A Fighter’s Life part six: Coming home and reflecting on life as a sponsored fighter
- Credit: Archant
Suffolk Muay Thai fighter Joe Le Maire has just returned from a year spent training and fighting for the Sumalee Boxing Gym in Phuket, Thailand. In his final column, he gives an insight into what life is like as a sponsored fighter in the home of the sport...
Hello, long time no speak! Well, I’m home in Suffolk now after a year in Thailand – and it’s cold!
I thought I’d use my last column to give you a little look inside the life of a sponsored fighter living the spartan life away from friends and family overseas.
Living and training Muay Thai full time in the home of the sport has always been a dream of mine, and I’m hugely grateful to everyone at Sumalee for making that a reality, with free training and accommodation.
In the UK, I was training once every day, working around college and a part-time job. Going to Thailand enabled me to train twice per day, six days per week, with Sundays off.
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The day started with a 7km run at 6.30am before a morning training session consisting of shadow boxing, pad rounds and bag work.
In the afternoon I did a 3km run at 3.30pm and training of pad rounds, bag work, sparring and clinching.
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Although it was tough, and very repetitive, the trainers would change the conditioning drill at the end of each session regularly to make it interesting – and testing!
As you know, I fought several times out in Thailand, and even in the USA, in my year out there. The closer a fight got the harder training became, with higher intensity pad rounds and clinching for even longer than normal with more fitness drills added at the end.
There were times during training where I would struggle and get tired quickly – as a result I’d get battered in sparring and, I must admit, that made me question my ability and whether or not I’d got what it takes to be a top level fighter.
But you know what? It made me stronger. I learned that if I just kept training and refused to quit, I’d get through it. I became comfortable with being uncomfortable. And that’s a life lesson not just limited to fighting.
So training in Thailand is tough, mentally as well as physically. My body was sore all over at times, but when rest day came, it was so nice to just chill out for a day!
On rest day I would often use an ice bath for five minutes a couple of times round and jump in the pool afterwards. It was almost like hot and cold treatment as the pool felt really hot after going in the ice bath!
Minor injuries occurred quite regularly for me over the year, for example, a sore shin from kicking an elbow. In these circumstances, I would still train just as hard, but I would work around the injury by using all of my other limbs.
In November I became sponsored by SBG Nutrition, run by Sam Miller. He was able to change my diet so I had more energy in fights and during training.
He also helped me to cut weight nutritionally so I didn’t need to use a sweat suit, which is more dangerous as you are severely dehydrating yourself.
I also learnt how to time my water loading properly by gradually increasing the water intake. Even when I’m fighting without needing to make weight, I’m still following a nutritious diet plan.
Another part of many fighter’s training, strength and conditioning, is not used in many gyms in Thailand at the moment – however it is growing in popularity.
Sumalee have a well-equipped weights gym at the camp and with the permission of my trainer I was able to replace two Muay Thai sessions in the morning each week with strength and conditioning. I’ve been working with Heatrick S&C for over two years in the UK before coming to Thailand, so it was easy.
After several weeks of doing strength and conditioning, along with my new nutrition plan, I noticed a massive difference in my performance. I felt fitter and stronger than I ever had before.
Away from training and fighting, I also tried to learn the Thai language, going to school once or twice a week which meant I was able to read, write and speak basic Thai.
It’s hard, I won’t lie! The language is all about tones, so you have high tone, low tone, rising tone, falling tone and middle tone - that means, for example, the same word ‘khao’ can mean rice, knee, mountain or news, depending on the tone!
So that was tough, but what an experience. I even picked up some Thai off my trainers, who would speak to me in Thai and then switch to English if I was struggling to understand.
Now I’m back home at Unit One in Bury I’m training regularly with three Thais, so I have no excuse not to continue what I’ve learned!
Another aspect of the sponsored fighter’s life which you may not have considered was a duty to represent your gym at all times, be it on social media or while out and about in public.
When photos or videos were being taken of me, I would wear my Sumalee shorts and vest or T-shirt. As a professional athlete, it’s part of your job to promote those who help you train and give you equipment, like another one of my sponsors, Ultim8.
So what you see in the ring is just a small part of the life of a sponsored fighter – fighting is the easy bit!
That said, I would recommend it to anyone – it’s not something that many people will ever get the chance to do, and I believe you have to take opportunities like that with both hands.
So all that remains to be said is a big thank you again to Sumalee for making my dream come true, and to all of you for following my journey along the way.