By Reuters

Thailand has a well deserved reputation as being one of the premier training destinations on the planet for mixed martial artists but until recently, competitive MMA fights in the Kingdom had been few and far between.

Thai fighter Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke recently became the country’s first ever MMA world champion when he won the ONE Strawweight World Title but the Muay Thai veteran didn’t get his first taste of competitive action inside the cage until after moving to Singapore.

For the young generation of budding Thai mixed martial artists the outlook is much brighter because the country finally has a long running promotion of its own. Full Metal Dojo has put on seven cards so far this year with the most recent taking place in Bangkok last Saturday.

The event was headlined by Thai strawweight Pongsiri Mitsatit who is already being talked about as the top 115lbs prospect in Asia. The teenager extended his record to 6-0 with a TKO win over compatriot Wisava Kaweewarakorn, the end coming after a barrage of ground and pound strikes.

FMD was founded in 2014 by charismatic American Jon Nutt and so far there have been two events in Phuket and five in Bangkok. He says that one of the reasons he started his own MMA promotion is that he saw how frustrated aspiring Thai fighters were at the lack of local opportunities.

“I used to get fighters calling me up all the time asking me to find them fights and there’s a lot of MMA fans in Thailand so it’s nice being able to tell them ‘we’ve got three shows coming up in the next 6 months’. It means the fighters can stay busy and the fans can get a regular dose of MMA goodness,” he explained.

There were ten fights on last Saturday’s card which took place at the Insanity Night Club in downtown Bangkok. Exactly half the mixed martial artists in action were from Thailand but there was also a large contingent of foreign fighters, coming from as far afield as Iran, South Korea, Lebanon, Russia, Cambodia, the Czech Republic and the Philippines.

It gave the event a real international feel and the highlight of the night for many of the MMA fans in attendance was the heavyweight clash between Amir Aliakbari and Hyung Chul-Lee. Both men tipped the scale at 265lbs but it was the former fighter who prevailed with a TKO win after just 17 seconds.

Heavyweight fighters are few and far between in Asia but Nutt was determined to put together a fight he hoped would capture the imagination of local fight fans.

“Most Thai people have never even met a human being weighing over 250lbs, so for them seeing two guys that size going at it in the cage was absolutely crazy. There are lots of boxing shows and Muay Thai shows in Bangkok but you never get to see guys this big fight and this was definitely one of the funnest matchups we have ever put together,” said Nutt.

Thailand is known for its Muay Thai fighters and over the years, a number of elite level boxers have also emerged from the country. However it has rapidly emerged as one of the most popular places on the planet to train MMA thanks to elite camps such as Tiger Muay Thai, AKA Thailand, The Fight Lab and Team Quest Chiang Mai.

Full Metal Dojo has rapidly emerged as the country’s premier promotion and fight fans all over the world are starting to stand up and take notice of Thai MMA. Next up for Nutt and his team is a card in Phuket on December 12th which is sure to feature more up-and-coming local prospects looking to make a name for themselves.