. I posted a picture of her and a bunch of people started talking about it. 'Stamp from Fairtex is doing BJJ.'”
Burnworth is a Brazilian Black Belt and the former head of the MMA program at Fairtex Training Center.
Thai Ngan Le
“My experience at Fairtex was great. I treally enjoyed the training and care from Kru Noon. He had his own style. He catered to my style and elevated it. I really enjoyed it.
I really liked the living accommodation. I liked the Fairtex Residence.
My day to day routine was good. I got up and drank tea and then went on a quick light run then padwork, bagwork and clinching. I would shower and get food. Read. Do some exploring and then nap. The second training was more tough. You have to have a good mindset.
Being in the states I have two careers. In Thailand it’s more intense but more relaxed. You train, train, train,and then you have a lot of relax and time. The afternoon is more tiring if you don’t get that nap.
My fight was awesome. The energy of fighting in Thailand was different. You show up and get on the scale. You nod. It’s smooth. It has a nice flow. You get on deck and fight.”
Ngan Le is a fighter out of Woodenman in San Francisco California.