Street fighter: Muay Thai star Sagat's rise to fame

Street fighter: Muay Thai star Sagat's rise to fame

WARRIOR: Sagat displays the ‘Street Fighter’ video game villain thought to be a clone of him from in his boxing heyday in the ’90s. Right, on the cover of Thai boxing magazines. 
Below, at 58 years of age, he is fit and still trains at the Petchyindee Gym. Inset: Screenshot of video game starring Sagat.
WARRIOR: Sagat displays the ‘Street Fighter’ video game villain thought to be a clone of him from in his boxing heyday in the ’90s. Right, on the cover of Thai boxing magazines. Below, at 58 years of age, he is fit and still trains at the Petchyindee Gym. Inset: Screenshot of video game starring Sagat.

In 1994 videogame Street Fighter made Sagat the "Emperor of Muay Thai" after legendary career in Thai & western boxing.


Street fighter: Muay Thai star Sagat's rise to video game fame

Chaiyot Yongcharoenchai

One of the most popular games in the 1990s was Street Fighter, which featured the Thai kickboxer named Sagat.

For those who do not know about Sagat:

- Sagat was a villain in video games and notoriously difficult to beat.

- Sagat wore muay Thai shorts with no shirt and had a patch over his right eye.

- Sagat became one of the most hated and feared characters.

- Sagat boxed with a strong punch, deadly uppercut and near unbeatable triple kick.


Covers of boxing magazines with Sagat during his rise to fame.

Not many people know the character Sagat was based on a real person named Sagat.

Sagat Petchyindee is a legendary muay Thai fighter and trainer who also tried his hand at Western - style boxing.

Many of the moves that appeared in the video game, with his name, were ones he used in his real and illustrious kickboxing career.

Sagat was born Wirun Phonphimai in 1958 in the town of Phimai, Nakhon Ratchasima.

Sagat was the seventh of 10 children in a family with many famous muay Thai fighters, starting with his grandfather Suk Prasathin Phimai, who has a statue honouring his fighting exploits.

Sagat says he was introduced to muay Thai when he was 11 by one of his brothers.

After training for six months, Sagat had his first fight at a temple fair. He won and his reputation as being unbeatable grew as he fought 20 times in his home town without loss.

When he was 16, Boonyeam Sophon, the owner of Porntawee boxing camp in Nonthaburi, went to watch him fight.

"I will make you a star," Sagat recalls Boonyeam promising him. Sagat hopped on the van heading to Bangkok hoping he would keep his promise.


...Sagat's first fight in Bangkok was at Ratchadamnoen stadium.

He lost, but returned to the gym to train harder.

He earned 800 baht for each bout.

...Within two years, he improved to the point where he won five fights in a row.

Sagat also tried his hand at Western-style boxing with success.


But along the way, Sagat also tasted what it felt like to lose.

In 1978, having fought just two bouts of sanctioned Western-style boxing, Sagat was given a top 10 ranking and the chance to fight Puerto Rican Wilfredo "Bazooka" Gomez for the World Boxing Council crown.

The fight was staged in Korat and drew 40,000 fans, but the inexperienced Sagat was knocked out in the third round.

He later relinquished his OPBF lightweight title to a South Korean boxer, Park Bong-chun, in 1989.

He also started to experience losses in muay Thai, a sport he had mastered.

BOXED IN: Sagat was introduced to muay Thai boxing at the age of 11 by one of his brothers. PHOTOS: Chumporn Sangvilert


After turning 25, Sagat says he lost nine fights in a row and believed his career was coming to an end.

He sought the advice of many monks as he believed he was "cursed" by black magic.

He visited Luang Poh Khun, a famous monk back home in Nakhon Ratchasima, who gave him words of wisdom he still remembers today:

"Don't be infatuated with fame when you are rising, and don't give up when you fall," Luang Poh Khun told Sagat.

After he regained his confidence, Sagat returned to fighting and found his new weapon: an uppercut.

