By Tessa Mapstone
Combat sports’ popularity has increased in recent years, and in Muaythai women across the country have come out fighting.
Australia’s World Boxing Council Muaythai bantamweight world champion Tiana Caverly successfully defended her title against Thai champion – and former world champion – Dionapha Kiate Kiangsak, in Perth on May 26.
Mooloolaba’s Kellie Newport took out a Queensland WBC championship at Kawana earlier in the month.
Newport’s Fite ‘n’ Fitness coach Aaron Corden started training kickboxers 17 years ago, and said the skill level of women in the sport had improved over time.
“Five, 10 years ago they were just jumping in [the ring] and it was terrible, and they weren’t prepared, and they were getting hurt,” Corden said.
“But now there’s time and effort.
“Kellie trains three-and-a-half, four hours a day, five days a week.”
Muaythai judge and referee Brad Vocale said strength, skill and elegance characterised women kick boxers.
“To me they’re the complete package,” Vocale said.
“They fight like there’s no tomorrow, and they will fight to the end and give their absolute all.
“But they still contain their aggression, and they still [uphold] their ethics and their sportsmanship.”
Corden said the popularity of the US Mixed Martial Arts series Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and reality TV shows like Tuff Girls had helped raise the profile of Muaythai.
But Vocale said that women fighters gave the sport an extra dimension, and that also helped.
“I think [women are] a real asset to the sport,” Vocale said.
“Without women, I think the sport would be poorer.
“We’re in a boom time at the moment with Muaythai … and I think women have played a large part in it.”
Corden said that while women had always been involved in Muaythai, their numbers were increasing as the sport progressed and negative attitudes towards women’s fighting changed.
“Five years ago, you wouldn’t put a girl’s fight on because people would boo, or it just wasn’t good,” Corden said.
“But now they want to see it.”
“Now when they get in the ring they’re fully prepared, and sometimes they’re actually better than the men,” Corden said.
Vocale said the crowds were interested to see how the girls handled themselves in a bout.
“They just really bring this beautiful elegance, this real softness to the sport, that just shows you don’t have to be a big, hard type guy to do the sport,” Vocale said.
“And that’s what people like; they love to see two women in a good, even contest.”
“I think that they’re more competitive than the men,” Vocale said.
As a big supporter of women in combat sports, Vocale said he hoped to increase the number of women’s fights on the card at Muaythai events, starting with Battle in the Bay 5 in Cleveland in August.
“Our goal here is to try and bring women’s boxing [and] Muaythai to the forefront a little so that we can showcase their cause,” Vocale said.
“The women are going to have headline billing on the posters.”