During Songkran festival this year, I and a few other fighters from my gym travelled up to Buriram the home province of our trainer, Ajarn Saming, to fight. You can read about the fight itself in another post. In this one, I want to document what happened after the fight.
We fought around mid-afternoon, during which the promoter was present. It wasn’t until one of the other fighters pointed it out, that I noticed that he very quickly disappeared as soon as we were finished. We also noticed that all of the Thais who fought that day had already been paid straight after each fight, as he’d been seen passing out envelopes to them. It was then that we started to realise that something wasn’t right.
It was agreed that we’d each be paid 5,000THB for our fights. We drove back to the promoter’s house, where we were greeted by his family and friends and assured that he was on his way. At this time, it was around 4pm. After fighting, being out all day, and not having eaten a proper meal, we were eager to get paid, say our goodbyes, get some food and make our way home. However, it wasn’t to be, as we were told that we would have to wait for a while for the promoter to get back.
Although, tired, hungry and irritable, we managed to politely waste some time chatting while we waited for him to arrive. At first, we thought it would just be half an hour or so. Eventually, hours passed, the sun went down, darkness fell, and there was still no sign of him. We were all fairly certain that we weren’t going to see either him or our money, but didn’t want to mention anything, for fear of causing anyone to lose face. So, we continued to wait.
After a few hours, the promoter’s family and friends must have caught on that we were getting more and more impatient, so offered to take us to get some food, possibly just as a polite gesture, but more likely as a distraction. They drove us to a nearby street restaurant, and we all sat and chatted awkwardly, no one wanting to point out the obvious fact that this guy was clearly not going to show up. Ajarn Saming sat away from us, seemingly having some kind of private conversation with a couple of guys and making numerous phone calls. The atmosphere got more and more awkward.
We hung around at the restaurant for what seemed like forever, while people from our group kept dropping off, leaving us there by ourselves with no idea what was going on. This went on for an uncomfortably long period of time, before they had no choice but to move us somewhere else, to keep us from complaining. Ajarn Saming stayed behind along with a group of people, and the atmosphere suddenly got more uncomfortable. His face was unlike the one I’m used to seeing, and the sternness of his expression, along with his silence, was the only indication we needed that things were about to get serious. With that, we thought it was best that we got out of the way and let him sort things out.
We were driven further down the road and sat on a bench next to a lake, in the dark, in the middle of the night. We had no idea where we were, or what was going on. So, we had no choice but to wait. One of the fighters from our gym went back to the restaurant see what was happening. One of the guys from the restaurant remained with us, and it became clear that he had been told to stay with us and distract us from what was happening. He became increasingly annoying. Every time any of us would talk between ourselves, he would instantly butt in and make some kind of pointless remark, in an attempt to stop us from thinking about the situation at hand.
After what seemed like yet another century of awkwardly waiting, our guy later came back to inform us that there was some kind of meeting going on, and that Ajarn Saming had managed to get the mayor to attend (how, I have no idea), to discuss how exactly we were going to get the money that was promised to us. At some point during this meeting, the promoter finally showed up, and admitted that he didn’t have any money for us (which was no surprise). By this time, it was past midnight, while fights had finished at around 4pm.
With no way of paying us, they decided to have a contract written out, which was signed by the promoter, Ajarn Saming and a third party witness, stating that he had to pay the agreed fee of 25,000THB in total by the 20th April 2013. We weren’t confident that this actually meant anything, as contracts often don’t in Thailand, but it was a means to an end, and we were all relieved that at least something was happening, so that perhaps we could finally go home. By the time we managed to get out of there and make our way home, it was already 1am.
Although we were all exhausted, frustrated and disappointed by what happened, we felt much worse for Ajarn Saming. As the one who had organised the trip, he must have felt terrible. However, it wasn’t his fault, and we didn’t want him to lose face over it. So, out of respect for him, we all opted to keep smiling, trying our best not to let on that we were bothered. It wasn’t mentioned again. We never did hear anything about it, or receive any money, of course. I’m unsure whether the promoter never had any intention of paying us from the beginning, or he just didn’t have the money when he thought he would. Either way, it’s not really important.
This whole saga was obviously quite frustrating at the time, but thankfully, money is not the reason for which I fight. If it was, I would have starved to death a long time ago! I fight for the experience, and although this one left a bit of a sour taste in our mouths, it was an experience none the less.
Fighting in Thailand means that you have almost no control over the situation. You probably won’t know who you’re fighting, and even if you do, there’s a high chance that they will change at the last minute. Getting paid for the fight, if that does happen, is a bonus. I will usually give most of the money to my trainers, so I felt bad that I wasn’t able to do that on this occasion. Still, with all the risk and drama that can come with fighting in Thailand, I still love it, and there’s nowhere else I’d rather fight than here.