He earned a reputation as the knockout king and, after winning seven more titles, retired from fighting in Thailand when he was 28.

His overall fight record in all forms of boxing is 317 bouts, 266 wins, 40 losses and 11 draws with morethan 150 wins by knockout.

Sagat was both muay Thai and kickboxing world champion and won the Lumpini championship three times.

In boxing, he was world champion across three associations, with a professional record of 14 fights and 12 wins.


A renowned innovator, Sagat is credited with introducing several crucial methods deployed in Mixed Martial Arts (MMA).

His skills also brought wealth, regularly fighting for purses of 450,000 baht in Thailand and US$25,000 overseas.


No longer interested in gaining fame for himself as a boxer, Sagat began entertaining offers from gyms around the world hoping to bring him on board as a trainer.

He eventually took a job in Australia, where he spent a year passing on his experience to younger boxers.

He was also asked once to enter a boxing match representing Australia under the condition that if he won, he would get to raise the Thai flag. He won.

Sagat then moved to Japan, where he already had a reputation as a strong and fierce fighter, to teach at a gym in Osaka.


Then in 1994, the release of the Street Fighter video game helped bolster his claim to fame.

The game featured a boss character named Sagat, depicted as the "Emperor of Muay Thai" and renowned for his incredible power....

...The company that produced the video games, capcom, never contacted Sagat asking to use his likeness, nor did he receive any direct financial benefit.

Sagat said he considered suing Capcom, but eventually decided against it after considering the time and money the lawsuit would have required.

But Sagat has still managed to use the game to his advantage as a tool for self- promotion -- he isn't shy about telling strangers that he's a Street Fighter character.

He used that name recognition to land jobs in Italy and America as a trainer, travelling under the name "Sagat Thailand" to reinforce his Street Fighter credentials.


The fame and money Sagat earned from his boxing career meant he could have retired without ever working another day.

But it was around this time he lost the biggest fight of his life: drug addiction.

Sagat was first arrested for drug abuse in 2002.

A second arrest two years later would lead to prison time.

He struggled to kick his habit though, but was arrested again for distributing drugs in 2009, and sent back to prison for five years.

Eventually, Sagat became a boxing trainer at several fitness centres and eventually at the Sek Loso boxing camp.

The opportunities to train other people helped Sagat get his life back on track.

Even during the time he was in prison, he kept himself fit and trained other inmates.

Today at age 58, he says he can still kick like his 18-year-old self.

"Instead of sitting at home and accepting the fact that I am an old man, I want to show that people have to fight their way back up when they go down," Sagat said.

Sagat is now based at the Thai Boxing Master gym in Bangkok, where he trains rising young fighters.

"One of the most important lessons I want to give to all young boxers is not to be overly confident, because fame doesn't last forever," Sagat said.

"It is also important to save the money you earn and not to spend it foolishly."

"The only thing more difficult than winning a championship is defending one."

