If you have been into the sport of muaythai for the last 12 years then you will be sure to know about the the Contender Asia Series. Broadcast over many big channels including AXN Asia, ITV 4, Versus and Fox TV the show received the highest ratings on AXN networks with over 400 million viewers world wide.
The show which was sanctioned by the WMC followed 16 fighters from across the globe split into two groups namely the Tiger Kings and the Wild Boars. The competitors resided in the same house with camera crews following their day to day lives outside of the competition. The show had the fighters compete in a series of outdoor challenges and eliminating fights with the winner remaining in the competition and losers sent home.
It was the first time that muaythai entered mainstream TV in a reality show and it was done in cooperation with Dreamworks and Mark Burnett who is one of the leading TV producers in the world having produced shows like the Apprentice, the Voice and Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader to name a few. The Director of IFMA Charissa Tynan was also one of the producers of the show ensuring good governance and integrity of the TV show.
Contender Asia also had the highest prize money with a total of half a million USD with the winner cashing in 150,000 USD as well as the Contender and WMC world title belts.
Singapore was the host of the show with the full support of the Singapore government and produced in cooperation with the Imagine Group CEO Riaz Methi. A special stadium loft was built where the Contenders coming from all continents, lived trained and competed against each other. The technical aspects of the event were done with the world governing body of muaythai WMC (IFMA) with the host of the show being former muaythai champion, General Secretary of IFMA and sporting personality Stephan Fox alongside the co host, Australian TV personality Jaymee Ong. World class Co-Commentators -“The Voice” Michael Schiavello & Mark ” The Hammer”Castagnini also worked on the show.
The following fighters joined the show
The Wild Boars
Rafik Bakkouri Leader
Naruepol Fairtex (Thailand)
Bruce “The Preacher” Macfie (Australia)
David Pacquette (England)
Alain Sylvestre (Canada)
Zidov “Akuma” Dominik (Switzerland)
Joakim “Yukay” Karlsson (Sweden)
Sean Wright (Scotland)
The Tiger Kings
John Wayne Parr- Leader (Australia)
Yodsanklai Fairtex (Thailand)
Soren Monkongong (Australia)
Jose “Pitu” Sans (Spain)
Dzhabar Askerov (Russia)
James Martinez (USA)
Kim Khan Zaki “Zig Zach” (Singapore)
Trevor “TNT” Smandych (Canada)
Aside from the muaythai the show was also filled with comedy moments and heartfelt stories of how fighters were in the competition to try and better their families situation, some having come from poverty stricken backgrounds.
The final of the show was held in the Singapore Indoor National Stadium and was one of the biggest muaythai crowds ever with over 1,500 spectators from around the world.
Yodsanklai beat John Wayne Parr in the final of the competition and it was a glorious moment when Stephan Fox gave the cheque for 150,000 USD and sports director Charissa translated the post fight interview.
Stephan Fox stated that the success of Contender Asia was that the show symbolised the true life of an athlete. The hopes, the dreams, the sacrifices, dealing with defeat and victory, missing loved ones and then on the end there can be only one winner. It also showcased the important elements of muaythai with the cultural respect so respect to everyone that contributed, the athletes, the officials which guaranteed fairplay, and the producers which gave these outstanding warriors an opportunity of a lifetime.