For years now, Muay Thai has been the stand-up style of choice amongst mixed martial artists. Fighters have taken the Thai style and built their striking games around it. Yet despite this crossover, we've yet to see any high level Muay Thai fighters make a truly successful transition to MMA. There are small exceptions - Cosmo Alexandre is 1-1 in Bellator, Rambaa Somdet is a Shooto champion - but for the most part, true Muay Thai world champions have not made a dedicated effort to switch to MMA. Until now.
Orono Wor Petchpun, a highly decorated Thai veteran and former Lumpinee Stadium champion, has announced he will make the move to MMA. The Muay Thai fighter has been training MMA with the Evolve Fight Team in order to make his debut soon, possibly as part of a DARE MMA event.
Unfortunately for Orono, those plans may be jeopardized by politics. Yesterday, the Thai government announced that they would be cracking down on MMA events, which are technically not legal in Thailand, but until now have been allowed to take place. With DARE and other organizations gaining momentum, the government has decided to no longer allow MMA in Thailand in order to maintain the popularity of Muay Thai. Let's hope these events do not get in the way of Orono's move, as I know I am not alone in wondering just how the Muay Thai great would do inside the cage.
We had a chance to speak with Orono recently, and he shared some interesting thoughts on the difference between Muay Thai and MMA, what he thinks of the current state of MMA striking, and why he would win against Jose Aldo:
BE: What led to you making the switch to MMA now?
Orono: I've been watching my teammates on the Evolve Fight Team compete and it has sparked a desire to compete again. I have spent a lot of time studying the game of MMA and I believe that I know how to use my Muay Thai effectively in the cage.
What training are you doing to make this move?
I've been training in wrestling and submission grappling. I have also recently just picked up Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu with the Gi.
What will be the hardest adjustment for you in switching to MMA?
The transitions are the trickiest parts of MMA. I want to be able to flow between striking, takedowns, and submissions. That being said, my style of MMA will most likely be similar to that of Anderson Silva's.
What do you think of the level of Muay Thai we see in MMA today?
MMA is a different game. Most fighters are generalists in striking, wrestling, and submissions. Some guys are specialists. The overall level of striking is quite low in MMA today, even at the highest levels of MMA. Please do not misunderstand what I am saying... MMA athletes are all world-class. It is just that they have to spread their training across so many different disciplines in order to be successful. Take a look at me. I am confident that I can stand with any MMA fighter in the world. However, I will be training very hard in wrestling and submissions on top of my Muay Thai. MMA is a different game and it requires a different technical IQ to succeed. But to answer your question, there is no MMA fighter today that could legitimately fight Muay Thai in Lumpinee Stadium in Thailand.
How do you feel your skills would match up against UFC champion Jose Aldo?
It depends on the sport! In MMA, he would kill me right now because he's is a world champion BJJ Black Belt and I am a beginner at MMA. Of course, if we fought in pure Muay Thai match, I have 100% confidence that he would not get past the 1st round with me. His Muay Thai is at a very basic level if you compare it to the level in Thailand.
Will you be fighting at 145 pounds?
No, I have decided to fight at 135 pounds. I can still make weight very easily. My body is in pristine condition. I have no injuries from my Muay Thai career and I don't drink or smoke. Additionally, as you know from my Muay Thai career, I have been genetically blessed with endless cardio. I have no problems doing 10 rounds x 5 minutes of MMA at 100% output. I just did it the other day for fun at the Fighters Program at Evolve.
Of course. I want to make Thailand proud. I want to show the world the real art of Muay Thai. I want to make my family proud. I want to make my students proud. I want to bring more glory to my home, Evolve MMA. I want to show gratitude to my boss, Chatri, for his kindness. As you can see, I am very driven to become an MMA champion.
You were the It's Showtime champion, but have not defended the belt in 2 years. What happened?
Politics as usual. I want to fight as often as possible, but promoters and managers all have different agendas. Even right now I am willing to fight anyone in the world at Muay Thai.
What are your goals for the rest of your career?
I want to become an MMA champion. I believe that I have the athleticism to make the transition. And more importantly, I have all the resources here at Evolve MMA to learn from our world champions in Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Wrestling, and MMA. You will see the new Orono this year!