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 his everyday life.
His charisma, his passion, and his soul 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. Whether you want to become the next world champion, lose weight, open a company, improve your physical and mental structure. Christian’s approach has been hard and long, as he 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 assimilated during his climb to success are applied, but not the same methodologies.
I have been practising Muay Thai for 25 years (Since 1992) and I have now been in Thailand for 23 years (Since 1994).
“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, I was more interested in individual sports, and when I saw that it wasn’t for me, I let it go. Another big problem I had was every time I went to play football I would get sent off the field because I was too rough with my opponents, sometimes coming to blows. The decision was obvious, contact/combat sports were a far better fit for me.
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 could take a strong hit 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 receiving my black belt I gave up Kung Fu because it was more martial art than a combat sport, and I felt I needed a more realistic form of combat sport in my life. I left and started training Muay Thai, which at the time was a new discipline in Italy and was just beginning to become popular.
During one of the first days in the locker room, I realized how the Muay Thai course was giving everyone I met purpose. We all spoke in the locker room and asked each other, “Where do you want to go? What do you want to do? ” Everyone set their goals, who wanted to fight, who wanted to improve, who wanted to lose weight, who wanted to become strong and then go sort out the people who were bothering them. When they asked me the same question, without doubt, without thinking, I said I have to become a 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 always want to be the best, and it is not a question of being too bold but it is the trust one has in oneself in achieving the goals we set for ourselves.
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 before 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. A strong mind causes the body to become strong. But the opposite is not true, your body when it is strong cannot make your mind strong. A strong mind can make you go beyond physical limits and achieve things that you never thought you could. A strong body is nothing without a strong mind.
When I decided to move to Thailand to be a professional 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, no one encouraged me. The last sentence I heard from my Italian girlfriend at the time was: “Decide, me or Thailand.” And the decision was clear!
“When I arrived in Thailand, it was a very different country to what 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 wasn’t difficult to prove that I wanted to become a Muay Thai fighter. The true challenge was getting the trainers to accept me in 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 I needed 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 this made it much 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.(Farang = foreigner)
I arrived in Thailand with nothing other than my dream to become a professional Muay Thai fighter and world champion. 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 even thinking about the question “what do I do tomorrow?”
I never had a single thought about stopping or turning back because I was always determined to achieve my goal, which was to do become a Muay Thai world champion in Thailand. I never thought about giving up. For me, failure is not an option.
I never thought about giving up. For me, failure is not an option.
I made drastic choices, which many people cannot make, and I understand why, because they are attached to their families, to their own country, etc. I left a closed-door in my country, leaving meant I cut all relationships to follow my dream.
Living in Thailand as a fighter in the early years was tough, surviving only with the little money you got from the fights. I had no way to communicate with family because there was no internet at the time, and making a phone call was very expensive and very difficult so this didn’t happen often. One thing that was especially hard for me was the death of my grandmother, she was a very dear person to me. I had to miss her funeral because of all my financial struggles: my fight purses were just barely making ends meet and I was struggling.
All these choices formed my character. In addition, the kind of training I was receiving in Thailand made me understand one thing: there was no room for doubts or to think that we can’t do something. A problem must be faced and solved. This is what Muay Thai taught me in Thailand. There are no problems that cause you to fail, there are only problems that need to be solved.
Life in the camp was hard, in a traditional Thai camp you eat what the Thais eat and sleep in the Thai dorms. The dorms are small rooms, 3 meters x 3 meters with a piece of sponge thrown on the ground that acts as a mattress and nothing more. I remember that my first small goal was just to earn enough money to buy me a fan, this made my life a little easier in my dorm.
Camp rules were very strict, the training was constantly overseen by the trainer, who if you didn’t do the exercises with due emphasis, he 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, some days with a car they would take us 12-13 km from the camp drop us, and then tell 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 also knew that 4 and a half hours of training would follow straight after that exhausting race.
They continuously brought us to the limit of our physical and mental possibilities.
Because when you start to become exhausted, your mind must be strong, if you start to think you can’t do it, your body certainly can’t do it. All these exercises helped develop my mind so much so that I changed my way of dealing with any problem.
One of the most profound memories I have of my coach was who he was and how it helped shape me. We were very close friends and joked around a lot, but during training, he was very rigid and asked me to do things that were at the limit of my possibilities. I once tried to make him understand that I wouldn’t make it, he didn’t get angry. He just looked at me and said: “maybe you are not capable of this, maybe you have to go home”. Those words struck me so deeply, he knew I was too proud and would never have given him this satisfaction. That small sentence made me change so much and I never forgot it.
A very important lesson I learned here in Thailand was that getting hurt during the training for the preparation of a match was your fault. I have always been raised in a world (Italy) where an injury or accident was seen as bad luck and everyone would have said, “What a pity you can’t do the match, I’m sorry”. Getting hurt during the preparation here in Thailand was different, it was the fault of the athlete, it is the athlete’s responsibility not to get hurt. They make you feel so guilty if you are hurt that you prefer not to say that you hurt yourself and just go to the fight anyway.
I happened to break a bone once in my toe and go to do the fight by snatching it 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 an option.
If I don’t have to fight anymore, I don’t even have to train anymore … I can’t even imagine that 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 leveling up in my fights but fear never came to my mind.
Normally there is a prayer before a Muay Thai fight. This prayer is very short, your teacher takes the Mongkol off and gives you a wish. And then you have time to make a little prayer. For me, it has always been the same: to be brave, to win and not to get hurt in a way that would stop me from being able to train Muay Thai again. An injury yes, this was expected, but not an accident so serious that I would have to stop.
I don’t remember the exact number of my defeats, but it’s less than a quarter of my fights.
When you win you feel no pain, no fatigue, it just makes you want to celebrate. Losing a fight though makes you feel all the pain, and probably even that of your opponent, that’s why when you win you don’t feel them! To me personally though losing a fight makes me want to go straight 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 are more important than others. Each has its own history and none is less important than the other.
Winning a belt is one of those goals that makes a fighter feel complete.
I don’t have one person who inspired me most in my life, but rather there have been many people who have taught me many things along this journey. They were not all good people or great people, but all affected my life and helped shape me into the person I became, good and bad my inspiration came from them all, and eventually enabled me to live my dreams.
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 to follow, living for more than 10 years like a Thai fighter and following all their rules is a difficult kind of solution to give to people. An answer that I could give to these people (who are trying to achieve any goal) though is simply what I created here at Kombat Group.
After several years of professional fighting in Thailand, I thought that I could not continue fighting my entire life and perhaps it was better to start creating a future for myself before I stop fighting completely. I thought that the best idea was to use the passion of my whole life and open my own Muay Thai camp here in Thailand.
I have created Kombat Group on the bases and principles that have been taught to me but not by the same methods.
I think it could help so many people to be able to come here and to live this experience. Since we opened this center we have helped many people improve their physical appearance, improve technically as fighters and improved their mental well-being, by improving their self-esteem.
Many were Christian’s fights in Muay Thai, 190 to be precise and we report below the most important ones: