“Dream Man” Kritsada Kongsrichai’s greatest wish is to return to Thailand with ONE Championship gold around his waist.
The 26-year-old Thai star will take the next step on his path towards that goal when he faces Filipino Jeremy “The Jaguar” Miado at ONE: SPIRIT OF A WARRIOR, which emanates from the Thuwunna Indoor Stadium in Yangon, Myanmar on Friday, 29 June.
Kongsrichai’s journey started as a child in Nakhon Si Thammarat in Southern Thailand, when his father sparked his interest in Muay Thai, despite the reservations of his mother.
“Everybody in my neighbourhood used to be a fighter, and there was a gym close by,” he says.
“My father liked Muay Thai, too, and when I was 9, he even asked me if I was interested in training. On the other hand, my mum did not like it and did not want me to fight. She was worried that I would get hurt.”
Kongsrichai kept his dream of competing as a professional under wraps so he did not upset his mother. Unbeknownst to her, he poured his heart and soul into training and competing.
When his parents eventually learned of his professional career – and his successes – they were proud.
“After a while, I started to win, win, and win, and my mum finally accepted my choice to be a martial artist,” he recalled.
“I had around 200 Muay Thai fights, and was a Southern Thailand Champion.”
Despite his success in the Muay Thai ring, Kongsrichai took up wrestling as he sought to add another martial arts string to his bow.
Much like his experience in Muay Thai, Kongsrichai took to the discipline like a duck to water.
“My cousin was a wrestler, and he was on the national team. He took me with him to Srisaket Sports School to learn wrestling,” he explains.
“I was 13 years old then, and when I was around 15, I got accepted into the Thai national wrestling team. Since then, I have been with the team.”
He excelled in both the freestyle and Greco-Roman disciplines as he built a combined 200-20 record on the mats and achieved great success in tournaments.
“I got a silver medal at the SEA Games in Laos in 2009, and a bronze at the SEA Games in Myanmar in 2013 [in Greco-Roman wrestling],” he says.
“I qualified for the Asian Games in China in 2010, and I was also a Thai National Wrestling Champion 13 times.”
His proficiency in both striking and grappling arts meant he had an excellent base to take into his next competitive career move, as he tried his luck in the all-encompassing sport of mixed martial arts.
He made his debut in August 2014 and has earned a host of first-round stoppage wins on his way to a winning record inside the cage.
“Wrestling changed my life. I learned a lot of techniques that I can apply to mixed martial arts. The same with Muay Thai,” he explains.
“Now I can mix those two different martial arts because both are very important for the cage.”
He is also now competing in the world’s largest martial arts organization.
Now “Dream Man” makes his return to the cage in Yangon, Myanmar, to face Miado, knowing that a victory will take him one step closer to his dream of becoming a World Champion.
In a twist of fate, “The Jaguar” defeated the man Kongsrichai hopes to emulate by doing that in his last match-up.
He hopes he can gain redemption for his nation, and go on to follow in the footsteps of Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke by becoming the second Thai athlete to hold the ONE Strawweight World Title.
“My focus is to be a ONE World Champion at least one time in my life,”Kongsrichai states.
“I am fighting as a strawweight – the same weight class as Dejdamrong – and I want to go and bring that belt back to Thailand.”