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  • addiction: a strong need that someone feels to regularly take an illegal or harmful drug - การติดยาเสพติด
  • advantage: a condition giving a greater chance of success - ความได้เปรียบ
  • advice: an opinion or a suggestion about what somebody should do in a particular situation - คำแนะนำ
  • appear: to be seen - ปรากฏ
  • arrest: (of the police) taking someone to a police station because they are believed to have committed a crime - การจับกุม
  • arrested: caught by the police and taken to a police station because you are believed to have committed a crime - ถูกจับกุม
  • beat: to win over someone; to defeat someone - ชนะ
  • benefit: an advantage you get from a situation; a helpful or good effect, or something intended to help - ผลประโยชน์, ข้อได้เปรียบ, ผลดี
  • black magic: a type of magic which is believed to use the power of the Devil in order to do evil - เวทมนตร์, คาถา
  • bout: a boxing or wrestling match - การแข่งขัน
  • career: a job or series of related jobs that you do, especially a profession that you spend a lot of your working life in - อาชีพ
  • championship: a competition to find the best player or team in a sport or game - การแข่งขันเพื่อได้ตัวผู้ชนะเลิศ
  • chance (noun): a possibility; a likelihood; an opportunity - โอกาส
  • character (noun): a person, animal, cartoon figure in a book, play, film etc - ผู้สวมบทบาท, ตัวแสดง
  • confidence: being certain of your abilities or of having trust in people, plans, or the future - ความมั่นใจ
  • confident: being certain of your abilities or of having trust in people, plans, or the future - มั่นใจ
  • consider: to give careful thought to something before making a decision - พิจารณา
  • contact (noun): having communication with someone - การติดต่อ การสัมผัส
  • credentials: personal qualities, achievements, or experiences that make someone suitable for something - คุณสมบัติ, คุณวุฒิ
  • credit: to believe or say that somebody/something is responsible for doing something, especially something good - ให้เกียรติ, ยกย่อง, ให้เครดิต
  • crown: title; the position of a winner in a sports competition - ตำแหน่งแชมป์
  • direct (adjective): going straight to a place (not "going to other places first" which is "indirect") - ตรงไป, ไม่เบี่ยงเบน
  • distribute: to give something out to many different places - แจกจ่าย
  • drug abuse: using drugs in a bad way; not to cure the disease the drugs were made to cure - การใช้ยาในทางที่ผิด
  • emperor: the ruler of an empire, a group of countries or states that are controlled by one ruler or government - จักรพรรดิ์
  • entertain: consider doing something - พิจารณาลองทำบางสิ่ง
  • eventually: at the end of a period of time or at the end of a process - ในที่สุด
  • experience: the knowledge and skill that you have gained through doing something for a period of time - ประสบการณ์
  • exploit: a brave, exciting or interesting act - การกระทำที่กล้าหาญ
  • fair: a public event to show people about something or to entertain people - งาน
  • fame: the state of being famous or very well known - ชื่อเสียง
  • fierce: very strong - รุนแรง, ดุเดือด
  • fights: To carry on, or wage, as a conflict, or battle; to win or gain by struggle, as one's way - การทะเลาะ, ถกเถียง, ต่อสู้, มีปากมีเสียงกัน
  • financial: involving money - เกี่ยวกับเงิน, ทางการเงิน
  • fitness: being healthy and strong, especially because you do regular physical exercise - ที่มีสุขภาพดี, แข็งแรง, ที่เตรียมพร้อม
  • gym (noun): gymnasium, a place to exercise and play sports - โรงพลศึกษา, โรงกีฬา, โรงกายกรรม
  • honour: something you do that you are proud of; the respect that people have for someone who achieves something great, is very powerful, or behaves in a way that is morally right - เกียรติยศ, เกียรติ
  • illustrious: famous, well respected and admired - ซี่งมีชื่อเสียง, โด่งดัง
  • in a row (idiom): straight; consecutive; happening one after the other, without interruption - ต่อเนื่อง
  • infatuated: to have very strong feelings of love or attraction for somebody/something, especially when these are unreasonable and do not last long ความหลงใหล, ความมัวเมา -
  • inmate: someone who is kept in a prison, mental hospital or other institution - ผู้ถูกกักกัน, ผู้ถูกกักบริเวณในเรือนจำหรือโรงพยาบาล
  • innovator: a person who innovates, does new things or does thing in a new way -
  • introduce (verb): to make somebody learn about something or do something for the first time - แนะนำ, แนะนำให้รู้จักกับ
