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Hay River’s Brett Soroff wins Muay Thai fight in Thailand

Brett Soroff throws a kick at opponent Teepnarin Sor Sakchay during a 154-pound Muay Thai fight in Phuket, Thailand. Soroff was born and raised in Hay River. Photo courtesy of Brett Soroff

Brett Soroff is representing the NWT well in the brutal sport of Muay Thai.

On Feb. 3, the Hay River-born 31-year-old improved to 3-2-2 as a professional, defeating opponent Teepnarin Sor Sakchay by fourth-round stoppage in a 154-pound bout.

“It was an honour to share the ring with the guy with so much experience,” Soroff said of his Thai opponent, who has competed in hundreds of bouts. “I’ve seen him fight before. I’ve seen him wear guys out. They’ll hit him with everything they’ve got in the first two rounds and he won’t go away.

“[In round four], I saw that he was dipping his head a little bit, so I double-jabbed him, then I went to pull his arm down, and I came down over the top with the right elbow, and I split him open.

“The ref ended up waving it off.”

Muay Thai, or Thai boxing, originated in Thailand, and is believed to date back to at least the 16th century. Nicknamed “the art of eight limbs,” it is a combat sport that allows strikes with the fists, legs, elbows and knees. In professional bouts, like Soroff’s last seven, competitors wear boxing gloves, but no head gear or padding.

Soroff has been living in Phuket for close to a year, training under the tutelage of the world-class coaches at Sinbi Muay Thai, and fighting whenever he gets the opportunity against a mix of Thais and other foreigners. While not every fight has gone his way, being in Thailand has been an invaluable experience, and one he never could have anticipated when he first discovered the sport many years ago.

A hockey player while growing up, Soroff got his first exposure to Muay Thai when he was working at the Gahcho Kué diamond mine. During his time off, he would visit Calgary, and one day went to a local gym, where he tried out the heavy bag. One of the coaches there offered him a private session, and before long, he was training as often as he could.

When he was invited to train in Thailand with his coaches and training partners, he leapt at the chance. His first visit to the country was hindered by an arm injury he suffered just before leaving, but the quality of training was so good that he soon made plans to return and train there for a longer period.

In Phuket, Soroff is up at 5 a.m. every morning, and running among motorbikes and stray dogs by 6 a.m., but said he has “nothing to complain about.” The combat sport has given him a sense of purpose that he lacked for much of his younger life. He admits he got into his share of trouble back home in the NWT, and that he often wondered what his future would hold.

“Since I started training and fighting, everything in life is starting to make a lot more sense,” he said. “I didn’t always have the easiest life. I’m really glad I found this because, honestly, I didn’t know what I was going to do with my life. I was just working and doing what everyone else was doing, but I always knew I had to do something else.

“I was like, there’s something I’m supposed to be doing right now, but I’m not doing it. I don’t have that feeling anymore. I know what I’m supposed to be doing with my life.”

Soroff has big goals for his Muay Thai career.

So far, all of his fights have been around Phuket, but the biggest opportunities in the sport can be found a short flight north in Bangkok, home to the world famous Lumpinee and Rajadamnern Muay Thai stadiums.

Only the best fighters are called upon to compete in those hallowed venues. Soroff knows he has lots of training to do before he gets the opportunity, but believes being a Northerner gives him a natural advantage.

“There’s so many very strong people in the Northwest Territories,” he said. “We’re very hard people, and I didn’t really realize it until I started living out here and fighting. My mentality for things was a lot different.”

It will take time, but Soroff hopes to one day earn a stadium title in Thailand, and bring it back to Hay River to share with his friends and family.

“That day is gonna be a good day, not just for me, but for my family — and when I say family, I don’t just mean my blood,” he said. “I have a lot of people that I consider family that have helped me along the way. I wouldn’t be here without them. They all know who they are, I don’t need to mention any names, but I’d really like to bring something like that back home for everyone to celebrate.”

Whatever his future in Muay Thai holds, Soroff hopes his journey will inspire people back home in the NWT and across the North.

“To be able to represent everyone in the North, it’s amazing because there’s so many good people and, you know, we don’t have much either. We all have to work with what we got.

“It’s nice to be able to show everyone back home that you can do these crazy, crazy things. If you have a dream, you can follow through with it. You just have to make it happen.”

Hay River’s Brett Soroff celebrates a Muay Thai victory in Phuket, Thailand. Soroff defeated his opponent, Thailand’s Teepnarin Sor Sakchay, by fourth-round stoppage. Photo courtesy of Brett Soroff