Fil-Am fighter gets a kick out of Muay Thai

By Brandi Perez Filipino Press Staff Writer Romie Adanza is a small guy with big dreams. Standing only 5 feet 4 inches tall and weighing just 122 pounds, the professional Muay Thai fighter hopes to one day have his name mentioned alongside great fighters like Manny Pacquiao and Brandon Vera. He’s also hoping a world title will give him, and the sport, increased recognition. Adanza, the current International Karate Kickboxing Council (IKKC) MuayThai International Super Bantamweight champion, is set to defend his title against Haigang Huang of China on Oct. 2nd during a World Championship Kickboxing MuayThai event at Pala Casino. The defending champion doesn’t have an exact answer for the combination of skills he expects to use to take out China’s national champion, who has a record of 26 wins and 12 losses. “Whatever works,” Adanza said. “I’m just going to keep doing that until he falls down.” Muay Thai, also known as the art of eight limbs, is a combination of boxing and kickboxing in which fighters are allowed to use their knees, shins, hands and elbows. The 31-year-old Adanza is known as a dynamic kicker and striker, always looking for a knockout early on. “I’m very aggressive. I move forward,” Adanza said. “My right hand is my strongest weapon. I always fall back on it.” Adanza currently holds a 7-2 record with his pro-am scorecard showing 27 wins (13 by way of knockout), three losses and two draws. His former titles include World Boxing Council MuayThai International Super Bantamweight champion and WBC MuayThai U.S. National Super Bantamweight champion, which he had to give up when he won his international title. Adanza lost his WBC title in December 2009 to Japanese fighter Kunitaka Fujiwara. He is eager to challenge him later this year and regain the title. Even without the international title, Adanza still boasts an impressive resume. He is currently the No. 1 MuayThai fighter in the super bantamweight division in the United States. He is also currently ranked by WBC MuayThai as No. 14 in the world in the super bantamweight division. The WBC MuayThai has 17 weight categories for fighters around the world, with the top 20 fighters ranked in each category for a total of 340 ranked fighters. There are only eight Americans ranked among the 340 fighters — Adanza is one of them. Falling in love with boxing came almost accidentally for Adanza. “My friend wanted to check out a boxing gym, so one day I went with him,” he said. “The guy was a good salesman. He offered a two-for-one deal. We both ended up joining. I became addicted to it.” He was 18 at the time, and after boxing for five years Adanza stumbled across Muay Thai. “I just got into it,” he said with a laugh. “I was boxing and then I just flipped over. I saw people kicking and I wanted to kick too.” Falling for the sport may have been exactly the right release for Adanza. He was kicked out of high school and sent to an alternative school. He later found that Muay Thai was an outlet for his anger, and has been practicing the sport ever since. The Orange County resident said he is always working on Muay Thai, whether he’s competing, practicing or training others. Adanza has been a trainer and coach at Team Oyama MMA & Fitness in Irvine for the last 10 years. He trains the younger fighters on the team, mentors others and searches for new talent. “I got lucky,” he smiled. “I get a lot of time to train. I get to spend time with my kids. They love it at the gym.” Adanza has a 3 ½-year-old son and a 10-year-old daughter. “My kids are my inspiration,” Adanza said. “I’m doing it for them. They’ve been to all my fights. They love it.” No matter how hard he tries, Adanza said he just can’t seem to stray away from the sport. “I’ve tried other things,” he said. “But I always come back to this. Things are good.” Adanza, who is the first American-born Filipino in his family, admitted that being a professional athlete isn’t all that glamorous. “The hardest part is getting paid for it,” he said. “It’s a lot of abuse for not much money. But it’s still worth it. My body is already breaking down, but I’ve got a few more years left in me.” Adanza has also taken his share of verbal jabs for his appearance, but said he isn’t too worried about what his critics say. “People may think I’m a punk because I’m tatted up and bald,” Adanza said. “You either like me or you dislike me. I try to have a sense of humor, make people laugh.” Not very many people have gotten to know Adanza since Muay Thai hasn’t gone mainstream yet. “Muay Thai is a sport that just hasn’t exploded in this part of the world,” Adanza said. “It would be great to see it grow.” He said Muay Thai hasn’t hit it big yet because it isn’t televised or promoted. The sport also has to compete with top contenders who box or take up mixed martial arts. The Houston native originally wanted to compete in mixed martial arts but there wasn’t a weight class for him, so he turned to Muay Thai. With less than a dozen professional fights under his belt, he’s having a hard time looking for competition. Fighting at 122 pounds, Adanza said there aren’t too many competitors in his weight class nearby. Either he or his opponent has to travel, so he doesn’t get to compete as often as he would like. Adanza is also at a disadvantage because of his height. Many contenders are quite a few inches taller and have a longer reach. Determined to get in more fights, Adanza is looking to change weight classes with the hope that he’ll find more competition. “Next year, my goal is to get down to 115 pounds,” he said. “I want to get ready for those Thai guys. I want to be able to put up a good fight.” Before making the transition to a different weight class, Adanza is looking for a rematch. Following his Oct. 2 fight he wants to challenge Fujiwara and take back the WBC Muaythai International Super Bantamweight title. After that, Adanza has a few goals in mind. But he isn’t going to let details worry him. “I’m pretty laid back,” he said. “I try not to stress about the little stuff. Things always fall into place.” ------------------------------------------------- What: Current International Karate Kickboxing Council MuayThai International Super Bantamweight Champion Romie Adanza defends his title against Haigang Huang of China Where: 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 2 at Pala Casino. Tickets: Tickets start at $40 and $100 ringside. Tickets are available at the Pala Casino Box office with no service charge or online at Charge by phone at 1-877-446-7962. Fans must be at least 21 years old. Tickets: Tickets start at $40 and $100 ringside. Tickets are available at the Pala Casino Box office with no service charge or online at Charge by phone at 1-877-446-7962. Fans must be at least 21 years old.

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