A year before his death, Christian Daghio released a video interview during which he tells us his story in Muay Thai and above all illuminates us about the mental and physical characteristics that led him to be the champion we all know, not only in the ring but also in everyday life.
His charisma, his passion and his soul have touched the lives of thousands of people and even today it is a source of inspiration for many.
In this article, we wanted to honour him by bringing his words back and hoping that they will inspire all those people who have seriously decided to achieve a goal in life, whatever it may be: to become the new world champion, lose weight, open a company, improve your physical and mental structure. Christian’s approach has been hard and long a lifetime, as he himself will explain, and certainly not easy to replicate. Through the creation of the Kombat Group, he wanted to create a place where the principles that he himself assimilated during his climb to success are applied, but not the same methodologies.
I have been practising Muay Thai for 25 years (ed. Since 1992) and I am in Thailand from 23 (ed. Since 1994)
LIFE BEFORE THE MUAY THAI IN THAILAND
“When I was a child, in Italy football was a very famous sport and all the children wanted to be footballers, and I too had the same desire. But it wasn’t a sport that suited me, because it was a team sport and I was more for single sports, and when I saw that it wasn’t for me, I let it go. It was the only thing I failed to do. Every time I went to play football I ended the game expelled because I used to beat my opponents. The decision of combat sports was obvious!
After football I practised American football: I liked the sport more because there was more physical contact and people were valued for showing that they had not suffered after a strong bruise or blow, which is the opposite of football.
Unfortunately, in Italy it was a discipline that didn’t give you many possibilities and so I started Kung Fu. After taking the black belt I left for Muay Thai, which at the time was one of the new disciplines in Italy and was just beginning to evolve. I gave up Kung Fu because it was more martial art than a combat sport, and I felt closer to combat sports.
When I started Muay Thai, during one of the first days in the locker room, we guys who started the course in Italy all had a purpose. People spoke in the locker room and said, “Where do you want to go? What do you want to do? ”And everyone said their goals: who wanted to fight, who wanted to improve, who wanted to lose weight, who wanted to become strong and then go beating the people who were bothering them. When they asked me, without doubting, without thinking, I said I have to become world champion. Everyone laughed and said it was impossible. After about 9-10 years I won the first World Champion’s belt.
It’s part of my personality to be at the top when I make a choice. And it is not a question of being too bold but it is the trust one has in oneself in achieving the goals.
When I started Muay Thai one of the first things I thought was that I would become world champion, otherwise I would not have thrown heart and soul into this sport.
“Impossible is nothing” is a phrase of Mohamed Ali that I made my own, thinking about what had happened to me years before when I was in Italy and I started this discipline.
The most important thing when it comes to achieving a goal is to have a strong mind that allows you to overcome all obstacles. The strong mind causes the body to become strong. But the opposite is not true: your body when it is strong cannot make your mind becomes strong. The strong mind can make you go beyond physical limits that you never thought you could reach. A strong body is nothing.
When I decided to move to Thailand to be a Muay Thai fighter, nobody told me I was right to do it. My brothers told me it was crazy and I should think about my future. For others it was a reason for derision, there was no one who encouraged me. The last sentence I heard about my Italian girlfriend at the time was: “Decide, or me or Thailand.”
And the decision was clear! “
THE DIFFICULTIES OF THE BEGINNINGS OF CHRISTIAN’S LIFE IN THAILAND
“When I arrived in Thailand, this was a very different country than it is now.
I came here to learn Muay Thai and at the time it was not so easy to be trained as a Muay Thai fighter, especially because the mentality of Thai masters was that Muay Thai is done by Thai people and not foreigners. It was not so difficult to prove that I could become a Muay Thai fighter anyway, but it was hard enough to be accepted by the trainers at the beginning.
As soon as I arrived in Thailand, I toured several camps in Bangkok, Koh Samui, Phuket and Pattaya.
The camp that I found closest to what was my need to become a Muay Thai fighter was right here in Pattaya. The teacher was young and more open-minded than all the others. He spoke English and it was easier to communicate. His idea was that “if you are good, I teach you with all my heart, no matter whether you are Thai or Farang.” (ed. Farang = foreigner)
In Thailand, I came without anything and, frankly, I wanted to become a professional Muay Thai fighter.
I had no idea what I was going to achieve: I always had the ambition to get to the top, but I never worried about what my life could be in the future.
This made me go on for years without having the thought of asking me “but then what do I do tomorrow?”
I never had the thought of stopping or turning back because I was always determined to achieve my goal, which was to do Muay Thai in Thailand.
And I never thought of giving up. For me, failure is not an option.
I made drastic choices, which many people cannot make. And I understand them, because they are related to the family, to their own country, etc. I left a closed-door in my country: for me, leaving meant to cut all relationships and not thinking about it anymore.
