Thailand’s Pongsiri Mitsatit is a rising star in ONE Championship’s strawweight division, but over the past week or two, the martial arts star has been a hero of a different kind.
Though he is currently training hard for his next big contest in the world’s largest martial arts organization, he dropped everything when news broke of the Wild Boars football team, which became trapped in a complex network of caves in Thailand’s Chaing Rai province.
Mitsatit is a member of the Pingnakorn Rescue Chiang Mai volunteer group, a collective that helps provide aid to those in need. When Mitsatit and his fellow volunteers were called into action, he didn’t hesitate to sacrifice his preparations for the cage to do his part.
Th 22-year-old, along with around 800 others from seven countries, was called into action as search and rescue proceedings were launched in a bid to find the missing children.
“We drove to Chiang Rai in the early morning. We worried about the children, but I knew our team was very capable, and I knew we would do everything we could to find them,” he says.
“Many people from all over the world came to help. It was a joint effort, and a great sight to see everyone coming together for a common goal.”
The 12 boys, all aged between 11 and 16, became trapped in the caves at the Tham Luang Nang Non complex after rain left the cave entrance flooded.
A search and rescue operation was swiftly launched, and Mitsatit was happy to be a part of the first responders who found the team safely.
“I feel incredibly blessed to be able to help find these kids alive,” he admits.
“It did not matter if I was in training for a big fight – I wanted to do everything I could to help those boys. This was bigger than everything else.
“The British divers saw them first, and when they sent back photos and videos, I was so relieved. Just seeing them alive and well, it makes my heart feel full.
“When we are given the ability to help others who are in dire need, we must do everything we can. It does not matter whether we are rich or poor — we do what we can.
“In my mind, I wanted to find those kids as soon as possible. Then to see them strong and doing well, it motivates me to be as strong as them. I would do anything if it meant saving those boys.”