After four straight stoppage wins, Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke will challenge for the inaugural ONE Championship 115-pound title later this month, but the most remarkable thing about the incredible rise of this Thai fighter is just how rapidly he has transformed from complete novice to world title contender.
At ONE: Warrior’s Quest on May 24th Dejdamrong will go up against Roy Doliguez at the Singapore Indoor Stadium. At stake is one of the most prestigious belts in the sport, but the 36-year-old admits that two years ago, if you had asked him what MMA was, he would not have been able to come up with a coherent answer.
“Before I joined Evolve MMA in June 2013 I didn’t know anything about MMA. I had never even watched a fight. I went to Singapore to work as a Muay Thai trainer and I was not expecting to fight myself, but I saw the BJJ classes all the time and in February 2014 I decided to try one out,” he told MMAWeekly.com.
Dejdamrong is a veteran of around 300 Muay Thai fights who has held titles at the highest level of the sport. However, he had zero experience in any of the other aspects that make up the multi-faceted sport of MMA and was effectively starting from scratch when he took that first BJJ class.
Some of the most successful and decorated Muay Thai fighters from Thailand head to Evolve MMA to work as trainers once their competitive careers have ended. According to head coach Heath Sims, it’s not unusual for them to try out some wrestling or BJJ, but Dejdamrong stood out straightaway due to his application and attitude.
“A lot of the Thai trainers here want to try out BJJ, but they tend to lose interest quite quickly. I think it’s because they were all champions in Thailand and have already competed at the highest level of Muay Thai. When you are used to being the very best at something, it is difficult to go back to being a beginner, but Kru Rong has always been very humble and eager to learn.”
Wrestlers like Sims, who went to the Olympics, can make the transition to MMA comparatively rapidly because they already have a base that allows them to dictate where the fight takes place. For a Muay Thai fighter, there is much more risk involved, as they won’t automatically have the ability to prevent an opponent from taking them down or the skillset to cope once they are on the ground.
However, Dejdamrong has managed to defy conventional wisdom about Muay Thai fighters in MMA, and less than six months after deciding to take a BJJ class for the first time he made his professional debut in Jakarta and showcased some brutal ground and pound to beat a much taller Filipino fighter.
The most remarkable thing about Dejdamrong’s win over Jomanz Omanz in Indonesia was that the Thai already seemed completely comfortable on the ground. He says daily sessions with the BJJ black belts at Evolve MMA helped him to progress from being a complete beginner to becoming a professional fighter so fast.
“There are many BJJ black belts from Brazil here at Evolve MMA who are champions and they are always teaching me new things. I try to learn as much as I can from them. I was not sure what would happen when I fought MMA for the first time, but I did what I was taught to do and it worked very well.”
While the progress that Dejdamrong has made since taking that first BJJ class in 2014 is nothing short of staggering, he does have plenty of fighting experience to fall back on. His martial arts career began when he was a child growing up in Southern Thailand.
“I had my first fight in Trang when I was 10 years old and I got paid 70 Baht. I started Muay Thai because I liked it and so did my dad, but not my mum. I had to train in secret because she didn’t want me to fight.”
Thousands of children up and down Thailand take up fighting in order to earn some extra pocket money for themselves or to help supplement the family income. Few of them reach the very pinnacle of the sport, but Dejdamrong went on to win Lumpinee titles in two separate divisions.
“When I was about 17, I went to train at the Lookbanyai camp in Bangkok and I won Lumpinee titles three times, twice at 105 pounds and once at 108 pounds. I was around 21 or 22 at the time and I used to get paid 80,000 Baht per fight.”
Despite his status as the top fighter in the division, Dejdamrong still shared a communal room with several other boxers at the gym and describes the grueling routine he would undergo daily…