How Muay Thai Fights Work: A Comprehensive Guide

Muay Thai is a true combat martial art and the fights are exciting and wonderful to watch. But I can understand why people will be confused about how Muay Thai fights work.

I decided to research the internet to explain as simple as possible, everything about Muay Thai fights so you can best understand them.

Muay Thai has two fighters fight against each other in a boxing ring(maximum size 24ft by 24ft), each fight is either 3 or 5 rounds of 3 minutes and fighters can win by knocking their opponent out, the referee stopping the fight(technical knock out) or winning on points.

How Do Muay Thai Fights Work?

Muay Thai is a stand-up combat sport developed in Thailand, if you want to know more about the history of Muay Thai please check my post here. The sport is known as the art of eight limbs as you can use the fists, elbows knees, and shins, as well as Neck wrestling known as the clinch with various trips & sweeps.

Fighters can also catch kicks and off-balance their opponent with sweeps.

Before every Muay Thai fight in Thailand, both fighters must perform the pre-fight dance ritual known as the Wai Kru to pay respect to all their trainers in life and who helped them on their fight journey.

Before and during every Muay Thai fight, the rhythmic music known as Sarama is played to build a fight atmosphere which increases in intensity as the fight goes on.

If you want to know more about the Wai Kru Ram Muay & Sarama and other spiritual practices in Muay Thai please check my post here.

A Muay Thai will have two fighters facing off against each other in 3 to 5-minute rounds depending on the organization and if the fight is a championship fight. One championship for example has 3 3-minute rounds for a normal fight and 5 3 minute rounds for a championship fight with one-minute rest between each round.

Muay Thai Boxing Ring Size

The boxing ring is a square surrounded by ropes with the maximum size being 24 ft by 24 ft but again it varies by the organization. YOKKAO’s rings must measure between 4.9 by 4.9 meters (16 ft) to 7.3 by 7.3 meters (24 ft)

Thai boxing rings should always have safety in mind with the ropes, 4 corner posts, and ring floor covered with the appropriate padding and cushioning material to protect fighters from damage.

YOKKAO Muay Thai Boxing Glove Size

Fighters WeightBoxing Glove Size
100 lbs- 126lbs( Mini Flyweight to Featherweight)6oz
126 lbs up to 147 lbs (Super Featherweight to Welterweight)8oz
147 lbs and above (Super Welterweight and above)10 oz

Just like the ring sizes, different organizations have different rules regarding fighters’ weight and the prescribed boxing glove size. One championship has fighters fight with 4oz MMA gloves to make fights more entertaining as smaller gloves mean more knockouts

How To Win A Muay Thai Fight

You win a Muay Thai fight either by causing your opponent to be knocked out so he/she cannot continue to fight or by a technical knockout if the referee thinks the fighter cannot continue or win by points scored by judges after the 3-5 rounds are contested without any fighter being knocked out.

Just like in Boxing, if a fighter is knocked down they must get up within 10 seconds and show they can fight otherwise it is a technical knockout, if they get up the other fighter scores a knockdown which scores good points.

In a single round, if a fighter is knocked down three times, the referee will end the fight.

How Are Muay Thai Fights Scored?

You can see the official scoring system in WMC Muay Thai’s website here but the scoring will vary a lot depending on where you are, as different countries score in different ways with England scoring the most similar to Thai scoring.

I was told by Andy Howson in a zoom call that countries like France are notoriously biased towards their own fighters, so if your fighting in France secure that knockout!

Legally you can score with the following techniques, you can strike every part of the body aside from the groin, but there is more to scoring than adding up the number of strikes you have delivered to your opponent.

Legal Techniques To Score In Muay Thai

  • Punches
  • elbows
  • knees
  • kicks
  • sweeps
  • throws

What Is Muay Thai’s 10 Point Scoring System?

In Muay Thai the winner of each round gets 10 points whilst his opponent gets either 7,8, or 9 depending on how close the round was.

  • 10-10 Is an even round
  • 10-9 One winner and the following rules do not apply
  • 10-8 One boxer was clearly dominant or the winner of a round with the loser being counted once in that round
  • 10-7 One clear dominant winner with the loser being counted once in that round or one winner of the round if a loser has been counted twice in that round.