  • kick his habit: put an end to an addiction (smoking, drugs, etc) that a person suffers from -
  • knocked out: somebody made to become unconscious, usually by hitting them very hard - ชกจนสลบ, เตะจนสลบ
  • knockout: when a boxer hits the other boxer is so hard that he is "knocked out" (unconscious) and loses the fight -
  • land jobs: get jobs -
  • lawsuit: a case that a court is asked to decide involving a disagreement between two people or groups - คดีที่ยื่นฟ้องต่อศาล
  • legendary: very famous or well known for a long time -
  • likeness: a painting, drawing, etc. of a person, especially one that looks very like them - ภาพเหมือน
  • match: a sports competition - การแข่งขัน
  • move (noun): action -
  • notoriously: famous for something bad - ซึ่งมีชื่อเสียงในทางไม่ดี
  • offer (verb): to make something available or to provide the opportunity for something - ให้, เสนอ
  • opportunity (noun): a chance to do something, or a situation in which it is easy for you to do something - โอกาส
  • overly: too; very - มากเกิน, เหลือเกิน
  • overseas: in another country - ต่างประเทศ
  • patch: a piece of cloth -
  • prison: a place where criminals are put to stay for a period of time as punishment for a crime - คุก, ,เรือนจำ
  • promise (verb): to say that you will do something for sure; to commit that you'll do something for certain - สัญญา
  • promotion: activities done in order to increase the attendance at an event or sales of a product or service - การส่งเสริม
  • punch: a hard hit made with the fist (= closed hand) - การชก, การต่อย
  • purse: the money a boxer wins in a boxing competition -
  • rank: to put someone or something into a position according to their success, importance, size etc - จัดลำดับ
  • recognition: public praise and reward for somebody's work or actions, the act of accepting that something exists, is true or is official - การยอมรับ
  • record: a written account of something that is kept so that it can be looked at and used in the future - การบันทึก, รายงาน
  • reinforce: to make stronger - เสริมให้แข็งแรงขึ้น
  • release: the act of making something available to the public - การนำออกแสดง, การออกวางจำหน่าย
  • relinquish: to give up something - ปล่อย,ละทิ้ง
  • renowned (adj): famous and admired for a special quality, skill or achievement - ที่มีชื่อเสียง
  • reputation: the opinion people have about how good or bad someone or something is - ชื่อเสียง
  • require: to make somebody do or have something, especially because it is necessary according to a particular law or set of rules - บังคับใช้ (กฎหมาย) กำหนด
  • retire: to stop playing a sport as a professional or serious player because you are too old, have an injury or no longer have the desire - อำลาวงการ
  • retired: no longer working because you have reached the age where you are officially too old to work or you want to stop working - เกษียณอายุ
  • round: one of a series of events, activities, etc. - รอบ
  • sanctioned (adj): formally given permission or approval - ได้รับการอนุมัติ, ได้รับการอนุญาต
  • self-: does it to them self, not others -
  • stadium: a large closed area of land with rows of seats around the sides and often with no roof which is used for sports events and musical performances - สนามกีฬาที่มีอัฒจันทร์โดยรอบ
  • statue: a human or animal image that is made of stone, wood, metal, etc. - รูปปั้น
  • stranger: a person that you do not know - คนแปลกหน้า
  • struggle: to try hard to do something that you find very difficult - พยายาม, ประสบปัญหา, ต่อสู้กับปัญหา
  • title (noun): the position of a winner in a sports or other competition - ตำแหน่งแชมป์
  • trainer: a person who teaches people or animals to perform a particular job or skill well, or to do a particular sport - ครูฝึก, ผู้ฝึก
  • training (noun): teaching people how to do a certain job or activity - การฝึกอบรม, การฝึก, การอบรม
  • tried his hand at: to try some activity, to see if you are good at it -
  • triple: three of something - สาม
  • unbeatable: impossible to defeat; invincible - ไม่มีทางแพ้, หาใครเทียบไม่ได้
  • uppercut: a punch to the head from below -
  • villain: a criminal; a bad character in a play, film or story - ตัวร้าย
  • wealth: a large amount of money, property, etc. that a person or country owns - ความมั่งคั่ง
  • Western: countries such as the US, Europe and Australia -
  • wisdom: the knowledge that a society or culture has gained over a long period of time - ปัญญา
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