US Muay Thai And Kickboxing Are Making Strides – Here’s Why

Is The United States Turning Into a Powerhouse of Kickboxing And Muay Thai?
Haycraft with his fighter Adam Edgerton who previously fought for Glory Kickboxing. Private photo.


There was a time when nobody talked about American Muay Thai or even American Kickboxing. If references to American Kickboxing were made, they would be referring to the old days of Benny Urquidez, Bill Wallace, Chuck Norris and the likes – Kickboxing or Sport Karate with no kicks below the waistline.

When the national teams went to the IFMA World Championships around the world, nobody ever feared the US fighters – people didn’t even talk about the USA.

But, as Bob Dylan would say: “…. the times they are a-changin’…”

People like Eric Haycraft of  Louisville, Kentucky, has been successfully running his own gym, Real Fighters Gym, for more than thirty years. He was a long-time good friend of the legendary Ramon “The Diamond” Dekkers, who passed away on February 27, 2013. Dekkers is recognized worldwide, including in Thailand, as the greatest non-Thai Muay Thai fighter ever. This friendship influenced the training philosophy at Real Fighters Gym. A training philosophy invented by the infamous Cornelius Hemmers, who was the trainer of Dekkers throughout his entire career, and who trains the likes of Alistair Overeem, Gökhan Saki and numerous other world champions.

Through their long friendship Haycraft infused the Dutch way of training into his camp, with regular visits to Holland, and by offering seminars in-house with the likes of Ramon Dekkers.

Pioneers like Haycraft is one of the reasons why kickfighting disciplines are growing in the States.

Michael Corley scores on Vuyisile Colossa. Photo credit: Jo-photowerks.


Michael Chase Corley is the President of the non-profit organization, The United States Muaythai Federation. The US Muaythai Federation recently started the Muaythai Development League, where focus is on correct scoring, correct judging and obviously allowing the youth to fight regularly in a safe environment.

To quote Corley’s own website:

After coaching the national team in 2016 he saw the opportunity to bring more awareness to the sport of Muay Thai and ran for election to help get provisional recognition by the Olympic committee. He now serves as the President of the United States Muaythai Federation (USMF). He is currently the Vice President of the Confederacion Panamericana de Muaythai, and is on the Board of the International Federation of MuayThai Associates (IFMA).

The United States Muaythai Federation is running a development league: “Simply to grow the sport.”


Very few other countries, if any, have a development league growing the foundation of the sport of Muay Thai. This is a pivotal development for the sport, and it will be interesting to see where the sport is in ten or so years in the US.

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At the recent World Games, the US team were triumphant to put it mildly. The World Games is an international multi-sport event comprising sports and sporting disciplines that are not contested in the Olympic Games.

The US team fought to an impressive third place behind powerhouse Ukraine, which came out on top ahead of Thailand, which had to settle for silver.

An impressive feat for the “young” Muay Thai nation: Two gold medals, three silver and four bronze.

Todd is the ONE Championship Atomweight Kickboxing and Interim Muay Thai world champion

Professionally the US is making a huge mark too. Due to people like Bryan Popejoy, Coach and Owner of Boxing Works Gym and USMF Muay Thai Team Head Coach, the global fans of Kickboxing and Muay Thai can enjoy beautiful and devastating stand-up striking courtesy of world champion Janet Todd and Jackie Buntan, who both fight for ONE Championship – the highest level of international Muay Thai and Kickboxing.

Boxing Works opened in 1993.  With nearly 30 years of experience we’ve become the premier boxing, Muay Thai and kickboxing facility in Southern California. Within 2 years of opening, we had our first World Boxing Champion, Jr. Welterweight Champion Sammy Fuentes. Boxing Works was originally built as a primarily Western Boxing academy.  However, a very open minded attitude towards training led to the evolution of the facility.

– Boxing Works

Bryan Popejoy has been at the forefront of American Muay Thai since the 80’s, literally involved from Illinois in the East, through Arizona, to California in the West. A focused approach and a never-give-up attitude by Mr. Popejoy, combined with an openness towards training has led his gym to become a home of world champions – in boxing, Kickboxing and Muay Thai.

FIGHT SPORTS will be bringing our readers an exclusive interview with world champion Janet Todd in the near future, but also an in-depth profile of Bryan Popejoy and his successful work.

Instructing since the 80’s – that’s five decades! Photo from YouTube.


Another driving force in American Muay Thai is Dr. Stephen Strotmeyer. Dr. Strotmeyer runs his own gym, Pittsburgh Muay Thai, and is a member of the the United States Muaythai Federation board of directors. Dr. Strotmeyer has published more than 25 papers on “injury research and control” and epidemiology. He was the go-to-guy during the COVID-19 pandemic, when gyms needed advice on Coronavirus safety tips and precautions.

Ph.D. Stephen Strotmeyer training with Saenchai. Private photo.


Obviously there are more driving forces in Kickboxing and Muay Thai within the States, but we’ve tried to shed light on some major, key people and will continue to monitor the progression of US Muay Thai, and keep our readers up to date.


Boxing Works GymBryan PopejoyCor HemmersEric HaycraftJackie BuntanJanet ToddMichael Chase CorleyOne ChampionshipRamon DekkersSaenchaiStephen StrotmeyerUS Muay Thai