Unlike in Boxing which is scored in individual rounds, Thai fights are scored out of 50. Even if you down a couple of rounds the later rounds matter more where you can win on points

If both boxers are evenly matched they get 10 points each, a fighter who is excellent in all 5 rounds can get a maximum of 50 points,

Muay Thai Scoring Gives The Advantage To

  • The boxer will strikes with Muay Thai weapons the most(elbows, kicks score the highest)
  • The Boxer with the heavier and more powerful accurate hits on target
  • The Boxer will make the other boxer more tired using Muay Thai weapons
  • The Boxer who shows the better style of aggressive attacks
  • The boxer who shows good defense using Muay Thai techniques
  • Boxer who commits the least fouls

Muay Thai Scoring Not Giving The Advantage

  • Boxer who violates any rules with his Muay Thai weapons
  • A boxer whos strikes get defended by their opponent’s arms or legs
  • A Boxer who hits light without any power behind their strikes
  • If a Boxer kicks their target at their leg is caught by the opponent and he/she is swept, the kicker will score a point, if he pretends to fall off the floor(violation of rules)
  • Throwing an opponent on the floor without using Muay Thai techniques

How Muay Thai Judges Score Aggression

As Muay Thai is a combat sport aggression is the most important factor when winning a round. Points for aggression are based on how many clean strikes the fighter lands with power and accuracy.

It doesn’t matter what direction the fighter is going, forward sideways, or back as long as he/she is striking effectively.

Generally, kicks, elbows, and knees will score the highest but again this is different depending on where the fight is taking place and the organization. What matters the most is the strikes land clean without being blocked for maximum damage and maximum point-scoring.

The judges will judge a powerful strike on various factors.

  • If a strike makes your opponent wince or grunt after taking a powerful hit
  • If a strike makes an opponent off balance and forced to balance themselves with a step
  • If a strike or sweep completely unbalances the opponent and they hit the ground
  • Or if a strike knocks an opponent to the ground and they are forced to take 10 count

According to the rules, it is wise not to appear hurt when your hit even if you are, as this looks bad to the judges, especially if you get knocked down get up as soon as possible as the referee can stop the fight at any time giving you an instant loss.

How Muay Thai Judges Score Ring Generalship

Ring generalship refers to a boxer’s ability to manipulates space and positioning and decide where and how the fighting is taking place. It is second only to landing clean powerful strikes in Muay Thai scoring

Points are given on how effective a fighter can dominate his/her opponent, controls the action, and makes it awkward for their opponent. You must control the pace of the fight if you want to score for ring generalship.

For Muay Thai, ultimately it is a game of hitting and not getting hit, so showing all your skills in defensive, evasion, and counter attacking is pivotal.

In Muay Thai this means checking kicks, slipping and blocking punches, and utilizing your footwork and long guard to make your opponent fight at your own fight pace. Stopping your opponent landing any clean strikes is crucial.

How Muay Thai Judges Score Pure Aggressiveness

Pure aggressiveness refers to a fighter who forces the action and controls the pace and makes the opponent back up, it is similar to Octagon control in the UFC. It is the least important aspect of Muay Thai scoring.

Whilst pure aggression points add up, dealing with the most damaging clean strikes whilst avoiding taking damage are the most important criteria for winning a Muay Thai fight.

This is why you will see the most aggressive fighter lose, as yes they might be forcing the action and marching forward, but they also are getting hit the most and even if the other guy is retreating if he isn’t getting hit whilst dealing damage himself then he will win.

What Are The Muay Thai Rules?

In a Muay Thai fight, there are 3-5 minute rounds with each round lasting 3 minutes with a two minute rest period in between rounds. Unlike in Kickboxing, there are no deciding rounds if the fight ends without a clear winner.

If you want to know exactly what are the differences between Kickboxing and Muay Thai please check out my post here.

  • Thai boxers must wear boxing gloves not weighing less than 6 ounces(172 grams), the gloves cannot be changed from their original shape
  • Shoes and shirts are prohibited for male fighters
  • Only Muay Thai shorts can be worn on the ring and they are usually colored red or blue depending on the fighters corner, although pink and Maroon are acceptable in YOKKAO competitions
  • Boxers must wear groin guards to protect their groin
  • A gumshield is not mandatory 
  • Boxers cannot wear shirts or shoes but an ankle guard is allowed
  • Boxers can wear a sacred headdress known as the Mongkol only during the pre-fight ritual known as the Wai Kru, and it must be removed before the fight.
  • Metal or any equipment that can harm the opponent cannot be used.

What Are The Muay Thai Ring Rules?

