Skip to main content

ONE 157: How muay Thai helped Superlek turn his fortunes around

'The Kicking Machine' outlines that path that led him to Friday's event at Singapore Indoor Stadium, where he continues the family business.

"The Kicking Machine" Superlek Kiatmoo9 is one of the most dangerous men in the muay Thai industry.

And the Buriram native will have an opportunity to back that sentiment up once again at "ONE 157: Petchmorakot vs. Vienot" on Friday.

That evening, Superlek will collide with Taiki "Silent Sniper" Naito in the ONE flyweight muay Thai world grand prix quarterfinals.

A win will move him to the tournament's semifinal round and one step closer to a shot at the ONE flyweight muay Thai world championship, which is currently held by Rodtang Jitmuangnon.

For Superlek, this could be the culmination of his life's work. In fact, the sport has been a massive part of his identity dating back to his childhood.

"I have been training since I was 7 or 8 years old," he said. "My family is a muay Thai family. My brothers, my relatives, they are all boxers."

Given that the star was surrounded by loads of talented athletes from an early age, he deepened his knowledge in "the art of eight limbs" pretty quickly.

Superlek's late grandpa – also a professional muay Thai fighter – wanted "The Kicking Machine" to follow in his footsteps, and together with the help of a relative, Panomrunglek Kiatmoo9, they helped the youngster excel.

"My grandfather wanted me to train like him. I got to know Muay Thai because of (Panomrunglek)," Superlek says. "When I saw my older relatives train, I felt happy. I wanted to be like them."

It did not take long for Superlek to impress his family and coaches with his newfound skills during training sessions.

Soon, he put those muay Thai skills into action and made his debut at a local festival.

"There was a boxing event near my home. My brothers took me to the event, I got to fight, and I liked it. After that, I went there again for four, five more matches," he said.

With that, Superlek's itch to compete only escalated. More victories followed, and he quickly realized the sport could potentially turn his fortunes around.

The Thai's family were not big earners, and more often than not, their salaries were just enough to cover the bills at home.

Superlek did not want to burden his parents, but fortunately through muay Thai, he was soon able to stand on his own two feet.

"When I started training seriously, I felt I could take care of myself, send myself to school, and take care of my family. Because when you fight, you get paid – and you can take care of yourself," he said.

Suffice to say, the Buriram native dominated the sport.

Superlek became the 2012 Sports Authority of Thailand "Fighter of the Year," a two-time Lumpinee Stadium world champion, a three-time PAT Thailand champion, a WBC muay Thai world champion, and the 2018 Muay Thai Nai Khanom Tom champion.

Those accolades have given "The Kicking Machine" opportunities he never dreamed of having – and the striker is eternally grateful to how muay Thai helped set him on a path of greatness.

"I have what I have because of muay Thai. It has paid for my education since I was a child and up to my bachelor's degree. It was all because of muay Thai," Superlek emotionally recalled.

"It has helped me build a family. I got to know my family because of muay Thai, and my family has survived until now because of it."

Superlek hopes to continue giving back to his family through the sport, and one way the No. 2-ranked flyweight muay Thai contender can do that is by defeating Naito at ONE 157 inside the Singapore Indoor Stadium on Friday.

A victory for "The Kicking Machine" will push him into the grand prix semifinals, move him closer to the tournament's silver belt, and get him two wins away from a crack at Rodtang's ONE world title.

It won't be easy, but nothing can stop a fired-up Superlek from claiming the richest prize in the sport.

"My goal in ONE is to become a world champion. To be able to hold the world championship from ONE – it's a world-class stage, and every fighter wants the title," he added.