The Challenger Muaythai airs on AXN
Rosalinda L. Orosa (The Philippine Star) - September 16, 2011 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Last night, AXN premiered the intense, raw fight drama of the arena in a brand new reality TV series The Challenger Muaythai, produced in crystal clear high definition. Sixteen world-class fighters converge in Asia to vie for the prestigious title of the first-ever Challenger Muaythai World Champion and a grand prize of $100,000. The series is as much a showcase of respect, courage, determination and perseverance; as much as it is about the lethal martial art form of Muaythai.

Hailing from all over the globe, the fighters have been hand-picked by renowned Muaythai personality and VP of the World Muaythai Council, Stephan Fox. As host of the series and with over 30 years of experience under his belt, Fox is well-qualified to take on the role of mentor to the fighters. Trainers Hanarong and Nugget also put the fighters through rigorous bouts of training each week, acting as the catalyst to push fighters to their limits within the ring. Produced by the Imagine Group and The Group Entertainment, the reality competition series also has the gorgeous Sonia Couling (actress and host) on board as ring commentator.

Aged 18 to 35, the motley crew of fighters hail from Malaysia, Thailand to Israel and South Africa. Defying fighter stereotypes are part-time models Fadi and Ilya who are bound to catch the eye of ladies with their chiseled features and muscled form. The fighters’ intimidating monikers like The Beast, The Cheetah, The Sniper and Black Dynamite echo the impressive track records both in their countries and in the international arena. Some have started their training since the age of seven, while others have fought The Contender Asia champion Yodsanklai and even beaten him.

Indeed, the high caliber of fighters marks the quality of the reality series, and viewers can certainly look forward to a production quality of the highest standards.

With the championship title and $100,000 at stake, the tension heats up quickly and dramatically. Blood is shed, bones are broken and vendettas are seeded right from the very start. Not surprisingly, personality clashes create conflict, old scores seek to be settled and some fighters have to head into the arena without all their weapons — one with a leg healing from fresh stitches and the other suffering from post-fight amnesia. The filming process is tough not just on the fighters themselves, but also on the other members of the cast involved; Sonia Couling actually had to be rushed to the hospital when she fainted on the set.

Each episode culminates in the Fight Night, the weekly showdown which has two fighters duking it out for the right to stay in the running. From the very first training session, the fighters are introduced to the Weapon of the Week, the deciding factor which determines who gets thrown into the ring that week. The weapons derive from Muaythai’s famous eight points of contact, ranging from fitness and conditioning, to different parts of the body such as fists, elbows and knees. The fighter deemed to possess the most outstanding skills in the Weapon of the Week by both the fighters and trainers, will be given the power to pick his worthy opponent.

For the fighters, this is evidently not just a battle of brawns and agility, but of quick wits and strategy. Alliances have to be forged and broken just as quickly, to secure a good match-up during the Fight Night and ensure their place in the competition. Despite the betrayals and friendships broken over fight selections, the Muaythai spirit remains highly intact among fighters. They treat one another with utmost respect before, during and after the fights; and their honor during combat is treated with the greatest regard. Throughout the series as they get a glimpse into the rich history and culture of the sport, viewers will discover that Muaythai is not just about the survival of the toughest.

Every match consists of five rounds, with each bout lasting between five to 15 minutes. Before each match, a fighter can train intensively up to eight hours a day, six days a week. The discipline and dedication invested by each fighter is undoubted. Such is the spirit of Muaythai and an aspect of the sport rarely witnessed by spectators who only see the drama in the ring. Beneath the nail-biting tension of each fight and the fighters’ strong desire to win, each has a story to tell.

The Challenger Muaythai airs Thursday nights at 10.

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