Shannon Wiratchai is a university graduate who speaks three languages and might have been expected to follow in the footsteps of his parents by becoming a doctor. Instead, he emerged as one of Thailand’s most successful mixed martial artists and has a career-defining fight coming up in Bangkok on Saturday.
Wiratchai is booked to face Russia’s Rasul Yakhyaev at ONE: Warriors of the World and has been promised a shot at the lightweight title if he wins. Their fight is the co-main event at the Impact Arena and the fans in attendance will be desperate to see the Bangkok born and bred lightweight claim the win.
It is a lot of pressure, but Wiratchai says fighting for ONE Championship has taught him how to cope with this level of expectation. He’s also learned a lot about himself.
“The fight with Amir Khan, in that match I really used all my physical and mental strength to win. I broke both of my hands. I couldn’t feel my hand, use my grip, or hold anything, but I used my elbows and I won.”
He’s been promised a shot at the lightweight belt if he wins on Saturday. That title currently belongs to Martin Nguyen, who became ONE Championship’s first ever two-division champion when he moved up a division to challenge and defeat Eduard Folayang.
Next up for Nguyen is a bantamweight title match with Bibiano Fernandes in early 2018. It’s possible that might mean an interim belt being put on the line at some stage, but Wiratchai is more interested in fighting the Australian than another contender.
“That’s gonna be the very exciting high adrenaline match between Martin Nguyen and me,” he said.
“Amir Khan, after he lost to me by split decision, he wanted a rematch, but it’s just boring if you lost and you keep rematching with a guy you lost, right? We can rematch again when the time comes, with the right timing.”
This will be ONE Championship’s third card in Bangkok and there are currently three more booked for 2018. Historically, Thailand has been known for its Muay Thai, but the country is fast developing a reputation as a destination for MMA, partly due to the success of local camps like AKA and Tiger Muay Thai.
Wiratchai is well aware of his heritage and proud of the success that Muay Thai fighters from his homeland have had on the international stage.
“Our modern day Thai warriors have been going abroad to the West, to the other countries for over 30 years already to show the whole world that Muay Thai is one of the most effective martial arts.”
Wiratchai started out training in Judo and a Chinese martial art known as Baguazhang, but as a Thai, he is well aware of his history and roots.
“I don’t have a Muay Thai background, but I can proudly say that I am the one of the new generation of Thai martial artists.”
A Russian by the name of Rasul Yakhyaev stands between Wiratchai and that title shot. After six-straight ONE Championship wins, Wiratchai knows that he needs just one more victory to ensure a title shot sometime in 2018.
It is an amazing opportunity for the 29-year-old and he believes that the time has come for him to show his championship credentials.
“I’m so ready for Rasul, and this time if I can win I can get to the title shot, that’s gonna be a big, big step for me. So I’m very ready and I’m ready to show everyone that I’m ready for that shot.”
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