WHEN Malaysia first aired The Contender Asia back in 2008, it turned out to be a big hit.
It was based on the American version of the reality show The Contender by producer Mark Burnett, which focused on boxing (Sylvester Stallone and Sugar Ray Robinson were among the producers and judges). That show was riddled with controversy when one defeated contestant killed himself.
The Contender Asia, on the other hand, focused on Muay Thai or Thai kickboxing and attracted contestants from all over the world. The series ultimately ended with the thrilling showdown between Thailand’s Yodsanklai Fairtex and Australia’s John Wayne Parr in which the former won.
While many expected the next season to come the following year, it was delayed.
However, buoyed by The Contender Asia’s success, a brand new programme has emerged – The Challenge Muaythai – which will premiere on AXN on Sept 15. Several qualifying rounds titled Super 8 Tournament were held earlier to pick the best of the best from around the world since 2009.
And Malaysia has its contender with Kelantan boy Mohd Faizal Ramli aka Golden Elbow making the cut after winning the Super 8 Tournament in this country.
Faizal, who is from Pasir Puteh, comes from a religious family and has 10 siblings. He has been studying Muay Thai since the age of 12 and became a full-time Muay Thai fighter when he turned 18.
During a tele-conference call, Faizal said that after his Super 8 Tournament in Kelantan in 2009, he entered another Super 8 Tournament in Pattaya, Thailand, the following year, which he also won. That was how he got an entry into The Challenge.
Faizal said the shooting of the series has ended and that the finale would be held later. “There was a lot of competition from contenders from the United Kingdom, France and Thailand,” he said.
“For me, the biggest thrill was having the opportunity to fight opponents of such international levels.” Faizal practises for three hours in the morning and three hours in the evening regularly.
“I’ve been interested in Muay Thai since I was nine years old after watching the fights on television. That was also when my interest in extreme sports began,” he said. He is a huge fan of last year’s winner, Yodsanklai, and hopes to emulate him.
As for the future, Faizal plans to teach Muay Thai to youngsters who are interested in taking up this form of martial arts.
“Muay Thai helps teach you respect for others, especially your elders.” In Kelantan, said Faizal, there are small training villages for Muay Thai and every week, there would be tournaments. This is where he honed his skills.
At the moment, Faizal is working as a bodyguard to someone important in Malacca. As for his performance in The Challenge, he said: “I hope that all Malaysians will be satisfied with my performance and pray for my future.”
He hopes to eventually compete in more major competitions abroad. The Challenge Muaythai will premiere on AXN (Astro Channel 701) and AXN HD (Astro Channel 721) on Sept 15 at 10pm.
The contestants of The Challenge Muaythai AXN
source: The SunDaily