In just 52 seconds, Ketley was able to submit Apidet Fairtex in the first-ever mixed combat sporting event at the venerated Lumpinee Stadium, one of the legendary homes of Muay Thai. Ketley was also part of the first women’s MMA fight at Lumpinee, a venue that has long shunned women from taking part in Muay Thai until this year.
“I don’t even have the words for it. I really feel like I get to make a small piece of history and carve a path for other up-and-coming women in MMA,” she told The Phuket News prior to the bout. “It’s such an honour. I believe the last couple of years of my life have been leading up to this moment. Just shows that if you work hard and stay committed and patient, your opportunity will come,” she added.
For many, the sight of watching fighters wrestle and go after submissions on the floor of the Lumpinee boxing ring was satisfying, given how much push-back there was against MMA in Thailand. For years, the authorities and promoters who controlled Muay Thai, and combat sports at large in Thailand, had demonized MMA. Peak anti-MMA sentiment in the Kingdom came in 2012, when the head of the Sports Authority of Thailand (SAT) banned professional MMA events in the country, since, according to him, the sport went against the 1999 boxing law.
At the time, the deputy governor of the SAT, Sakol Wannapong, commented that “[MMA] is brutal and it is not boxing.”
Fast-forward 10 years and the sport is not only allowed but is now hosted in one of the inner-sanctums of Muay Thai in Lumpinee Stadium.
The Fairtex Fight Promotion, an offshoot of the Fairtex fight brand and gym based in Pattaya, hosted their first bi-monthly combat sporting events that included a mix of Muay Thai and MMA fights last Sunday (Jan 16). The show was the promotion’s first of many they plan on hosting for the foreseeable future.
Not only is Ketley’s submission victory the culmination of years of hard work, but it’s a dream come true for a fighter whose original passion was Muay Thai. But, with Lumpinee’s longtime stance on refusing to host female Muay Thai fights, Ketley was resigned to the fact that this would never happen.
Ketley then transitioned into MMA, training out of the new Bang Tao Muay Thai & MMA, but with the pandemic interrupting her career plans, fights were pushed back and later cancelled altogether. So when the opportunity arose to fight at her dream venue, this time in a history-making MMA bout, she jumped at the chance.
“This opportunity means the world to me. I have it written in a goals diary from a while ago that I would love to one day fight in Lumpinee, but I didn’t think they’d take women on board,” she said. “It’s also just great to see that times are changing, and women are, I feel, starting to really get their voices in martial arts too… although there is still a way to go.
“I’ve been dreaming about fighting in Lumpinee, but thought that my opportunity was gone when I knew my heart was no longer in Muay Thai. So the fact that I get to be one of the first to do it in MMA is overwhelming.”