One of the best kept secrets in the world of international combat sports is the Muay Thai scene in Australia. Outside of Thailand, Australia features the most competitive and entertaining Muay Thai action you'll find. One of the leading figures in that scene is long-time veteran John Wayne Parr. The kickboxer and Muay Thai fighter has been one of the key figureheads of the Australian scene for years, combining world class skills in the ring with an ambassador's style outside the ring.
Now, Parr is promoting a new venture in Australia, and it's one that has generated a lot of talk. On June 23, Parr will present the Boonchu Cup, the first event in a new fighting style he's dubbed the Caged Muay Thai Series. Fights will be full Muay Thai rules, but instead of taking place in a ring as is traditional, they will be in a cage, and fighters will be wearing MMA sized 4 oz gloves.
It's an interesting idea that has people talking. Parr has already received public support from UFC fighters Kenny Florian, Dongi Yang, The Korean Zombie Chan Sung Jung, and Dong Hyun Kim. But it also is drawing some detractors who argue that it's not true Muay Thai.
I had a chance to speak with Parr to clarify exactly what fans can expect at the Boonchu Cup, plus how he feels about the criticism, and what he thinks of the state of striking in the UFC and MMA today.
Fraser Coffeen: First off, can you explain the rules for this event?
John Wayne Parr: Rules are the same as Muay Thai, nothing changes there. Fights will either be 3x3 or 5x3 with 2 min break. Everyone must wear MMA gloves, but not all fights will be with elbows. There will still be a 3 knock down rule in effect, but no standing 8 count, if you can't protect yourself or are not fighting back it's over. If you get taken down in a Thai grapple, fight stop, back to the feet then start again.
FC: What is the current line-up?
JWP: For a Australian show this is a A-grade undercard. Lot's of 50-50 matches so it's very very exciting. Even though I am promoting I don't want a easy fight, Jordan Tai is one of the strongest middleweights to come out of New Zealand. Jordan has heavy hands like myself so the little gloves are going to make things interesting.
John Wayne Parr (boonchu) vs Jordan Tai (new zealand)
Flip Street (boonchu) vs Chris Wells (new zealand)
Thor Hoopmann (boonchu) vs TBA
Aaron TS2 (strike force) vs Brodie Stradler (joe hilton)
Beniah Douma (mad x) vs Matt McTavish (strike force)
Mark Lucchiari (strike Force) vs Tainui Crouch (corp box)
Jun Lee (boonchu) vs Michael Badato (full force)
FC: How did you get the idea for this?
JWP: I am a massive fan of UFC, I get all the pay per views and respect all the fighters so much. I was thinking of learning the ground, just so one day in my dreams that I could fight UFC. I am just about to turn 36 so I know my time is running out and could never compete with the elite, so I thought what better way to fight in the cage is if I do it myself. I have had 113 fights in a ring and it has become pretty normal, being locked in a cage with no corners is going to be a rush I haven't felt since I started the sport. With the mma gloves I watch guys like Alistair Overeem, Brock Lesnar, Mark Hunt and think if they can use them, I feel like a pussy wearing boxing gloves now. If we want respect from mma fighters and the fans, Muay Thai fighters have to show we are just as tough as they are, we are no longer playing tag for points, now we are going to play a game called knocked out.
More from Parr in the complete article.
What do you say Bloody Elbow readers - is this an idea that interests you?
FC: Has this same rule set has been used before?
JWP: I have seen a few K-1 and Muay Thai fights on youtube [in a cage], but no MMA gloves. I believe with the small gloves we are just about to change the game forever.
FC: How do you think it will change things during the fight?
JWP: No one can be lazy, you will need new foot work to spring in and out with attacks, combos are going to have to be explosive as you might get caught standing in the pocket too long. If you're a smart fighter, you will get the kicking and knee strikes as your main weapons to keep your opponent at bay. Grappling with open gloves will open the door to good grapplers, you can hold the head and arms a lot easier and make it easier to move the guard to deliver elbows. Because you're not worried about being taken down people are going to have more confidence when striking.
FC: So how are you preparing differently than you normally would?
JWP: We are still 11 weeks away, right now I am working on getting my fitness up and keeping the eye in. I have started hitting the pads with the little gloves to get an idea of what it feels like. My friend has a cage so I will be working a lot in there getting fimilier with the surroundings. Besides that just doing everything the same.
FC: How do you respond to the criticism that this is not real Muay Thai?
JWP: I was surprised there was a little bit of a backlash, but all good. I am not doing this for any other reason than for myself, if it takes off I am happy to keep promoting them, if it doesn't then at least I had a crack and have memories to show for it. I read somewhere that when you think of mma you think cage, but mma was a ring sport long before the cage come along. Since I put the poster on the net the feedback has been 95% positive, people are excited and there is a buzz about the sport again.
FC: Do you have any concerns over fighter safety with these rules?
JWP: On the night I will have 2 doctors and a paramedic so I hope to have my bases covered. There will be cuts and swelling, plus knock outs I guarantee, but that's the same reason I pay $45 every weekend when UFC is on.
FC: Will the show be broadcast or streamed?
JWP: At this stage I am just getting the show recorded to see what sort of package we can put together. Because it's such a new idea I think people want to see if it works first. Open to tv deals in the future, if Fox in the states wants to buy it for 900 million like UFC, then give them my email.
FC: One last question, since you keep up on MMA and the UFC I am curious to know - what is your opinion on the quality of striking we currently see in MMA? Who do you see in the UFC that has particularly strong Muay Thai technique?
JWP: Anderson Silva has amazing striking. GSP is also someone I respect, he has a great jab like a pro boxer. The foot work and hand combos by Frankie Edgar, the kicking skills of Ben Henderson, the punching power of Mark Hunt and Junior dos Santos. I could go on and on. So many of the UFC guys are my heroes and I get excited to hear when they are fighting.