Compared to countries in Asia and Europe, America has been slow to take in the fight sport of Muay Thai. Western boxing, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and mixed martial arts, all receive far more exposure in the country.
Europe has produced numerous world-renowned Nak Muays who have fought at the highest level against the best in Thailand over the last two decades. Fighters such as Ramon Dekkers, Damien Alamos, and Fabio Pinca are all household names of the sport. On the other side of the Atlantic, American Nak Muays of such standing are but few and far between.
This state of the sport may be changing fast as there are increasingly more Muay Thai gyms and promotions in the States. The past few years have been very exciting times for Muay Thai in America and it is definitely headed in the right direction.
Riding on the wave of the sport’s growth in the country is a young Muay Thai label, InFightStyle (IFS). Despite its short history, IFS has grown rapidly to become one of the most prominent Muay Thai brands in North America.
IFS was founded in 2013 by Andrew Aylen and a partner who has since left the company. Originally based in Canada, the company relocated to New York City, where it is managed by Aylen together with Eddie Cuello who came on board in 2015 when operations expanded.
This is a brand that is run by enthusiasts and founded on a true love and passion for the sport. In Cuello’s own words,
”We aren’t a couple of suits looking to make a quick buck out of opportunity.”
Aylen professes a lifelong passion for martial arts with 10 Muay Thai fights to his name. He is also the Thai Boxing Association Sanctioning Authority (TBA SA) welterweight champion of 2012. It was on a special trip to train in Thailand when Aylen got inspired and the business got off the ground.
Cuello is no less fervent about the sport, training since 2004, he started competing in 2007. He is the co-founder and president of TaKe-On Productions (now called Triumph Kombat), the only Muay Thai promotion currently producing events at Madison Square Garden. On top of that, he also co-founded Rebel Thai boxing gym in New York where he doubles as the head coach.
These are clearly two Muay Thai brand owners who can talk the talk, and walk the walk.
The NYC-based brand began as a reseller distributing major Thai brands like many of its contemporaries. Today, the label is best known for its acclaimed line of stylish Muay Thai shorts. Owing to the company’s cultural and geographical proximity, IFS’s designs are more suitably aligned with American sense of fashion. Cuello tells ROUGH,
“We noticed there wasn’t anything in the market that exemplified the look and feel we were going for in a brand. We wanted to see if we could influence the market with current fashion trends, and offer quality products in a unique product line. InFightStyle was born.”
For American Nak Muays, the days of waiting weeks for orders to arrive from Thailand are over. Other than their popular shorts and custom service, IFS carries a decent range of Muay Thai gear, equipment and apparel that are made in Thailand but shipped directly from their New York facility. Cuello explains their decision to work exclusively with manufacturers in Thailand,
“We were the first North American company to stand behind the fact that all our products are made in Thailand. To make Muay Thai Products in the origin country of Muay Thai is for us, the only way.”
Aylen continues to spend about six months each year in Thailand, managing the production and company while keeping closely in touch with the sport in its country of origin. Besides sponsoring top American Muay Thai athletes like Ognjen Topic and Janet Todd, IFS footprints can also be found in Thailand supporting local gyms like FA Group (Bangkok) and Hongthong (Chiang Mai).
The brand is also an advocate of the Muay Thai grassroots scene both back home and in Thailand. Other than supporting American amateur fighters in achieving their dreams, IFS gear recently made its way to the nonprofit Wor Watthana gym in Northeast Thailand.
“Not every project we get into is for the money. We are in this because we are true to the sport – we are in this to promote and to help advance the industry”, said Cuello.
With a great ethos that stay true to the spirit of the sport, the future for InFightStyle looks to be as promising as the future of Muay Thai in North America.