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‘The Ladyboy with the Mean Knees’: Nong Rose Is Back

We caught back up with Nong Rose, now set to be the first ever transgender fighter allowed to fight in a sports bra at Thailand's oldest stadium.

by Frances Watthanaya
May 11 2017, 8:37pm

All photos by author

Everyone forgot about Rose, as they do in Muay Thai. She stopped fighting after winning a big fight in Bangkok where she was able to come back from being a 10-1 underdog. The fight was for OneSongchai's promotion Yod Muay Thai Rat. They had been doing a lot to promote her, even having her enter the ring in a female Thai costume, but when she didn't return to the promotion for a lengthy period of time, no one seemed to care. This is Muay Thai, where more fighters are broken by success than uplifted by it.

In Thailand, there are thousands of active Muay Thai fighters. With the next big thing always waiting around a corner, it's easy to get swept under the rug, even by just the tiniest hiccup in one's career. With the strong emphasis on gambling, a novelty like Rose doesn't mean much to the sport, but a promoter like OneSongchai with a fine eye for matchmaking does. Rose's success is based on whether or not she can be matched up evenly enough to keep the gamblers satisfied. Being transgender doesn't have much to do with it. Rose is a stable Muay Thai fighter, she's known for incredible strength, heart, and conditioning. With over 300 fighters under her, she's no pushover in the ring. However, in Thailand, her ability is deemed nothing more than average making OneSongchai's ability to promote her much more than average. A self-proclaimed, 'gift from the Buddha', OneSongchai has remained one of the top promoters in Thailand for over two decades.

It's been two years since we last sat down with Rose
and a lot has changed since then. Now a high school graduate, Rose is able to grow her hair out long, something she takes great pride in. And after brief success in Bangkok, Rose decided to focus on fighting and put going to university on hold. But why for more than a year did Rose disappear from the fight scene? Although she politely refused to address the issue, Rose was given a 100,000 Baht (3000 USD) tip out from the gamblers for turning that fight around, a tip that is rumored Rose did not receive.

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