The Best Gym in Phuket

One of the most common questions I get on my blog is, “Which gym is better Tiger Muay Thai or Phuket Top Team?” I never answer the question directly for two reasons: 1. I trained at both and left both gyms on good terms, so I never wanted to piss anyone off by siding with one gym or the other. 2. I honestly enjoyed my time at both gyms equally. It was a perfect situation for me. I first went to Tiger Muay Thai because they had a really clear website and offered on-site accommodation, which was a non-negotiable must-have for me. My first trip was only for 7 days but I loved it so much I went back again for 3 months.

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The sheer size, popularity and good business management of TMT also led to some of its downsides – the classes are really large (especially the beginner and intermediate Muay Thai Classes). The beginners’ class has too many students for the instructors to hold pads for (so it becomes more of a cardio-based class, I wouldn’t go as far as saying it’s cardio kickboxing, as it’s still Muay Thai technique-based, but it’s a lot of bag work and cardio. The intermediate class at TMT was pretty good; you get to do pad work daily and spar once in a while. However, it seemed like we had to ‘clinch’ way too often verses sparring. My main gripe with the intermediate class was that the schedule was set in stone (and would simply repeat itself) making the class mundane. I guess it was a good thing because it encouraged me to move up to Advanced, which was the best class of all: smaller groups and varied training, every day was a different structured class and we did things like ‘king of the ring’ sparring, which was really tough but also fun and a great workout. Another random drill we did was ‘only defend’ for three minutes then switch.

It was on that day I really got comfortable being hit and keeping my eyes open. TMT was able to do these type trainings since everyone in the class is on the same level. I don’t think it would have worked as well for a mixed class. I never trained in the 4th level – the fighters’ only class – but from what I saw it looked very free-flowing and with more sparring. One downside if you’re only going for a short time (like I did on my first trip) is TMT makes you either buy all your own equipment, including 16oz gloves and shin guards on sparring days, or you can rent gloves for 200 baht per day. The good thing about it is that everyone uses clean 16oz gloves for sparring, which reduces injuries vs. inconsiderate people at other gyms that will spar you with 12oz or 14oz gloves. Another downside to TMT is they will charge you for everything and make a commission wherever they can. Renting a motorbike through the office was a lot more expensive than renting one anywhere down the street.

Having TMT my blog you a room at a hotel down the street will cost you 2,000 baht ($66US) a month more than if you did it yourself directly. Everything has a markup on it at TMT, but it’s also a good service for people coming to Thailand for the first time and need their hand held. If you’re only coming for 2 weeks and don’t mind paying a little extra, TMT’s office has English speaking staff that will happily arrange everything for you. You will get an overall good training experience in both Muay Thai and MMA, plus they have nice little extra classes such as Yoga or, once a week, Muay Thai on the beach. If you can get a room on the camp itself it’s a really nice experience, even though the rooms are a bit old and you need to share a bathroom. Then there’s Phuket Top Team. Basically PTT took everything good about Tiger Muay Thai and made it more intimate. The PTT camp is 1/3 the size of the TMT campus, and is built to accommodate a lot less people.

Tiger Muay Thai can host around 300 students during high season, and Boyd, PTT’s owner, said he was going to cap attendance at 50 – whether he does it or not I have no idea – but that was the original plan. The reason why I chose to train at Phuket Top Team instead of Tiger Muay Thai on my subsequent training camp was because PTT was brand new, sponsored by Fairtex (so had all new gear), and I really liked the idea of a smaller, ‘dark horse’ type gym with the motto, “No Egos, Only Dedication” What I also liked was: the classes were a bit shorter but packed just as much quality into each training, there was less ‘fluff’ and more pad work. PTT also had the idea to hire only the best trainers from Thailand, have all of the students be dedicated and training to fight. It was a great idea and I respected it a lot so I joined the gym 2 weeks before it officially opened. Again, I lived on the camp itself; the rooms were brand new and very nice. The only problem with the rooms is they could have easily built a window in the back, which would have given a nice cross breeze, but didn’t. Also the mattresses were a good size but terrible quality – making the springs collapse within weeks.

