Fighters Guide: 30 days in Phuket Thailand

Our first month in Phuket Thailand


First we have to start before I even arrived.  Let’s go back 12 months…


I had just proposed to my now wife, Ashley.  Of course like any woman that had just been proposed to, she had immediately began planning the wedding.  All I knew is that no matter when the wedding was and what we were doing, I wanted to go to Thailand as soon as we said I do.


Fortunate for me my first MMA Coach had recently relocated to Phuket Top Team as the Wrestling Coach and had been named the Head MMA Coach.  So I reached out and was excited at the response I got, which was one of open arms to come train with the team.


Fast forward to June1st 2017.  A month after we got back from our wedding in Dominican Republic, we leave from JFK Airport for our 25+ hour trip to Phuket.  First stopping in Frankfurt, Germany for our first layover for an hour.  We then flew to Singapore, which FYI is hands down the nicest airport I have ever seen.  With free video games, movie theater, and numerous other free amenities and a butterfly garden, Ash and I almost didn’t want to have to leave.  After a 2 hour layover in Singapore we finally boarded for our flight to Phuket.  

airplane phuket thailand

(Landing in Phuket, Thailand)


Once we landed, feeling a combination of exhaustion and excitement, we grabbed a taxi for 700 baht (around $20) and was off to find out next home for the next month.  However this is something anyone coming to Thailand should learn is just having the address doesn’t guarantee anyone will know where it is… Needless to say the taxi dropped us off at the wrong condo complex and we were lucky enough to find a bit of wifi, and were able to message our AirBNB host. She was super helpful and accommodating, like we soon realized most Thais were, and was able to come pick us up.  Another fun note is unless you upgrade your cell phone plan for international travel you will be relying solely on wifi until you get set up with a Thai sim card.


We arrived finally at our apartment and immediately blasted the A.C. and crashed.  I had the intention on going right to the gym to take class but my body disagreed with that.  After catching up on sleep and waking up at 9pm my coach Eric met up to pick up some supplements I brought out here for him and to show us the 24 hour family market.  Think of 7/11, which they do also have out here, but it seems the family market is just more popular among everyone for some reason.  

View from our apartment Phuket

(View from our AirBNB in Chalong, Phuket)


The next morning I met up with Eric at the gym to get started.  To my surprise, Eric had already discussed with the front desk that I was going to be the new Strength and Conditioning Coach, as well as join the team as a Sponsored Fighter.  This is something we had discussed before me coming out, but I wasn’t expecting it to happen so quickly.  I figured after a month of training and getting acclimated I would get set up, but no Eric had me hooked up within 24 hours of arriving.  So big thanks to Coach Eric Uresk as well as Phuket Top Team and owner Boyd Clarke.  


One thing you learn real quick coming to Thailand is that you will need to “grow your gills” as TJ Mckenzie (one of the fighters) describes it.  Unless you are coming from a similar climate, the humidity is killer.  It took me 3 weeks to really get comfortable training outside, not to say I still don’t sweat like crazy.  At the family market one of the first things Eric showed me was a pack of electrolytes that would be crucial to staying hydrated.  I am no stranger to the idea of adding electrolytes for training however the amount and frequency of fluids needed was definitely something I was going to have to get used to.


Training aside for a minute, something that’s essential for someone who is traveling and wants to get the most out of their training, is a plan.  I mean not just plan how to get to and from the destination, but plan out your days.  Do some research, check the classes, and stick to a plan.  Something that can come in the way of that is how you feel, and depending on the issue you may need to rest or take some time off but mostly make and plan and execute.  Every week I set up a plan and goals for myself.  My goal for my first month was to get acclimated to the weather and get familiar with the pro team-training schedule.


Dutch Kickboxing with Steve Panda Banks

Dutch Kickboxing with Steve Panda Banks WBC Heavyweight Muay Thai Champ

Dutch Kickboxing with Pascal The German Schroth

Dutch Kickboxing with Pascal The German Schroth

Pro Team Sparring with Head Coach Eric Uresk

Pro Team Sparring with Head Coach Eric Uresk

(Training with the best at Phuket Top Team)


Depending on your goal and plan you may have more time for other things to do besides training.  But the last thing you should do whether you are here for a week, a month, or a year is waste time.  Everyday I make sure I am doing something productive towards my goals.  Now productive doesn’t always have to mean training, sometimes getting a massage, or getting new food or doing a fun outdoor activity can still be productive.   Just make sure you are doing something everyday.   Don’t leave and think you wish you would have done or saw something and couldn’t because you wasted time.


Try new things, and get comfortable being uncomfortable.  If you live your whole life being comfortable, what have you really accomplished for yourself or society?Nothing amazing comes from comfort.  I’m sure this idea isn’t new to many of you and I am not the first to talk about this concept.  But I take time to stress it nonetheless because it is that valuable.


For me, even though I strive to become the best fighter and person I can be, I even have to question myself to remember am I challenging myself to be uncomfortable today? I think the biggest discomfort I will face this whole trip is making my Pro Debut in a strange country that I don’t have all the comforts of home.  However THAT IS WHY I’M HERE… I remind myself this and game plan for this.  So when it is fight night I can accept the discomfort I will face.


Ok I will get off my soap box now and get back to the breakdown of my first 30 days in Thailand.  So at this point it was time to look at the PTT schedule, and take as much of a variety of classes as I could in the first 2 weeks to get a feel for where I will be investing most of my time and energy.  I even attended wrestling and bjj classes even though I will be fighting in stand up because I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to learn from some of the best grappling coaches the world has to offer in wrestling we have Coach Eric Uresk and for bjj Professor Olavo Abreu.  


