I recently caught up with Brooke Farrell from Australia, to discuss the development of female Muaythai from her perspective and to get first hand feedback from a successful foreign female fighter. Brooke Farrell has a wealth of experience living, training and of course fighting in the land of smiles – a professional “farang” Muay Ying if you will.
Brooke has established herself internationally as one of the best and most experienced females in the sport. She has recently returned to her home country Australia after many years residing in Thailand together with husband Eddie Farrell. The couple are affectionately known as “the fighting Farrells” in Muay Thai circles.
Hi Brooke! What do you think have been the three most important steps forward made for female Muay Thai around the world in recent years?
“Firstly I think promoters play a huge role.
I started my career in Thailand and I’ve seen a huge difference over the years. When I started, female fights would always be last on the local shows because people would always leave after the main event and no one cared about the female bouts so the stadium would almost be empty. But now, female fights are last because they’re the main event live on national tv in Thailand. Sawsing and I were the first to headline an event on national thai tv and that was a big deal.
Since then, Channel 8, Super Champ and Hardcore are trying their best to have two female bouts on both shows. So I am very grateful for promoters like them who are willing to put female fights on as main events and break the traditions. And just recently, it’s been announced that for the first time in history Lumpinee Muay Thai Stadium will host the first female bout. Promoters play a huge role as they’re the ones giving females the opportunity and the platform to showcase their skills!
Obviously also the females putting in the work, grinding everyday, showing up, training alongside and often training harder than the boys. Females are proving they can put on entertaining fights like the men and if not more entertaining. Females have had to prove themselves over and over again to show they’re strong enough and just as dedicated.
In Thailand, females were often not taken seriously in the gym, we had to work hard to prove ourselves, over the years this has changed a lot and now it’s very common for gyms to have multiple female Muay Thai athletes in their team! The girls have risen to challenges and say yes to the big fights because this gets all females in Muay Thai great exposure. The females who are fearless and show the world we are warriors too.
And last but not least, the coaches. Coaches who take on the girls and give them a chance! Not a lot do .. still! Which is crazy to say in the year 2021.
There is still a lot of sexism in the sport but for all the coaches that dedicate time into their female athletes thank you! It’s because of them that we are able to do what we do on the big stages and are able to continue and push in this sport!”
Do you think disparity in fight purses is still a big issue?
“I think the fight purses depend. I can only speak from my experience and what I know or have seen in the industry. I think it depends on the promoter and the promotion but I’d say it’s not too far off being equal now. I think there still remains a quite a gap, but I’d say it’s getting pretty close now. I think it depends more on experience and where you fight on the card and how much exposure and money you bring to the promotion nowadays rather than female vs male – to determine wages.”
You were not just a fighter but also a gym owner and coach in Thailand and now in Australia too – are there enough young females coming into the sport or is it still male dominated?
“I still think it’s very male dominant, there’s just always been such a big pool of male fighters. But there are a lot more females entering the Thaiboxing sport every year I think. And more and more females rising to the top. You can see that with the female WBC Muay Thai rankings.
There never used to be any female rankings and since WBC started there are more and more females being added.
There are also more and more females being signed to big promotions and being put on as main events which I think is a big deal! Although it’s still very male dominant the females are getting noticed for having just as exciting bouts or if not, the most exciting bouts of the night and often with the most views. It’s amazing to see.”
Muay Thai 2050 – what’s your prediction?
“I’m not sure where I see Muay Thai going in the years to come. Equality in opportunities would be amazing, and I mean all stadiums allowing female bouts and maybe even equal bouts – so 5 male fights and 5 female fights on the fightcard.
I’d like to see more title shots for females too, I know WBC MuayThai have a lot of belt opportunities so I’d like to see them being competed for on the regular shows.
With shows, opportunities and rankings I think that will depend on what happens with the pandemic too. A lot of fighters now are struggling to get fights, a lot of fighters can’t fly to compete internationally anymore and with such a big pool of people trying to compete locally, there will be a shortage of opponents and competition to try and get on the next card. We will have to wait and see!
Oh and I would like to add that I want to see all sexist traditions change within Thailand. Such as banning females from certain rings and females being allowed to enter the fighting ring over the ropes like the males do! And of course being able to wear our Mongkon to the ring. At the moment with the sexist traditions females can only put on their mongkon and have their blessing once they’ve entered the ring and are in their corner. I believe this is something that should change now.”
Thank you Brooke!
So summing up, things are looking bright for the future of female Muay Thai, but worldwide, the journey to true equality has really just begun. But as both amateur and professional Muay Thai continues to grow around the world and more and more females enter the sport, their share of the limelight and the spills will hopefully grow too.
Exciting things happening for females interested in Muay Thai, onward, together! #onemuaythaifamily