By Ryan McKinnon
This year’s IFMA World Championship in Bangkok, Thailand saw 8 of Canada’s top amateur nak muay compete on the biggest stage the sport has to offer. Over 6 days, Canada competed 17 times against the very best athletes on the planet. It was eye-opening for some, perhaps bitter for others. But on the whole, Canada’s performance at the event confirmed that we continue to produce elite level talent that rivals any country in the IFMA federation.
The Canadian team assembled at the Muaythai FA Group on July 15th to begin a final training camp in Bangkok under the guidance of the team’s head coach, Kru Jeff Harrison, a Canadian Muaythai veteran. Sponsored by InFightStyle, the official sponsor of Muaythai Canada, the training camp gave the team an opportunity to continue building morale, and fine tune each athlete’s unique skill set before competition.
Top row: Left – Riley Foden next to ring. Right – Doni Foreman training in the ring. Bottom row: Left – Team Canada relaxing after training. Right – Team Canada stretching after training.
After the camp, the team checked into the Ambassador Hotel (the official event hotel), located in close proximity to the Sport Authority of Thailand where the World Championship was held.
10 Canadian athletes were slated to represent Canada. Unfortunately two of our biggest hopefuls were forced to withdraw from the event. Scott MacKenzie was forced to withdraw due to a rib injury, and Dan Sopa had to make the tough decision not to compete to pursue academic goals at home.
This left 8 of Canada’s top athletes.
Yumiko Kawano (Krudar Muay Thai)
Yumiko Kawano would defeat Ting Wei Pan of Chinese Taipei after a referee stoppage in round 1, then lose her semi-final bout to Bui Yen Ly of Vietnam in a very intense bout Thursday July 25th.
Taylor McClatchie (New Era Combat Sports)
Taylor won her first two bouts against Saskia D’Effremo (Germany) and Irem Capar (Turkey) with an intelligent game plan of utilizing her clinch to ensure that she would move on in her bracket without suffering damage. Taylor started to employ more use of her elbows, which is something we haven’t seen much of from her in previous matches.
Taylor would lose her semi-final bout to a very talented Anaelie Angerville of France. The bout was narrowly scored in favour of Angerville.
Kru Jeff is Taylor’s head coach in Ottawa, and recognized a real change in her game at this year’s event.
“Her clinch was far better than ever. I saw a much stronger elbow game from her. She walked through her first two opponents using her clinch, and therefore had no real injuries moving forward.Her third bout with France, I thought she controlled enough of round to win the second. The other girl had what coaches call, the ‘illusion of winning.’ The French athlete had 23 fights leading up to the tournament this year, and she demonstrated this appearance of confidence to the judges. Although I think Taylor definitely won the third round, the judges gave the win to France.”
When asked about how judges see fights, Kru Jeff replied, “The judges have a visual task in what they do. They can’t see everything. I hate to be one of those coaches who complains, but I think Taylor did enough to earn herself the win.”
Katrina Velasquez (Siam No. 1)
Katrina lost by unanimous decision to Thuy Phuong Thi Trieu of Vietnam. She showed heart and passion for the sport and it won’t be the last we see of her!
Sara Buczek (TKO Fighting Arts)
Sara Buczek defeated Riikka J of Finland by split decision, and lost to Veronika Prokofeva of Russia by unanimous decision.
Looking back on Sara’s performance, Kru Jeff remembers, “Sara’s first bout was really exciting for me to watch. She came from behind to earn herself a well deserved comeback win.”
Doni Foreman (Brampton Muay Thai)
Doni competed in the new U23 division at IFMA. He had a tough draw and lost against Petar Dreznjak of Croatia – who would become the division’s Gold medalist.
Josimar Tulloch (Krudar Muay Thai)
Pan Am gold medalist Josimar walked through his first two opponents, stopping each with a beautiful display of technique and athleticism. His first bout against Bryan Lum Kai Wen Lum of Singapore ended by referee stoppage in the second round. His second match against Lion Fight veteran Kevin Martinez Bravo of Spain was stopped in round 1 when Josimar timed a beautiful knee in the clinch to the chin of Bravo.
Josimar’s semi-final bout was a third round referee stoppage by Nicolas Young of Peru.
“Josimar really impressed me in all of his matches. He took on a guy with 54 pro fights. He won the first round. Lost the second. Took an elbow right in his eye in the third, which scored his opponent the 8 count. But he came out trying to finish like a warrior.”
Riley Foden (Kalsamrit)
Young Riley Foden has been called “The future of Canadian Muaythai” due to his relentless pursuit of excellence, his dedication to winning, and a beautiful display of technique.
He entered this year in IFMA’s new division, “Under 23”, on a win streak where he finished all of his last 5 opponents.
Riley’s first two bouts against Farzad Ahmad Khaksar (Afghanistan) and Ghen-Yan Berdon (Philippines) demonstrated his high level technique and ring IQ, defeating both opponents by unanimous decision.
Riley’s qualifying bout versus Veerasak Senanue of Thailand was a frustrating defeat for the Canadian young gun. Kru Jeff remarked that Riley was simply beat by a much more experienced athlete in the clinch. “Riley fought a taller Thai who was a clinch specialist with over 200 fights. The Thai had more pro experience with the grappling aspect. Plain and simple. Riley just has to work on his foot positioning in the clinch, and he will come back better.”
Sarah Carter (Nak Muay Gym)
Sarah Carter’s journey to the World Championship is one that should be remembered for years to come. Hailing from Winnipeg, the young school teacher competes out of a province that has not officially recognized amateur Muaythai competition. Sarah has had to leave her home province to seek out matches against other athletes.
In 2019 Sarah captured gold at the Pan Ams, and won a TBA Championship before meeting Irina Larionova of Russia in her qualifying bout in Bangkok. Irina defeated Sarah at last year’s World Championship in Cancun.
Determined to be better than her previous year’s performance, Carter would defeat her Russian opponent by utilizing her newly sharpened boxing skills, earning a unanimous decision victory.
Sarah would go on to defeat Rabia Akdeniz of Turkey to be Canada’s lone gold medalist at this year’s IFMA World Championship, winning by split decision.
“Sarah is one of those game day fighters who can put it all together on the day of competition,” noted Kru Jeff. “She had more time than everyone else to cut weight. You could see that she seemed to know how to pace herself throughout the training camp, preparing for his bout against Russia.”
Retrospective from Kru Jeff Harrison
“This was the hardest thing I’ve ever done as a coach. But it was totally worth it. 17 fights in 6 days. I was beyond exhausted. There is so much preparation and effort to make sure every athlete gets the attention they need.
We went to Bangkok as we did extremely well. We had a great group this year. I left Bangkok with pages of notes that I feel will help contribute to building stronger teams in the years to come.
Some people have said that what Canada lacks is the experience and access to bouts that other countries have. I disagree. I saw Ashley Nicols win IFMA with less experience. Bazooka Joe had 11 fights in CAMTAO before becoming a Glory World Champion. I believe that 1 good ‘A’ class fight beats 6 poor ‘C’ class bouts any day.
It isn’t lack of experience that keeps our Canadians from winning the big events. We have the heart and the competitive drive. We just need to work on the little things that other countries are better at. I watched the Thais, the Russians, the Belarusians, and other dominant countries carefully. I can see what they’re doing compared to us. I have taken all of this into account, and will share this information freely so that Canada makes an even bigger impact on the world stage in the years that follow.”
Ryan McKinnon is the host of The Bloody Ballet Podcast and website, found at www.thebloodyballet.com.