  1. Size. The ring must be a square with each side having the following dimensions. Small size is 20 feet(6.10 meters), the large size is 24 feet(7.3 meters) measured within the ropes
  2. Floor And Corner. Must be well made without any barriers with a minimum extension outside of the ring at least 3 feet (91 cm). The minimum floor height should be 4 feet (1.22 meters) with a maximum height of 5 feet(1.48 meters) from the floor of the building. The corner posts should have a diameter between 4-5 inches(10-12.7cm) with a height of 58 inches(1.47 meters) from the ring floor. Every post must be properly cushioned for the safety of the fighters
  3. Ring Floor. The floor has to be padded for protection with either soft cloth, rubber mat, or similar material with a minimum thickness of 1-5 inches(2.5-3.7 cm). The padding has to be completely covered by a canvas cloth
  4. Ropes. Must be 4 ropes with a diameter between 1.2-2 inches(3-5cm) connecting to all four corner posts. The distance between the ring floor to the lower rope is 18 inches(46cm) the 2nd rope 30 inches(76cm) the 3rd rope 42 inches(107cm) and the last rope 54 inches(137 cm). Each rope has to be cushioned by soft material. Each rope will be joined together by two cords of 1.2-1.6 inches (3-4cms) in diameter with equal distance between each other
  5. Ring Steps. At least 3 steps are required, with the width of each step being at least 3.5 feet(1.07 meters). One step is located at each corner and a third step is positioned in the center for doctors and other officials
  6. Plastic Bin. Located the fighters corner for disposal of tissues, bandages or any other waste products

Muay Thai Ring Accessories

  1. Break area at both corners.
  2. Two drinking water bottles and two spray bottles. No other type of bottle is allowed ringside.
  3. Two towels.
  4. Two bowls of water.
  5. Tables and chairs for the officials.
  6. Alarm bell.
  7. One or two stop clocks.
  8. Score sheets.
  9. Locking box for keeping the score sheets.
  10. One set of round indicators, signs, or boards.
  11. Two pairs of spare boxing gloves.
  12. One spare set each of red and blue boxing shorts.
  13. Groin protector with one or two ties.
  14. Two cloth squares to facilitate a groin protector change or adjustment.
  15. Stretcher.
  16. Blunt edged scissors.

Muay Thai Boxing Gloves Requirements

  1. Boxers must use gloves certified by the WMC Executive Board per the regulations and provided by the stadium manager.
  2. Glove usage will change depending on the competition as some organizations like One Championship use 4oz gloves, but the following are general Muay Thai recommendations
Weight DivisionGlove Weight
Mini Flyweight – Junior Featherweight6 ounce (132 grams)
Featherweight – Welterweight8 ounce (227 grams)
Junior Middleweight and upwards10 ounce (284 grams)

To prevent people tampering with the glove, the weight of the leather cannot be more than half of the gloves weight, including the inner cushioning which should be in good condition.

Muay Thai Rules Bandages

Only soft material is allowed with plastic or similar plastic types are banned. The size must be 2 inches x 6.5 yards (5cm x 6 metres). Whilst you can use adhesive tape at 2.5 cm x 2.5 metres this is only allowed for covering the back of the hand and not over the knuckles.

What Is The Muay Thai Dress Code?

  • Only boxing shorts can be worn with the color changing on the corner. red, pink, or maroon or with a red stripe for the red corner; blue, bright blue, black for the blue corner
  • A groin protector must be worn and tied at the back
  • No long hair or beards are allowed, a short mustache is fine but the hair cannot extend past the lip
  • The Mongkol is only worn when performing the Wai Kru before the fight has started. Amulets may be worn on the arm or waist and be covered by material to avoid injury
  • Elastic bandages are allowed on the arm or legs to prevent sprains, but you cannot insert a shin guard
  • Cannot wear any metal decoration of jewelry
  • Cannot gain an unfair advantage using vaseline or fat
  • Can wear ankle bandages to protect the feet

If any of the dress code rules are breached this could result in disqualification if there is an issue is with the Boxing gloves the referee can suspend the fight until the issue has been sorted

Muay Thai Weight Divisions

 Weight Division Maximum Weight
Mini Flyweight105 lbs (47.727 kg.)
 Junior Flyweight108 lbs (48.988 kg.)
 Flyweight 112 lbs (50.802 kg.)
 Junior Bantamweight115 lbs (52.163 kg.)
 Bantamweight 118 lbs (53.524 kg.)
 Junior Featherweight 122 lbs (55.338 kg.)
 Featherweight 126 lbs (57.153 kg.)
 Junior Lightweight130 lbs (58.967 kg.)
 Lightweight 135 lbs (61.235 kg.)
 Junior Welterweight140 lbs (63.503 kg.)
 Welterweight 147 lbs (66.638 kg.)
 Junior Middleweight154 lbs (69.853 kg.)
 Middleweight 160 lbs (71.575 kg.)
 Super Middleweight  168 lbs (76.363 kg.
 Light Heavyweight 175 lbs (79.379 kg.)
 Cruiserweight 190 lbs (86.183 kg.)
 Heavyweight190 lbs+ (86.183 kg.+)
Super Heavyweight 209 lbs+ (95 kg.+)

If you want to know more about all of Muay Thai’s rules check out the official Muay Thai councils website here.