Now once I was able to see the style, pace and variety of classes with the PTT schedule I then created my weekly plan.  You can see a full breakdown of my plan, and even my day to day training including drills and combos for each class I took in our downloadable spreadsheet below.  I learned real quick that basically every striking class will have some form of sparring, and this is something new for me.  I am accustomed to 2 sparring sessions weekly, normally 1 hard session and 1 lighter session.  The rest of my training normally consisted of drills, pad work and bag work.  Which was also in all the striking classes I took here at PTT, just an additionally block of sparring in EVERY CLASS.


The constant sparring I believe has increased my awareness and reaction time, but also made me more conscious of taking damage and listening to my body.  For example Wednesdays are Pro Team Sparring with just stand up, so that for me is the main day to spar and work hard.  With that in mind the rest of my classes and sparring days were lighter and if I was burnt out, or starting to feel over trained I might even sit out a round or the entire block of sparring for Muay Thai or Dutch Kickboxing.  Honestly in the first 2 weeks I didn’t want to sit out of anything so I could soak it all in.  However I learned really quick that is a short term approach, and since I will be here for months I am playing the long term game of growth.


The coaches are very aware and understanding from my experience to the individual needs of everyone, and trust our judgment.  So if I say I am sitting out a round or a sparring session, they say fine and either will do mitt work or I go work on the bag and they can give me pointers.  Sometimes I will even watch the sparring and take notes for myself when I see something I like or can learn from.


Documenting your training is something I cannot stress enough.  For me it is obviously important for content purposes on my website, but as someone that is investing time, energy and money into this I want the most out of it.  So when we finish drills or combos and have a break you will catch me recording audio of what we just did.  I challenge you this, take a class wherever you are in the world, and try to recall everything you did a week later… I promise, you will forget something no matter how good your memory is.  


When training is over, you are not done with the work.  The training is only part of it, the rest of the work comes in with your nutrition, recovery and efficiency with your energy.  What I mean by this is, if you are training 2-3 times a day while you are visiting Thailand, but then don’t eat enough food or eat too much you are setting yourself up for failure.  By failure I mean a lack of optimal performance in your next session.  In addition to nutrition, take advantage of the many massage spas that populate the area.  I tend to get 1-2 massages per week that cost 250-300 Baht ($7-$10) per hour, it is a worthwhile investment.  Next is what are you doing with your downtime in between sessions?  For me I spent at least 20-40 mins napping when it was between noon at 2pm because I would just get too hot outside during those times.  However if you are only in town for a few weeks or even a month you may want to spend that time exploring with some active recovery activities.  Whether that is hiking at a waterfall, walking about the beautiful beaches, exploring Phuket Town, or getting lost finding new places.  The key here is time and energy management.  Like I said before have a plan and stick to it.  Set goals, not just for your training but for the entire trip.  I am a big fan of checking out Big Buddha, and for those that want an extra workout, walking, or running up the road to Big Buddha is awesome (from what I hear).  I have honestly not ventured up the road to Big Buddha on feet just yet, only on a motorbike and seek more of a spiritual refresher from the view, statues and environment presented atop Big Buddha.


BIg Buddha

(Big Buddha, Phuket, Thailand)


Ok so we are starting to get the idea of how to prepare, how to train, understanding the importance of nutrition, hydration and recovery.  Honestly we will dive into all that into more detail, you can even get a full sample meal plan and hydration plan from our additional spreadsheets included in this guide.  Something everyone needs to do while they are in town is go see Muay Thai fights live and in person.


For myself and my wife, it was even more fun because we went to Bangla Stadium in Patong Beach when friend and coach, Eric Uresk, was fighting for the first time in over a year.  We also had 3 other fighters from Phuket Top Team fighting that night, everyone took home a W and was a great night of fights.  Something to be prepared for is kids as young as 8 years old fighting professionally, and the gambling that goes along with the fights.  Honestly we had a blast, even got to see some MMA Celebrities when Chuck Lidell and Mike Swick walked into the Stadium.

Bangla Boxing Stadium

Chuck Liddell raising Phuket Top Team Fighters Hand after winning Championship belt


(Chuck Lidell at Bangla Boxing Stadium in Patong, Phuket)


To top a great first month off right, we headed to Bangkok the following weekend, to see another teammate Ben Royle make his MMA pro debut at Metal Dojo FC.  There is nothing better than going to fights that you have friends, teammates or just someone you know fighting.  I tend to get more excited for a teammate fighting then for myself honestly.  Ben not only delivered a W but a dominate basically flawless victory, with an armbar submission within the first 2 minutes of the fight.  


Of course we had to go out a celebrate the win.  Ash and I finally found the rest of the team, after getting lost, which we tend to do often, and expect that to happen a bit while in Thailand.  For the celebration of course we had to get food, and then check out the Bangkok famous red light district. The one we walked through was Soi Cowboy.  Between the sights of the lights, ladies, lady boys, and the alcohol, we were all having a great time.  We did some bar hoping, but eventually we called it a night while the team still stayed out celebrating the win.  


Night Out in Bangkok

(My Wife Ashley and I, at a rooftop dinner in Bangkok, Thailand)


Between the Bangla Stadium Fights the week prior, the MMA fights in Bangkok we finished off our first month with great weekends of activities.  Which is what I recommend everyone do with their free time and weekends.  In Thailand Sundays are a day to relax, so the gyms close and it presents a great opportunity to explore, and honestly even on Saturdays I recommend getting an early session in and enjoy the rest of the weekend with fun.  With so much to do I will also give you a website to check (click here) with great adventures and fun activities to do in your downtime.




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