Reigning ONE Championship muay Thai flyweight champion Rodtang Jitmuangnon – widely regarded as one of the best pound-for-pound strikers on the planet – will turn his attention to mixed martial arts in the very near future.
With more than 300 muay Thai contests to his name, the 25-year-old Thai native says he's open to taking future bouts in the striking art but is hoping to build an MMA career, as well.
"This is not my last muay Thai fight," Jitmuangnon told MMA Underground through an interpreter. "Depending on the promoters, they might want me to fight in muay Thai matches in the future. I may need to defend my world championship belt, but I will focus on MMA training after this. There is no 'last time' for me in muay Thai in the near future."
Jitmuangnon took his first professional muay Thai bout when he was just 8 years old and subsequently earned a host of accolades in his native country before signing in 2018 with ONE Championship, a Singapore-based organization that hosts mixed cards that feature muay Thai, kickboxing and submission grappling along with MMA fights. Jitmuangnon would claim his current title one year later and has since notched three successful defenses of his belt.
Despite already holding the title, Jitmuangnon elected to take part in ONE Championship's current flyweight muay Thai grand prix, taking out Jacob Smith in the quarterfinals earlier this year. Jitmuangnon returns to action at ONE on Prime Video 1, which streams live Friday in North American primetime (8 p.m. ET) from Singapore Indoor Stadium.
The event marks the launch of ONE's partnership with Amazon Prime Video Sports, a multi-year partnership that will see the streaming giant carry a minimum of 12 events annually in the U.S. and Canada.
Jitmuangnon, an all-action fighter with a penchant for flare, faces 23-year-old Cypriot Savvas Michael in the grand prix semifinals. Jitmuangnon believes the key to success may include purposely taking some damage early in order to drag Michael into a brawl.
"If I can bring him into my game, there is a high chance I'll beat him," Jitmuangnon said. "On the other hand, if I am taken to his game, I might stumble. Lately, Savvas has become more prudent and more technical, and his build makes him advantageous with his reach. I have to invest a lot to get him into my game. I mean, I need to eat his strikes first to get him into my game.
"His punch and attack range are what I have to be careful of. I have to get close to him as much as possible to avoid his attack from the outside."
Should Jitmuangnon prove victorious, he would advance to the grand prix finals, which are expected to take place later this year and where "The Iron Man" could earn a silver grand prix belt to go along with his championship gold.
After that, it appears MMA fans may have a new name to watch at 125 pounds. Jitmuangnon dipped his toes in the pool of MMA with a special mixed-rules fight with former UFC champ Demetrious Johnson in March, but now he'll lean on ONE Championship CEO Chatri Sityodtong to match him up with opponents in a new career path.
"It depends on big boss Chatri," Jitmuangnon said. "I'm ready to fight with any opponents."
This story first published at SI.com/MMA.