I hope they replace them with harder, thin, Thai-style mats instead. The gym was built fairly quickly and the design works decently well; however, some things weren’t well thought out – if only the owner had asked other people for their advice before building it. Little things: like the office door should have faced the gym/main street, instead of being on the side, the L-shaped indoor grappling room could have been a wider rectangle and the juice bar should have been in the front or side. But none of that really matters because, overall, the training facility is great, the equipment is topnotch, the trainers are good and the prices are fair. There are, of course, tons of other gyms in the Phuket area but PTT and TMT are the only MMA gyms – the rest only focus on Muay Thai. The funny thing is, even though I always trained at MMA gyms, I only did Muay Thai classes 99% of the time. At Tiger I did Yoga once in a while and No-Gi JiuJitsu once a week. At Phuket Top Team I only did Jiu-Jitsu and MMA five times in the four months I was there. So, I finally asked myself, why don’t I just train at a Muay Thai only gym?

I looked into Rawai Muay Thai, Dragon, Suwit and Sinbi, and visited the gyms to watch one of their training sessions. I thought about training at Suwit since it was a good location, at the end of the street, and still relatively near TMT and PTT. Sinbi seemed like a great out of the way gym with nice rooms at the camp itself, but it was ridiculously over-priced at 32,000 baht ($1,066US) for 28 days of private room and training – and I’ve heard the training has gone downhill over the years. The newest Muay Thai gym in Phuket is Sumalee Boxing Gym (also in the Chalong Area), 10 minutes away from Tiger and Phuket Top Team. They have brand new Twins sponsored gym equipment (as of 2012) and have really nice on-site accommodation. They also have a meal plan which is a good way for people to get fed and hang out at the gym after training. However, their prices are really high, as well – almost the same as Sinbi’s. Phuket is, overall, an expensive place with a money-hungry mentality. Everyone – taxi drivers, bar girls, restaurant and gym owners – will try to make as much money from you as possible; it’s just the way it is. Living and training in Phuket is still a lot cheaper, though, than back home (if you factor in the cost of food and accommodation – even with the high-priced training), especially if you come from an expensive country such as Norway, Sweden, or even some parts of the U.K. I would recommend training in Phuket if it’s your first time in Thailand and only have a few months or less.

It’s perfect if you’re a guy in his early 20’s, here for 2, 4, or 8 weeks, especially if you’ve never been to Thailand before. It’s also a very good place to go for beginners and intermediate MMA. So, the two best gyms in Phuket would definitely be Tiger Muay Thai and Phuket Top Team even if you are only training Muay Thai. Both gyms have good equipment, are very clean and sanitary, have cheap on-site accommodation, and good training. They are both on the same street, which has become the Muay Thai and MMA town having tons of restaurants, pharmacies, housing, and massage shops close by. They are a 25-30 minute motorbike ride away from the beaches, and a 15 minute ride away from the Central Mall and Cinema. At both gyms you will meet plenty of other travelers and fighters, and you will leave with a good experience. So, which is better, Tiger Muay Thai or Phuket Top Team? I would have to say, overall, Tiger Muay Thai has the slight edge. TMT has more on-site accommodation and is much better organized. You also meet a lot more people at Tiger, have opportunities to meet a lot of bignamed UFC fighters, and bring home some ‘sick ass’ Tiger Muay Thai TShirts.

The reason why I give the best gym in Phuket award to Tiger Muay Thai, is (even though Phuket Top Team is a very close second, and a better gym in some aspects) TMT is the original and is the reason why every taxi driver in Phuket knows how to get to the street with the rest of the gyms. TMT put in the effort (and money) to start up a gym and introduce MMA to Thailand. Ironically, it is because of Phuket Top Team and other competitive gyms that Tiger Muay Thai is still good today. PTT forced TMT to raise the bar, remodel some of their outdated facilities, and build an indoor grappling area. Without PTT and other competition, there was a good chance that TMT would have let the gym get old, raise prices – as they would have been a monopoly – and get lazy. Competition is good for everyone. Phuket Top Team gets the award for best Gi Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in Thailand and best gym in Phuket for MMA fighters. The owner, Boyd, has good connections to set you up to fight all around Asia and Australia, and can get you free flights and all-expenses-paid trips to China to fight MMA. At the end of the day, it’s up to you where you want to train. But for me Tiger Muay Thai was the best gym I trained at, as a newbie; I had an amazing time and met some really cool people. Phuket Top Team was an amazing gym coming back to Phuket for a second fight-camp, after I had already familiarized myself with Phuket a bit.

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