Sweden’s Teresa Wintermyr ( Teresa Sinbi Muay Thai) is the current WMC World champion at 118 lbs. She defeated Finland’s Sonal Pattni (Sunanta Rawai Muay Thai) for the belt on November 30, 2012 in Phuket, Thailand.
Let’s begin with how you started training muay thai.
It was a bit random to be honest. I was exercising a lot when I was in my teens but mostly for the sake of staying slim or getting slimmer as I was working as a model. In my twenties I stopped all exercise and got into a somewhat unhealthy lifestyle. At 27 I decided to take up training again but as I had been very fit before it didn’t take long to get back into it. I felt I needed a new goal as motivation to exercise. I decided to start doing some kind of sport instead of just going to a gym and as I had been doing taekwondo when I was younger I chose kickboxing. However I didn’t really like kickboxing and wasn’t very good at it either. After a few months I read an article in a fighter’s magazine about a Swedish girl who went to train Muay Thai at a camp in Thailand and also had a fight there. I thought it sounded amazing and decided to go to the very same gym in the north of Thailand and try it out. I had never tried Muay Thai before but bought a book about it so that I was prepared when I got there. I went by myself to stay there for a month. It was a small camp that was just new, there was a few foreigners there who were all fighters but I was the only female and a beginner. I can’t explain what happened in my head there. But within a few days I was completely consumed with this new experience; I fell in love with the sport and with the lifestyle. I trained the whole month and had my first fight just before I went home. When I got back to Sweden I was a changed person. All I could talk and think about was Muay Thai and Thailand. Nothing else seemed important anymore. People must have thought I was crazy. The only thing I cared about was going back to Thailand as soon as I could. Three months later I went back for another six months.
What has been your (muay thai) path in Thailand, including your current record?
Well. On my second trip I ended up training in Phuket because I had Swedish friends living there. I trained at J Prapa Muay Thai and during my six months I had six fights for them in the different local stadiums. I was quite unevenly matched in the beginning, my second fight was against the current Champion of Northern Thailand with over 20 fights and she smashed me. However, I went the rounds and managed to cut her with elbows, too. I remember there was blood coming down on her white top towards the end of the fight. I was completely unfamiliar with the scoring system at this point, I was relying on my hands rather than kicking or kneeing. My third fight was even worse. I fought an experienced Thai girl who was as tall as me but bigger! I was literally only defending myself throughout the whole fight and couldn’t do anything. I got elbowed in the first round. Again, I went the distance and after the fight I was crying in disappointment. My trainers thought I was crying because I was in pain but I told them I was crying because I wanted to win! I think that’s when they realized I had something because I was being taken more seriously after that. After this fight I started winning. I kept on knocking people out with my knees!
When my six months were up I didn’t feel at all like I had had enough; I was just getting started! When my parents picked me up at the airport the first thing I said to them was that I was going back for more! Ten weeks later I had quit my job, rented out my apartment, sold some stuff and saved up as much money I possibly could and left Sweden for Thailand again. That was in Dec 2008 and since then I have been living here.
I had in total 19 fights for J Prapa. After 1,5 years training with them I left and was offered to train at Rawai Muay Thai. The training there was different from J Prapa but I got used to it. I was at RMT for two years and since October 2011 I am training and fighting out of Sinbi Muay Thai. I have also visited a couple of gyms in Bangkok during my career.
Now, 5 years after I started, I have a record of 49 fights. 28 wins (14 Ko/Tko) 21 losses and 0 draws. The majority of my fights were fought in Phuket but I also fought in Bangkok, in rural areas of Thailand at temple festivals etc and I had a few international fights as well.
You work as well as train, which I find remarkable considering the Thai training regimen. How do you balance the two?
Working and training is really, really hard. I only work because I have to but I am thankful because the job was offered to me by complete coincidence and without it I wouldn’t have been able to stay here. I am the manager of a Swedish restaurant in the tourist area and work only during the high-season which means Nov-April each year. The salary is enough to support myself throughout the low season when I don’t have to work and can focus on only training and fighting. It also supplies me with medical insurance, work permit and a visa. Working and training means getting only 5 hours sleep a night before I get up and train in the morning. Then I sleep again. If I have a fight coming up I squeeze another run in before I start work in the afternoon. I work six days a week but if I fight I normally need two days off so it means that I usually fight on my days off and work to compensate for that when I am not fighting. It’s physically hard cause I don’t get enough rest and after each year I have been scared that I won’t be able to do it the next year. But then it has become easier and easier each year so I guess my body is slowly adapting. The first year was the worst, I actually sometimes wouldn’t wake up and slept through training cause I was so tired. The lack of sleep and the fact I have no time off to recover is the biggest problem. I can only do it because of willpower really. I try to do less fights while I work. But not fighting while I am working is not an option, neither is quitting my job.
What was your toughest fight?
I have to mention two: Iman Barlow who I fought last year and my rematch just a few days ago in Bangkok against Kwan Jai, the current WMC champion at 112 lbs. I fought her for that title in August and lost. That weight was too low for me and this time we fought at 118 lbs instead (not for a title) but she was even tougher and stronger in this fight which I hadn’t expected. These two are by far the toughest opponents I have ever fought.
Your recent WMC title win was against Sunanta Rawai Muay Thai. You’ve fought her before. Can you tell us about your history leading to this rematch?
We used to be friends and training partners when I was at Rawai Muay Thai. After two years I was asked to leave the gym and was given no explanation whatsoever. A few weeks later I started at Sinbi and the owner of Rawai called the owner of Sinbi and wanted a fight between me and Sunanta. What I found very odd about it was the attitude I was receiving from both her and my old gym. As far I was concerned, there had never been any hard feelings up until that point, but now all of a sudden I was being talked about as the underdog although I had over 20 more fights than her. They clearly expected her to easily beat me and I was wondering what that belief could possibly be based on. Rawai even demanded the red corner although the event was being held at Sinbi, my own gym! It was obvious that this was a personal fight that they wanted to see happening rather than a professional one. I have fought another friend before and there were no feelings of grudge or disrespect whatsoever. However, now my opponent and her gyms’ attitude was very arrogant and disrespectful without any reason at all. There was a 70,000 baht bet on this fight and I won. Two weeks later, Sunanta won the WMC World Title at 118 lbs. I later fought for the title at 112 lbs but I couldn’t perform well at that weight. In November 2012 I challenged Sunanta for her title and won the fight by unanimous decision.
Any advice for people who want to live and train in Thailand?
Yes. First of all, know that this is not for everyone. You will have to make a number of changes in your beliefs and in your character in order to lead a successful life here if you are thinking about staying here longterm. Is it worth it for you? The culture here is miles away from what we are used to at home and accepting that is the biggest challange. But it’s all about attitude really. It’s up to you how you choose to deal with it. Shortly, my simple advice would be to have a goal and to work hard and consistently towards it. And always, always, ALWAYS listen to your gut feeling. Your gut feeling is always right.