Since its inception in the middle of the 18th century, Muay Thai has helped produce some of the most phenomenal combat sports athletes in the world. While there have been many successful Muay Thai fighters, only a select group of them have the honour of being called an all-time great. At Fight Gear Direct, we are extremely passionate about Muay Thai, so here is our list of the top 5 greatest Muay Thai fighters of all-time.
5. Yodsanklai Fairtex
When most people hear the name Fairtex, they think about world-class Muay Thai gear or the elite Muay Thai gym in Thailand. Even though that is correct and we have many quality Fairtex products here at Fight Gear Direct, a man by the name of Yodsanklai Fairtex is one of the greatest success stories to come out of the franchise. Commonly known as Yod, Fairtex rapidly rose through the ranks of the infamous Fairtex Muay Thai Gym and has since become an all-time great of the sport. Yod is one of the only men to win a Lumpinee title in two weight divisions (112 and 147lbs) and held the WBO Muay Thai Super Welterweight Championship for a record 5 years.
Currently, Yod is fighting for the Singaporean Martial Arts promotion, ONE Championship and is looking to add to his impressive 202 wins in competitive Muay Thai.
4. Buakaw Banchameck
To many people, Buakaw Bancameck is the greatest Muay Thai fighter to ever step foot in a K-1 ring. He is the only Muay Thai fighter to win two K-1 MAX Championships and was also the runner-up in the 2005 and 2014 editions yet the title reigns didn't stop there; Buakaw has also won the WBC Muay Thai Diamond World Championship and the most prestigious title in Muay Thai, the Lumpinee Championship. During his quest for gold, Buakaw won 239 of his competitive Muay Thai fights with 73 of them coming by way of knockout.
Buakaw's ability to blend western boxing with his world-class Muay Thai background helped propel him to international stardom. It's also the reason why he is still one of the most dangerous fighters in the world despite turning 38 this year.
Saenchai is a great example of why size doesn't always matter. This man has won the world-renowned Lumpinee Championship in four different weight classes, many of those were against men much bigger than him. He has also been crowned the WBC Muay Thai Diamond World Champion back in 2011. While some people may see being a small fighter as a negative, Saenchi used his smaller stature to his advantage and often caught bigger opponents off guard with his remarkable ability to catch kicks and sweep people's legs from under them.
Even after the legendary striker retired from competition in 2014, he is still taking part in showcase Muay Thai fights around the world and performing at an elite level. At 39 years of age, Saenchai still hasn't lost a step and is currently on an unprecedented 53 fight win streak across several promotions.
2. Thongchai Tor Silachai
In what might be a surprise to some, Thongchai Tor Silachai ranks 2nd on our list. Thongchai is still the only man on the planet to have knocked out Muay Thai legend, Saenchai and hold the Lumpinee Championship on a record 5 occasions. Some of his other accolades include holding the prestigious Rajadamern Championship and winning over 150 professional fights. Notorious for his aggressive style of fighting, Thongchai was frequently able to overwhelm opponents with offensive flurries that often led to spectacular knockouts.
Unfortunately, Thongchai had a troubled past and was arrested in 2008 on drug-related charges. If it weren't for his struggles outside of the ring, we may have seen him elevate his career to even further heights. Despite his previous issues, Thongchai decided to become a Muay Thai trainer in 2014 and has been committed to turning his life around since.
1. Samart Payakaroon
Often referred to as the Muhammad Ali of Muay Thai, Samart Payakaroon is considered one of the greatest combat sports athletes in the world. Ever since his debut in 1972, Payakaroon has been destined for greatness. His high fight IQ, tiger-like reflexes and laser-sharp ring vision provided all the tools he needed to become a legend of the sport. Despite fighting in the 'Golden Age of Muay Thai' during the 80s and 90s, Payakaroon won four Lumpinee Championships and picked up over 100 wins during his storied career.
By the time he retired in 1993, Payakaroon helped Muay Thai gain a large amount of international exposure and had started influencing the future generation of fighters. Even one of the modern greats, Buakaw Bunchameck described Payakaroon as the greatest Muay Thai fighter of all-time, without question. Since hanging up the gloves, Payakaroon has found great success as an actor and has starred several films across the globe.