The Strain The Coronavirus Is Putting On Lethwei Fighters
Written by Nyi Min Han
In Myanmar, homeland of lethwei, most of the fighters depend on the festive period from around October to April, as their primary source of income. Myanmar has a rainy season that usually starts after May and lasts for more than six months.
Historically, most fighters would work in farming, due to the lack of fight opportunities. The fighters would work hard on the field for half a year, dreaming of their lethwei career during the festive season.
This year, as you know, the coronavirus has thrown a wrench into those plans. The World Lethwei Championship (WLC) was very preemptive and postponed their WLC: KHMER KINGDOM show before the virus became a pandemic. Other lethwei promoters were forced to follow suit shortly after.
To make matters worse, on Monday night, the Myanmar government announced two positive cases of the coronavirus. During this difficult time, I contacted the lethwei fighter Thu Ya Moe, to ask him about his daily life without events right now.
“Normally, our earnings come from this time of year. But it is a pandemic and he has to take care of each other stay safe by not doing public events. I’m now at my home in rural areas because my coaches decided not to train at the gym and send us back to our home for safety reasons.
“I’m sad I couldn’t go into the ring. But I’m happy to take care of my family and live around them. I hope this nightmare will end soon and we can overcome this difficult time altogether. Now I train myself in the backyard two times a day to boost my stamina and stay healthy. Thus I can fight as soon as the coast is clear.”
But in the light of the coronavirus, some organisations are trying to hold closed events around the world to entertain people and help release stress. Thu Ya Moe believes that the WLC could put on a show behind closed doors.
“Now all the lethwei events are postponed, some fighters and gyms are finding it hard to live and continue without events. So I think the World Lethwei Championship is preparing to hold an event to prevent this industry collapsing.
“Actually, our ancient martial art, lethwei is now gaining some popularity around the world. In combat sports world, lethwei is new for most people and it give us excitement. If the World Lethwei Championship can perform a well prepared closed event, we surely will watch their show because it will be like helping the lethwei fighters.”
Do you think the World Lethwei Championship should hold an event behind closed doors during the coronavirus pandemic?