For example, living here as a fighter in the early years, surviving with the little money you took from the fights, meant not being able to communicate with the family because there was no internet: making a phone call was very expensive and very difficult.
One thing that was very hard for me was the death of my grandmother, a very dear person to me. It was difficult to survive in the early periods with the little money from the purses, and this was the reason why I could not go to her funeral in Italy.
All these choices form the character. In addition, the kind of training I had in Thailand made me understand one thing: that there is no room for doubts or to think that we can’t do something. A problem must be faced and solved. This is what they taught me and I learned here. There are no problems that cause you to fail, there are problems that need to be solved. “
THE LIFE IN A TRADITIONAL CAMP
It was a hard life because in a camp you eat what the Thais eat and you sleep in the Thai dorms, which are rooms of 3 meters x 3 meters with a sponge thrown on the ground that acts as a mattress and nothing more.
I remember that my first success was to have the money to buy me a fan, which made my life a little easier in my bedroom.
Some rules that were applied in our camp were very harsh. For example, the training was constantly followed by the trainer who, if you didn’t do the exercises with due emphasis, had a sort of whip that he used on our legs, and it was painful!
They gave us goals that were practically impossible to achieve: with the car they took us to 12-13 km from the camp and they told us “in half an hour the training starts”. They left us there and we had to run back. Now, with a good pace, you can do it, but we knew that 4 and a half hours of training began after that exhausting race.
They continuously bring us to the limit of our physical and mental possibilities.
Because when you start to become really exhausted, it is very important that your mind is strong: if you start to think you can’t do it, your body certainly can’t do it. All these exercises have meant that I changed my way of dealing with any problem.
One of the things I remember about my coach was this: we were very close friends, we were joking. But during the training, he was very rigid and asked me to do things that were at the limit of my possibilities and when I tried to make him understand that I wouldn’t make it, he didn’t get angry. He looked at me and said: “maybe you are not capable of this, maybe you have to go home”. It struck me in pride and I would never have given him this satisfaction. This made me change so much.
A very important lesson was that getting hurt during the training for the preparation of a match was a fault. I have always been raised in a world (ed. Italy) where the injury or the accident was seen as bad luck and therefore everyone would have said: “What a pity you can’t do the match, I’m sorry”.
Getting hurt during the preparation here in Thailand is a fault of the athlete, and it is the athlete’s responsibility not to get hurt. They make you feel so guilty that you prefer not to say that you hurt yourself and go to the fight anyway.
I happened to break a bone in my toe and go to do the fight by snatching my finger and not saying anything to anyone because I knew they would have laughed at me and I would have only made them angry and above all, I would have made a serious mistake.
During all these heavy workouts, during all this training/school of life, I never thought about going home. Going home and having to tell everyone I was wrong, I had failed and having to start all over again was never one of my options.
If I don’t have to fight anymore, if I don’t even have to train anymore … I can’t think about it because combat is life for me. I’ve never been afraid of hurting myself. I have always been aware that I could have hurt myself by levelling up in my fights.
Normally there is a prayer before the Muay Thai fight. This prayer is very short: your teacher takes the Mongkol off and gives you a wish. And there you have time to make a little prayer. For me, it has always been the same: to be brave, to win and not to hurt me in a way to not being able to continue this discipline. The injury yes, but not an accident so serious that I have to stop.”
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN VICTORY AND DEFEATED
I don’t remember the exact number of my defeats, but it’s less than a quarter of my fights.
Winning a match does not make you feel pain, fatigue, it just makes you want to celebrate. Losing a fight makes you feel all the pains, probably even those of the opponent, that’s probably why when you win you don’t feel them!
To me personally losing a fight makes me want to go back to work, to train, to understand why I lost it, where I made a mistake and immediately win the next match.
None of my belts is more important than another. Each has its own history and none is less important than the other.
Winning a belt is one of those goals that make a fighter complete.
THE DECISION TO FOUND THE KOMBAT GROUP
I don’t have a person who mainly inspires me in my lifestyle. But there have been many people who have taught me many things. And they were not all good people or great people. Let’s say that I knew how to take the interesting part of these people and all of these things are what I was inspired by.
Talking to a person and telling them how they can change their mentality and tackling problems is not easy. I think my system is difficult enough to follow: living for more than 10 years like a Thai fighter and following all their rules is a difficult solution to give to people.
An answer that could be given to these people (ed: who is trying to achieve any goal) is simply what I created here.
After several years of professionalism in Thailand, I thought that I could not have fought for my whole life and perhaps it was better to start creating a future for myself, before stopping fighting totally. I thought that a chance to gain linked to the passion of my whole life could be to open a Muay Thai camp.
I have created a place on the bases and principles that have been taught to me but not by the same methods.
So I think it could be a help for so many people to be able to come here, live this experience. Since we opened this center we have “helped” many people to improve their physical appearance, to improve technically and even to improve mentally, to have more self-esteem.”