In commemoration of the fifth anniversary of Christian Daghio’s passing, we pay tribute to the renowned Italian fighter who left an enduring legacy in the world of combat sports. Through a series of interviews, he shared his extraordinary life journey, philosophy, and insights into his career. While he may no longer be with us in body, his spirit lives on, and we invite you to hear directly from him in the following transcription, allowing his wisdom to transcend time and continue to inspire.
The First Italian to Enter Lumpinee
Back in 2002, I had the honour of becoming the first Italian fighter to step into the ring at Lumpinee Stadium. It was a momentous occasion, and I’ll never forget it. My debut there was a victory, but it was far from your typical fight.
Lumpinee Stadium was a whole different world. I can’t even begin to describe the intensity of the atmosphere. After preparing yourself in the changing room, you enter a tunnel, out of which the ring appears. When I first saw the ring and heard the crowd’s deafening roar, my legs shook with emotion for the first time. The competition was on another level entirely, with fighters that I’d never encountered before. Lumpinee was the arena for the absolute best, and I knew it.
Unique Rules and High Stakes
Now, the rules at Lumpinee were unique. They rewarded aggressive fighters, and defence was frowned upon. Your opponent didn’t get points if you didn’t show you were hurt; showing pain could cost you points. It was a place for top-tier fighters, and the stakes were sky-high. A win meant a 20% bump in your purse, but a loss meant a 5% cut.
Lumpinee Stadium had a culture all its own. As it was under military control, discipline was paramount. Even the weigh-in process was a strict, no-nonsense affair. They wouldn’t call your name for the weigh-in, they would scream it.
The weigh-in was done in a caged room with doctors and officials. Outside of it, there was another scale fighters could use to be sure to be at the right weight. If not, they would become angry and aggressive with you and the people who took you there to fight. For this fight, I forgot to remove my clothing, and they were shouting at me, but I knew they didn’t want to intimidate me. They want to intimidate everyone. LOL
The Colosseum of Muay Thai
Lumpinee Stadium felt like stepping into the modern-day Colosseum for Muay Thai fighters. Its gritty, old-school ambience, combined with the thunderous crowd, created an unforgettable experience. It was dirty, and when rained, water was licking from the steel frame of the building. There were no dressing rooms, and the first to arrive would find a table for the massage. Fighters sometimes had to share those tables, and often, I ended up sitting with my opponent.
Muay Thai has evolved since my early days at Lumpinee, and what I’ve experienced won’t be there anymore. I fought in places in the middle of nowhere, with no doctors and where, if something had happened to me, I would’ve probably been left there. I had to make myself stronger, in the body and in the mind, and not think of what could’ve gone wrong.
I once was fighting outside Rayong, and at that time, fighters would bet on themselves. I bet 50,000 baht, which was a lot then, and my opponent bet another 50,000 baht. The winner would end with 100,000 baht and the loser with nothing. This is why fights were a real battle! The stadium was built in one day, with plastic sheets as walls, one ring and plastic chairs for the spectators. There was no changing room; we would change on the ground, and no doctor was present. My trainer came close to me and said: “If you lose, not only do you lose 50,000 baht, but you walk back home.” [note: More than 60km]
The New-Style Training Routine
Training methods have become more accommodating for foreigners, and the sport itself has become less brutal. Fighters today don’t have to endure the same gruelling conditions and challenges I faced. Thai krus are willing to train foreigners now, while for me, it has been a battle in 1993 to find one that agreed to train me.
The old-style training created some of the toughest fighters in the world. Thai fighters of the past weren’t just physically strong; they were mentally unbreakable. They were true warriors.
An Unforgettable Fight
I had another memorable fight involving a bet of 25,000 baht closer to the Cambodian border in 2007. My opponent was a tall, strong and well-built half-Thai half-German guy, who took the microphone from the speaker and said in Thai (which I could understand): “I will knock him down at round 1”. I looked at my trainer and asked him: “Why did you make me bet on me? Didn’t you see this guy before?”. They never once showed me my opponent before a fight. He turned to me and said: “Don’t worry, you won’t go down at round 1.” And laughed very hard.
When I was preparing myself, an old Thai man approached me and asked if I was to fight that big guy. After an affirmative response, he said, “Oh, he gonna kill you.” And he stayed around and kept repeating this over and over!
In the first round, my opponent hit me very hard, I felt and absorbed every punch. I went to the corner and told my trainer how strong those punches were. He just laughed and, this time, didn’t even give me tips or suggestions. Round 3, I knocked him down. I wanted so badly to run down the ring looking for the old man and shove it to his face, but I couldn’t. Tradition dictated that the fighters couldn’t leave the ring or remove the gloves until the purse was delivered in their mouth.
The Changing Face of Muay Thai
As times changed, so did Muay Thai. The harsher aspects of the sport began to soften, and fighters were no longer subjected to the same extremes. The era of betting on fighters also began to fade. Betting made those fights harder; there was a lot of pressure. Often, the fighter didn’t have the money to bet, so he had people behind him who would bet for him. They would follow him during the whole preparation, controlling every training day, asking questions to the trainer about his physical and mental conditioning, whether he went out or not, his sleeping patterns, and all those questions. When the fighters lose, they would get so angry that they would slap the fighter when the match ended.
I had to do this as well at the beginning. But once I had some money, I started betting on myself. And I never once lost when I was doing so!
Christian’s Legacy: A Beacon of Inspiration
In his memory, let’s make every day count by living life in a way that brings us happiness and fulfilment, just as he did. Christian Daghio’s enduring legacy inspires