The battle that changed the face of modern martial arts!
Thirty years ago, in 1980s, Muay Thai, which has a great variety of techniques and moves, was barely known to martial arts fans in the USA. That’s why a non-title fight in Vegas between Rick Roufus, an American kickboxer, and Changpuek Kietsongrit, a Muay Thai fighter from Thailand dragged much attention and was televised widely in 1988.
The rules of American kickboxing didn’t allow low kicks, throws, sweeps and takedowns. To balance the fighters’ arsenals Kietsongrit was prohibited to use elbows and clinches, however low kicks were permitted. This change, which might seem not too important before the fight, turned critical. Rick Roufus was one of the top kickboxers in the USA those days and the opening seconds showed this reputation was fully deserved. His hands were way better than Kietsongrit’s, and as it was reported later, Roufus broke the opponent’s jaw and knocked him down twice in the first round.
But there was one more thing, except Roufus’s perfect punching, which the first round demonstrated – it was Kietsongrit’s toughness. Today we know that Muay Thai fighters are all tough but in 1988 it was something new. The Thai fighter recovered and threw a great number of devastating low kicks which Roufus just couldn’t dodge, block or counter. Finally the kickboxer, who just couldn’t keep on his feet, lost the bout. Roufus’s brother Duke, who was a cornerman for Rick than, looked all upset in the post-fight interview and considered Kietsongrit’s win a fluke. “I don’t think it takes much talent to kick somebody in the legs”, he said. However, the power of low kicks and Muay Thai in general couldn’t remain unseen to fighters, trainers and fans. Besides, several years after that fight Duke Roufus changed his viewpoint too. “I did an interview after the fight and put down the leg kicks, and said that they did not require much skill. I went to a few seminars that used leg kicks and it changed my mind very quickly”, Duke stated in an interview with Canadian Muay Thai legend Mike Miles.