The mixed martial arts scene in Ireland is growing stronger by the day and Limerick has the potential to lead the way in the future, according to Robert Ng, a trainer in the Muay Thai gym, Eiremuaysiam.
As the only gym of its kind in Limerick, Eiremuaysiam, which opened its doors in June 2009, boasts an impressive set-up at the Pery Street stronghold. Complete with all the necessary equipment- 850 sq ft of matted floor, a Muay Thai ring, three boxings bags and a heavy bag for leg strikes- the walls are heavily decorated with a diversity of posters, photos, flags as well as two banners.
One hangs proudly over the bags, reading ‘Ethical, Morals, Spiritual…. Eiremuaysiam’. The second one is tucked away in the corner, a Tupac Shakur tribute banner.
Muay Thai kickboxing involves the use of knees, elbows, kicks, punches and grappling. It is one of the cornerstones of stand-up fighting. It’s an art in itself and one that has yielded 53 fights for Robert Ng since 2001.
Reminiscing on his 16-year career, Ng notes that Muay Thai was the perfect avenue for him to channel his energy as a teenager.
“I started Thai boxing when I was 17 while living in Cork. I was a young fella, just drinking and getting in trouble and one of my friends introduced me to it with Anthony Corkery below in Cork. Thai and history has been made ever since hasn’t it?,” said Ng.
Fast forward to today, and Ng, who is constantly “improving himself” notes that he is proud to play such an integral part in Limerick’s only gym dedicated solely to Muay Thai kickboxing.
“I think the hunger to improve myself everyday (is what keeps me going). I’m always improving myself”, Ng tells the Limerick Voice as his one of his students strikes the heavy bag. “Not just physically but improving my understanding of the sport, improving my mind and my spirituality.”
It is an exciting time to be involved in the gym. Limerickman James Heelan, who is a former fighter at Eiremuaysiam, had a recent middleweight title fight at Caged Muay Thai 10 against former 10-time World Champion and Muay Thai legend John Wayne Parr in Australia.
The Knocklong native stepped in to the cage with his 41-year-old opponent, one of the best known names in Thai boxing, on short notice in place of Jake Purdy, who pulled out of the event due to a foot injury.
The fight went the full five rounds and Heelan did more than just survive, as he pushed Wayne Parr all the way but lost out via unanimous decision.
Now, Ng believes the attention that Heelan’s fight received could propel the fight game forward in Limerick as more people come through the gym doors to see what the sport is all about.
“The fight gained a lot of recognition when I put the result up on the gym’s Facebook page,” Robert explains after a sweaty session at Pery Street. “It had something like 268 likes so it’s definitely after getting some of the exposure that it deserves. Fighting John Wayne Parr is no small feat for a fighter that started out in this gym. It’s a good population here in Limerick and it’s the third biggest city in Ireland so the interest is there and it has potential. It just needs more dedication and exposure.”
The Thai boxing instructor says he is open to newcomers coming to the gym to try Muay Thai as his team gear up for a busy few weeks. He is equally keen on Heelan, who is based in Thailand, making a return to the Treaty county.
“Let’s see what lies ahead for him in the future. Obviously I hope that he comes back here and represents the gym over here,” said Ng.
“We have two shows coming up. We have Jamie Morrissey fighting in a four man tournament at 76kg at Samson Martial Arts. We have the Siam Warriors show in Neptune stadium. I have four of the lads down for that on the 7th of October.”
Ng explains that there are lots of exciting times ahead for the sport, and the gym itself.
“We were going to host a show ourselves two weekends ago but it never happened. Just down to a lack of fighters, the condition never got together. But we have it held back until the 25th of November. There are a lot of shows happening in November so we’re not sure whether we’ll go ahead with it. We might push it back until the new year but that will be the next big thing for the gym.”
While Muay Thai, known as the science of eight limbs, can be physically demanding and requires a standard of fitness to compete at high level, Ng stresses that understanding the art is the most important aspect for beginners.
“Take it one day at a time. When you come in on your first day and you feel it’s too hard, just don’t give up, you know. Once you keep the head down and keep focused on it then you’ll see improvements in no time. I see a lot of people coming in and they come in for a day or two and they’re exhausted, they’re sweating their b******* off and they never come in again. That’s the wrong mindset. It’s hard. It challenges you and because it challenges you it should give you a motivation to come back,” encourages Ng.
“It’s more about the understanding of the sport that will get you better as opposed to just getting fitter and stronger. Obviously if you keep training you’re going to get fitter but fitness is only one weapon, power is only one weapon, it’s all about the understanding. Like Floyd Mayweather and McGregor. Mayweather has a better understanding of the sport and that’s why he won. That’s what it’s all about,” Ng adds.