How Long Are Muay Thai Fights?

Muay Thai fights are sanctioned for 3-5 rounds 3 minutes per round, with a 1 to 2-minute break between rounds. This differs depending on amateur fights or fight promotions with variations like 2-minute rounds, 3 round fights, and 1 minute rest time between rounds.

At the highest level of Muay Thai, in the internationally recognized Muay Thai stadiums, Lumpinee and Rajadamnern fights are 5 3 minute rounds, with a 2-minute rest between rounds.

Generally, Muay Thai fights will last 35 minutes for 5 rounds including the rest periods between rounds and 29 minutes for 3 rounds.

What Are Muay Thai Fouls

You might think everything is allowed in Muay Thai but that isn’t the case, you could be guilty of committing fouls in your gym that you weren’t even aware of! I know I was.

Muay Thai Fouls

  1. Biting, eye-poking, spitting on your opponent, head butting or even sticking your tongue out to make funny face is a foul
  2. Using Judo or Wrestling techniques by throwing,back-breaking or locking your opponent’s arms
  3. Falling over or attacking a fallen opponent who is getting up, or grabbing the rope
  4. Using bad language during the fight
  5. Not listening to the referee
  6. Knee striking at the groin area, the referee has allowed a resting time-out of no more than 5 minutes long, if the knee struct boxer doesn’t want to continue the referee will declare hi the loser or make a “no decision”
  7. Catching the leg and pushing forward for more than 2 steps without using any weapons, the referee will order the boxer to stop and give him a caution. after two cautions the referee will give a warning
  8. Pretending to fall after your kicking leg is caught, as this is taking advantage over his/her opponent and he will be cautioned by the referee. If the boxer does it again and the referee has given 2 cautions the violated will receive a warning
  9. When both boxers fall out of the ring, and either boxer tries to delay getting back into the ring
  10. Using forbidden substances as specified by WADA
  11. Violating any of the rules

How To Watch Muay Thai Fights?

Unlike other sports like Soccer or Basketball, there isn’t one super Muay Thai organization, the most elite stadiums are the Lumpinee Stadium and Rajadamnern Stadium both located in Bangkok.

I will discuss where you can watch fights both online and offline so you can enjoy all the fights you could ask for!

Where To Watch Muay Thai In Thailand

The best place to watch Muay Thai is the motherland of Muay Thai, Thailand itself! Bangkok is the number one Muay Thai destination but you can watch Thai boxing pretty much anywhere in Thailand

Where To Watch Muay Thai In Bangkok

how do muay Thai fights work
  • New Lumpinee Boxing Stadium. Stadium, Sports Center. …
  • Rajadamnern Boxing Stadium. Stadium, Sports Center. …
  • Siam Boxing Stadium. Stadium. …
  • Channel 7 Boxing Stadium. Stadium, Sports Center. …
  • Bangkok Boxing Stadium. Stadium, Sports Center. …
  • Rangsit Boxing Stadium

Where To Watch Muay Thai In Chiang Mai

  • Chiang Mia Boxing Stadium
  • Thaphae Boxing Stadium
  • Anusarn Boxing Stadium
  • Loi Kroh Boxing Stadium 

Where To Watch Muay Thai In Phuket

  • Bangla Boxing Stadium
  • Rawai Boxing Stadium

Where To Watch Muay Thai Online?

Thai TV channels(Channel 3TV5TV7, etc) will broadcast Muay Thai events pretty much every day, and all these channels have their dedicated websites where they broadcast live streaming of Muay Thai events.

However, trying to access these Thai websites with internet outside of Thailand will result in a very slow internet connection, with some Thai TV channels the streaming will be reserved for people in Thailand only.

The best solution relies on using a VPN(a virtual private network) such as Express VPN(link to the site) a VPN is a software that tricks other websites into thinking you are in a different country; so you can stream Thai boxing with a perfect connection and no problems at all!

Alternatively, there are TONS of Muay Thai fighters available for free on YouTube! Organizations like YOKKAO and One Championship frequently upload Muay Thai fights.

Even better One Championship always streams their fight cards for free! Just subscribe to their YouTube channel here and you will see a notification whenever they go live, so you can watch fantastic Muay Thai fighters like the current MMA/Muay Thai atomweight world championStamp Fairtex and Liam Harrison go at it.

And it’s LIVE!

Interested in Muay Thai? Check Out My Recommendations

Looking For Gear To Use When You Train?
If you are interested in training Muay Thai, here is some of the gear I recommend:
Best Mouth Guard
Best Gloves
Best Shorts
Best Shin Guards
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