Sean Fagan is no stranger to the world of Muay Thai. Having taken several trips to Thailand to train and fight along with hosting the popular website Muay Thai Guy Sean has immersed himself in the sport. Hailing out of upstate New York he has had over 20 amateur fights and is making his U.S. professional debut against Turan Hasanov (Sor Sangtennoi) at Fight Night Fights on October 17th in New York City. Sean took the time out of his busy schedule to talk to me about fighting, his site, and his outlook on training.
Why did you start Muay Thai Guy?
I started it as a training journal to hold myself accountable. I wanted to allow people to read about my journey in Muay Thai. Having the site added a little more motivation to keep going with training.
How has the site developed?
It’s been crazy. It used to look like a piece of crap. The design was horrible, I still don’t think the design is that good but it’s come a long way. The site has grown into a resource for people and has become more than just my training journal. It’s been great to see it grow and the community that has evolved from it.
What are some of the difficulties or hardships of having the site?
The most difficult thing is consistency. It’s hard to always be updating and improving upon it. There’s also all the social media stuff involved with it. So the consistency can be hard. Also being vulnerable to the criticisms of a bunch of Muay Thai aficionados can be difficult as they are looking at my career and me. I don’t personally like that too much, although a lot of people like following along so I’ve continued it. There’s added pressure whenever I fight or go to Thailand because a lot of people are judging me, whether positive or negative.
Do you get a lot of negative feedback?
Not necessarily. The way it works I get overwhelming positive comments and reinforcement for how my website has helped people in one-way or another. For every 100 positive comments I get one asshole that feels the need to bring me down. Usually that one person makes some passive aggressive comment and it lingers in the back of my mind. I try to ignore it, or think how they’re just boring people who have nothing better to do than to try to bring people down on the internet but those sorts of behaviors always get to me a little bit. I think that’s human nature though. I’m trying to learn how to deal with the negative and positive in stride.
What do you like about being so involved in the sport? Most fighters are obviously deeply entrenched but you’ve taken it to another level by working in the media aspect along with being in the fight game itself.
The fan interaction and seeing how what I do affects other people, people losing weight or picking up a technique that they learned from my site. Meeting people in person is always a trip because I forget that people actually read the site. In Thailand people would come up to me and say “Oh my god it’s Sean from Muay Thai Guy. I love your website.” That interaction really put things into perspective and makes all the hard work worthwhile.
What are your goals with Muay Thai Guy?
I don’t think I’ve reached my goals but I’ve definitely come a lot further than I ever thought I would. The fact that I’ve been able to reach so many people and help other people with their game is something that I didn’t expect at first. I’d love to be able to create an income from it so I don’t have to worry about putting food on the table or paying rent or paying for my dog’s vet bill. I’d love if it gave me the freedom and flexibility to continue to pursue Muay Thai full time. I’d love it if it also allowed me to travel and go to Thailand once in a while as well.
You’ve trained out of Black and Blue in Kingston, New York; Stockade Martial Arts; along with Evolution in New York City and gyms in Thailand. What do you think the pros and cons of having moved around to a few gyms have been?
I think the major pro is getting different looks from different trainers and being able to spar with different training partners really makes you improve. You’re constantly being broken down and built back up. Whether it’s basic techniques or game planning and strategies by moving around I’m able to pick and choose what I like from different trainers and implement that into my own game. As for cons, I don’t see that many, as long as I’m able to bounce around from gym to gym in a respectful way without being a douche about it. All my trainers, and training partners have been cool with it. If there’s one con, it’s that by moving around my trainer hasn’t been given as much time to pinpoint techniques and adjust them. Other than that, there’s not a lot to complain about though.
What gyms in Thailand have you gone to?
The majority of time has been at Patong Boxing Gym. It’s a touristy gym; I’m not gonna lie. It was good though because I was able to meet some Australians and other foreigners that were professionals back home. The Thais had hundreds of fights as well and being able to work with them as well was great. Although it was a very touristy area I didn’t find myself going out and doing all the touristy stuff. I ended up focusing on my training. It was definitely a life changing experience the first time I went there.
In my recent trip I went to Nitah Muay Thai. A friend of mine, Anita Bell, from Patong Boxing gym opened up Nitah Muay Thai so I went there and trained. I went to a gym in Isaan and trained there as well. I am not even sure what the name of the gym was. It was very rural. They just had a couple of bags and fighters. I’m not even sure if the gym had a name. It was pretty cool getting that taste of Thailand – away from all the crowds and foreigners. Then I went to Koh Phangan island and trained at Diamond Gym. That gym really fit my personality. Even though Koh Phangan is pretty touristy, island life is really laid back. I usually trained just once a day, occasionally twice a day, but the people, the environment, the weather etc. is a lot more appealing to me than a gym in Bangkok or Phuket.
How would you compare training here in the States to training in Thailand?
There’s a big difference. In Thailand you get trainers holding pads for you every single session so you get more work in that way. Here in the States I feel like I do train harder, whether it’s an ego thing or because I know that I’m going to fight in front of friends, family and fans. Also having dedicated training partners who have been around, along with my trainers who have been an important part of my life, and having a tangible second family here motivates me a little more than in Thailand which is more Muay Thai tourism.
What weight do you walk around at? What is your ideal fight weight?
I walk around at 155 to 160 depending on how much I’m working out and how much I’m eating. Typically I am closer to 160 though. I’ve fought between 142 and 154 but my best weight is probably at 145. Turning pro I’ll be fighting a lot of tougher guys that are cutting a lot of weight so going down to 142 or 140 makes a lot of sense to me.
What are your goals with fighting?
