When we talk about the millennia-old Burmese traditional martial art of lethwei, it would be remiss to not mention one specific minority ethnic group of Myanmar, the Karen people. During the dark days of the country under the junta regime, especially in the late 1980s and 1990s, most of the lethwei venues and stadiums were closed or used for different purposes. The Karen people were the only group that persevered and did their lethwei spectacles throughout the state to keep the sport alive. Karen people managed to practices their own cultures and customs and created a vital importance pulse for traditional combat sport. Now, the work is bearing fruit as most of the world’s best lethwei athletes hail from the state.
Last year, World Lethwei Championship made history by holding the first globally-broadcast show of any kind from Hpa-An, the capital of Kayin State. With the main card broadcasting live on UFC Fight Pass, WLC: Karen Spirit took place from Chit Thu Myaing Park on the foot of Mount Zwekabin in Hpa-An and it was a night to remember.
The fights featured that night were a rousing success. Ba Hein and Hein Tun Aung each got knockout finishes to kick the night off and in the third fight, local sensation Thway Thit Maung produced a heroic comeback performance. Then Vietnamese female athlete Huynh Ha Huu Hieu showed her skillsets beautifully at the women’s division bout and made a clear statement that she will be one to watch at the promotion for a title.
Experienced local favorite Thway Thit Aung faced the Irish athlete David McCarthy, who was at least 12 inches taller than him, in a Welterweight bout. But the determination and performance of Thway Thit Aung won him the fight via unanimous decision.
In the co-main event, German-Thai Burutlek Petchyindee Academy knocked out Kyaw Zin Latt, former Light Welterweight Myanmar National Champion, with a killer elbow strike at the very first round.
WLC: Karen Spirit’s main event was a spotlight for sportsmanship and local favorite athlete Mite Yine won over Cambodian Morn Samet with a split decision. But they both showed incredible sportsmanship during 15 minutes of nine limbs war and fans were very impressed by their big heart performances. It was a momentous occasion for the state and its people, with its culture showcased to the world.