The History of Kickboxing and Muay Thai in the US

Top 10 kickboxing and Muay Thai promotions in the US, including information on the number of events, biggest events, best fighters, best fights, venues, promoter names, and best referees:

Promotion NameNumber of EventsBiggest EventsBest FightersBest FightsVenuesPromoter NameBest Referees
Lion Fight70+Lion Fight 50Yodsanklai Fairtex, Lerdsila ChumpairtourYodsanklai Fairtex vs. Salah KhalifaFoxwoods Resort CasinoScott KentTony Weeks
Glory60+Glory 50Joe Schilling, Robin van RoosmalenJoe Schilling vs. Artem LevinMadison Square Garden, Hammerstein BallroomPierre AndurandBig John McCarthy
WCK Muay Thai100+WCK Full Rules Muay ThaiKevin Ross, Malaipet SasiprapaKevin Ross vs. Michael MananquilPechanga Resort & CasinoDennis WarnerSteve Mazzagatti
Triumphant Combat20+Triumphant 10Eddie Abasolo, Asa Ten PowAsa Ten Pow vs. Chris CulleyAlameda County FairgroundsGeoff QuaresDan Stell
Friday Night Fights100+Friday Night Fights 2022 Season FinaleBrett Hlavacek, Ognjen TopicBrett Hlavacek vs. Elijah ClarkeLucky Strike ManhattanJustin BlairChris Wagner
Prime Fight Series10+Prime Fight Series 5Joshua Scales, Daniel KimJoshua Scales vs. Daniel KimLas Vegas Convention CenterTroy SheridanHerb Dean
Warriors Cup50+Warriors Cup 50Justin Greskiewicz, Rami IbrahimJustin Greskiewicz vs. Turan HasanovShowboat Atlantic CityChris TranKevin Mulhall
AmeriKick20+AmeriKick NationalsEric Utsch, Amer AbdallahEric Utsch vs. Richard Abraham2300 ArenaDennis KyrellRobert Digel
USKA Fight Sports60+USKA Fight NightOgnjen Topic, Jay MatiasOgnjen Topic vs. Brett HlavacekEcono Lodge Conference CenterGary Grant Jr.Vichai Supkitpol
Freedom Fighter Promotions30+Freedom Fighter 20Jimmy Vienot, Janet ToddJimmy Vienot vs. Janet ToddVarious Gyms and ArenasMichael CorleyTony Weeks

These promotions represent the most prominent kickboxing and Muay Thai events in the US, offering platforms for fighters to showcase their skills and compete at high levels.

The History of Kickboxing and Muay Thai in the US

Early Beginnings

Introduction to the US

Kickboxing and Muay Thai were introduced to the United States in the 1970s. Kickboxing, a hybrid martial art combining elements of karate and boxing, gained popularity first. Muay Thai, the traditional martial art of Thailand known for its powerful strikes using fists, elbows, knees, and shins, followed suit, captivating American audiences with its intensity and effectiveness.

First Fighters and Coaches

The early kickboxing scene in the US was dominated by figures like Joe Lewis, Bill “Superfoot” Wallace, and Benny “The Jet” Urquidez. These pioneers helped establish kickboxing as a legitimate sport through their impressive skills and high-profile matches.

  • Joe Lewis: Often referred to as the “Muhammad Ali of kickboxing,” Joe Lewis was a karate champion who transitioned to kickboxing and became one of its earliest stars.
  • Bill “Superfoot” Wallace: Known for his incredible flexibility and powerful left leg, Wallace was a dominant force in the sport.
  • Benny “The Jet” Urquidez: A versatile fighter with a background in multiple martial arts, Urquidez became famous for his undefeated streak in kickboxing.

In Muay Thai, Ajarn Chai Sirisute played a pivotal role in introducing and spreading the art in the US. He founded the Thai Boxing Association of the USA (TBA-USA) in 1968, becoming a central figure in training American fighters and promoting Muay Thai.

Development and Growth

1980s and 1990s

During the 1980s and 1990s, both kickboxing and Muay Thai continued to grow. Kickboxing organizations like the Professional Karate Association (PKA) and the International Sport Karate Association (ISKA) were instrumental in promoting the sport and organizing events.

Muay Thai saw increased popularity through events and the influence of Thai trainers who migrated to the US. The establishment of gyms dedicated to Muay Thai training helped produce skilled American fighters.

Key Figures

  • Rick Roufus: A prominent kickboxer known for his explosive style and numerous world titles.
  • Dale “Apollo” Cook: A versatile fighter who excelled in both kickboxing and Muay Thai.
  • Kevin Ross: One of the first American Muay Thai fighters to gain international recognition, competing successfully in Thailand and around the world.

Modern Era

2000s to Present

In the 2000s, the rise of mixed martial arts (MMA) and organizations like the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) brought more attention to striking arts, including kickboxing and Muay Thai. Fighters trained in these disciplines became crucial components of MMA.

Prominent Fighters and Coaches

  • Joe Schilling: A top American kickboxer and Muay Thai fighter known for his aggressive style and success in organizations like Glory.
  • Janet Todd: A leading female Muay Thai fighter who has won multiple world titles and competed at the highest levels.
  • Kevin Ross: Continued to be a significant figure, inspiring the next generation of American Muay Thai fighters.

Leading Coaches

  • Duke Roufus: A renowned coach and former kickboxer, Duke Roufus has trained many top MMA fighters, incorporating kickboxing and Muay Thai techniques.
  • Mark Dellagrotte: A prominent Muay Thai coach who has trained numerous MMA fighters and contributed to the sport’s growth in the US.


Kickboxing and Muay Thai have evolved significantly in the United States, from their early days of introduction by pioneering fighters and coaches to becoming integral parts of the combat sports landscape. The continued success of American fighters on the international stage and the rise of dedicated promotions and events ensure that these striking arts will remain popular and influential for years to come.

Paul Nicholls - ISKA, Glory Kickboxing and K-1 Referee
Paul Nicholls – ISKA, Glory Kickboxing and K-1 Referee
Paul Nicholls - ISKA, Glory Kickboxing and K-1 Referee
Paul Nicholls – ISKA, Glory Kickboxing and K-1 Referee

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