Essentially to be the best I can be. I know it’s a cliché answer but it’s true for me. I’d love to fight for Lion Fight or Glory. I do it because it’s fun and as long as I’m enjoying fighting, I’m going to continue to fight.
What do you like about fighting? What do you dislike about it?
I loathe the weight cut. It’s the stupidest thing about combat sports in general. Everyone is agreeing to cheat in a sense. It takes away from the fighters’ performance in that they have to cut 15 to 20 lbs in water weight and then regain it, whereas if they agreed to a general weight they would get so much of a better performance from the fighters. It would help with the longevity of the fighters. It would help the sport.
What I love about it is the competition. I grew up playing hockey, soccer, and baseball. I’ve always been a team sport guy. No matter how you good you do sometimes it doesn’t matter, as if the rest of the team doesn’t do their part, you can still lose. Fighting puts all the pressure on yourself, your doing. If you lose it’s all your fault. I like that pressure because it makes me perform.
How do you feel when you fight?
It’s weird. It’s almost an out of body experience. I’m normally aware of my body, my thoughts, and my mind but when I fight I just let my body take over, letting my training and the muscle memory take control. If you think too much in the context of a fight it’s going to slow you down.
You’ve fought in Thailand but will you train differently as a professional versus as an amateur?
Not necessarily. My training has gotten a lot better as I’m training smarter and not necessarily just more. After talking to other pros like Joseph Valtellini and hearing about how he goes about training, has changed my view. He puts in about 2 hours of hard training in a night. He’s completely focused and puts in intense rounds. I’m training to mirror the same outlook. I’m trying to pay attention and get the most out of my training. I’ve found in Thailand when I would train six to eight hours a day, six days a week, I would hate it. I would pick up bad habits. I wouldn’t be learning anything. The main thing that has changed for me about my training is just being smarter about my camps. I don’t want to completely tear down my body but train smarter.
So what’s your training camp for Turan look like?
I’ve been training at Stockcade Martial Arts about four times a week, doing pad work and sparring with my buddy Chris Maucerti who actually fought Turan back in December. It’s been great being able to pick his brain about his bout with Turan. I’ve also been going down to Evolution Muay Thai about once a week to get sparring with Jaffer Panezai who will be fighting on the same card.. Besides that, doing roadwork.
What do you think you’ll do differently in this fight compared to some of your previous fights?
Mainly I want to fight smarter. Most of my fights in my amateur career I was able to win based on aggression and walk through my opponents punches and kicks. My most recent fight in the states was against Chris Williams who is a big dude at 145. He walks around at 170, 175. He kicked like a horse and ended up breaking my arm. I was just trying to eat the kicks to deliver some strikes. I had a lot of time to sit down and contemplate my career and the way I was going, which made me realize that if I wanted to keep going I would have to be smarter in terms of what I do in the fighting itself. So now I’m trying to be more detail oriented and be more of a player. Essentially I want to win, not solely on will and aggression, but because I was the better and smarter fighter.
How would you describe yourself as a fighter?
Aggressive. That’s for sure. I’d like to think of myself as tough. I’ve been able to fight through some pretty serious injuries. I haven’t been knocked down in over 20 something fights so I’d like to think that my toughness is one of my top qualities. That being said, I don’t want that to be my only quality. I don’t want to win only because of my toughness. My boxing has been a big part of my wins so far but my kicks are getting better and my clinch feels a lot stronger, especially after training in Thailand for a while. Generally though, the aggression, the toughness and the hard hands is what I’m known for. I’d like to be known for being a complete well rounded fighter.
Do you ever experience burn out and what do you do about it?
Yes. I’ve had 3 or 4 periods of burn out. It makes you doubt everything you do. You ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?” I’ve had to take a step back and take some time off – a week or two, maybe even a month. I’ve had to reassess my goals and where I’m going with my life. Usually I’ve realized that Muay Thai is such a positive thing in my life that I need to continue to do it. You think that after a while I’d not go through these phases. It’s about being more self aware of what I’m doing and putting in and finding balance with other areas of my life; that way I’m not putting in 100% Muay Thai 100% of the time.
What do you do with your free time?
Usually with my free time I am hanging out with my girlfriend or spending time working on my website. I adopted a dog in Thailand so I spend a lot of time with the dog. I do yoga as a part of my training, along with as a way to get away from everything and escape. I try to read as much as I can. I really like my alone time. Even though I put myself out on the Internet, I’m very introverted. I like being alone a lot more than being in public.
What does your girlfriend think of your fighting?
She’s very supportive. She does get frustrated when I’m cutting weight. It becomes difficult cooking meals, or going out to eat together and of course I’m crankier than normal. I have less energy as well. I’m not there as much as I could be. In terms of actual fighting part, she is supportive but does get nervous every time I fight. I’ve had a couple injuries in recent fights that makes her even more nervous than she used to be. She knows Muay Thai is something that I love and it keeps me disciplined and focused, so she’s supportive. She’s been there throughout my whole career.
Where do you think Muay Thai in American is going?
Muay Thai here in the states has grown exponentially since I’ve become involved. With promotions like Lion Fights and Friday Night Fights I think it will just go up and up. It might not reach the same level as MMA or UFC but I think it can continue a tier below it and still be building fighters; hopefully it won’t get watered down in that process. I definitely see the sport growing and I don’t see how or why it would stop.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I’d like to thank my parents who have been super supportive since day one. Also my girlfriend Liz who has been there through the ups and downs. And of course my trainers JJ Russo, Brandon Levi, John Nuculovic, my sponsors; PNP Supplements for supplying me with supplements to get me through training camp and for Matt Lucas’ new book “The Boxer’s Soliloquy” for supporting my fight camp and every one else who has helped me in one way or another, including my fans and supporters!