Reason 1: The More Fighters the USMTO Receives, the Stronger the Message Americans Send to the Olympic Committee


USMTO Founders – Ryon Burnett (left), Thiago Azeredo (middle), Brandon Jones (right)

The USMTO has been designed especially with Olympic hopes in mind. The tournament is based closely on standards established by the International Federation of Muaythai Amateurs (IFMA), the only Muay Thai organization in dialogue with the International Olympic Committee (IOC). It’s also sponsored by two of the most important American Muay Thai groups: the United State Muay Thai Federation (USMF), IFMA’s official American partner organization, as well as the acclaimed Siam Fight Productions, known for their success in supporting the sport’s youth. With the USMTO, these experienced groups have come together with a precise goal in mind: sending a message directly to the Olympics.

A successful USMTO will represent a bold shift in the US’s position, in contrast to the country’s reputation for absenteeism in the Muay Thai community. The importance of this reversal can’t be overstated: as one of the most influential nations in the Olympics, Americans must demonstrate broad support for any potential event in proportion to their numbers and resources. The USMTO is an ideal opportunity for American fighters and gyms not only to educate themselves about the importance of IFMA, global solidarity and individual involvement, but also to make a tangible show of support for IFMA and therefore send a message to the IOC.

Reason 2: Competing in the USMTO is the Only Way to Gain Entry to the IFMA World Championships


USA Team, Head Coach Thiago Azeredo with IFMA President Dr. Sakchye Tapsuwan at IFMA World Championship Malaysia 2014

The USMTO is essential for fighters who want to take their competition to the highest level. As the official selection committee to determine who will represent the United States in the next World Championships, the USMF’s expert judges will select fighters exclusively from among USMTO participants. There is no other way to gain entry to Muay Thai’s premiere global tournament. Fighting at a national level is an invaluable experience in itself, but in this case it’s also a necessary step for fighters who aspire to compete alongside the best in the world. Additionally, widespread participation in the USMTO will translate into a stronger national team and give the US another way to demonstrate to IFMA and the IOC its unwavering commitment to Muay Thai’s future.

Reason 3: USMTO Takes a Big Step Towards Gender Equality

Finally, a special appeal must be made to female nak muays: US women are critical to Olympic hopes. When it comes to evaluating a sport’s eligibility, gender equity and equality are nonnegotiable, and it’s no secret that Muay Thai has a long way to go. Just as in the case of Muay Thai’s decentralization, there are tremendous efforts being made at an institutional level (i.e., IFMA and the USMF) to increase female participation, and what’s needed now are bigger numbers from the bottom up. American women in Muay Thai are especially important considering the US’s influence in the IOC and the need to prove that the US is fully engaged with IOC criteria. The USMTO hopes to recruit as many women as possible in order to improve the state of gender equality in US Muay Thai as well as to make a powerful statement about the global importance of this issue.

In reality, the potential for Muay Thai to enter Olympics is by no means inevitable. Essential work has been done, but there is still an incredible amount of coordination that needs to happen if this possibility is to remain viable. With the USMTO, the USMF and Siam Fight Productions aspire to honor IFMA’s hard work by uniting US Muay Thai, in so doing, take Muay Thai one step further toward making Olympic dreams a reality.

Disclaimer: The opinions reflected in this article are the opinions of the author and do not represent the opinions of the USMF or IFMA.

USMTO Staff Author Paula Ibieta graduated from Harvard College in 2013 with a degree in History of Art and Architecture. She has trained in Muay Thai at Sitan Gym Arizona (Chandler, AZ) and Muay Thai Barcelona (Barcelona, Spain), and has competed in fights sponsored by the Spanish Kickboxing Federation (Federación Española de Kickboxing). She currently works and trains at Sitan Gym Arizona.