ONE Bantamweight Muay Thai World Champion Nong-O Gaiyanghadao has been unrivaled on the world stage since his debut in 2018. The undefeated Thai superstar held the division belt for three years and defended it five times to cut the breath.
Next up for Nong-O will be England’s Liam “Hitnman” Harrison, who has made it clear he is the man to dethrone the longtime king.
Harrison earned his shot at ONE Championship gold with a stunning comeback against Muangthai PK.Saenchai last April. After being knocked down twice in the opening minutes, Harrison came back strong to score three knockdowns and take the win before the first round was over. His electric performances solidified the Briton as one of the baddest men in combat sports.
Although the date of their world title fight has yet to be announced, Nong-O is already excited to take on the Leeds native as he is his favorite Muay Thai athlete.
“It may sound ridiculous to say that my favorite Muay Thai fighter and kickboxer is Liam Harrison, my next challenger,” Nong-O told ONE. “I have been for quite a long time. I love his style. His fights are always exciting and fun to watch. Besides, he’s a good guy in the Circle. He does not take advantage of his opponents.
“I first met him at [ONE Elite Retreat] in Phuket. He approached to greet me. At that time, I still didn’t know him, so I introduced myself. I said, ‘My name is Nong-O.’ And he said, ‘Oh, I know you well.’ I was quite surprised that he recognized me. Since then we started talking every time we met at ONE [events]. I respect him so much.
Nong-O credits Hitman’s vast combat experience as the reason he was able to come back against Muangthai, and the Thai legend believes one area is when both athletes are equal.
“Liam could come back, [after being knocked down twice by Muangthai], because he has more experience,” Nong-O said. “He could read the game better than Muangthai. He knew Muangthai already had two knockdowns and he would rush to seal the deal. But Liam is a veteran. When he was [being] counted, he would not rush to get up. He waited to recover and get up strong.
“I think Liam’s skills are very good. He’s a strategist. He’s a veteran fighter. Compared to me, our skills and experience are on par. [The result will] depend on our physical condition on the day of the fight and how you prepare, as well as our game plan in the circle.
While he compliments Harrison’s aggressive style, Nong-O isn’t ready to call it his toughest challenge yet. He believes it belongs to his fellow Thai fighters. That said, the reigning bantamweight king is well aware of the dangers Harrison will bring into the circle with him – and he’s ready to go into deep waters with him.
“If I only counted the foreign opponents, I would say yes, [Harrison] is the most dangerous opponent I have ever faced,” Nong-O said. “He has fought many famous Muay Thai fighters including Thai legend Saenchai. Of course, Liam’s most dangerous weapons are punches and kicks. His powerful punches can knock you out in one hit. For his leg kicks, I’ve seen a lot of his opponents get knocked out by them. I often study his techniques and his practices on YouTube, and I found him to be a good striker.
“For our world title fight, I believe we are both going to do it all. And I’m sure it will end in a knockout, either for him or for me. It depends on which weapons will hit the target first. He has big punches and kicks. I have them too. Let’s see who will do better in the Circle.
Nong-O has a lot of good things to say about his future opponent, but he’s also a warrior and a champion. So, as he prepares for his upcoming world title defense, the Evolve MMA contender had one final message for Harrison.
“Liam, I’m going to do everything in our next fight,” Nong-O said. “You should prepare well because I’m about to knock you out, that’s for sure.”