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Christine Toledo, Vice President of Lion Fight Promotions

BY JOAN WHITELY -- Christine Toledo, a 35-year-old fight promoter and Henderson mom, said she always wants to jump back in the ring whenever she watches a Muay Thai bout she has arranged.

She’s the matchmaker who recruited the athletes – including Thai stand-out Yodsanklai Fairtext – for the fight event set for July 26 at The Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.

Three years ago, Toledo – who competed in Muay Thai at the pro level – co-founded Lion Fight Promotions with Scott Kent. Based in Las Vegas, the business focuses exclusively on Muay Thai, a martial art that began centuries ago in Thailand but is not widely known in the United States. She and Scott met at an amateur Muay Thai event, where both were officiating.

“It’s the eight-limbed art,” Toledo said, explaining the sport’s Thai name. Muay Thai allows fighters to use their elbows and knees, in addition to their fists and feet. It’s a stand-up sport, with no grappling on the ground.

“It’s just not as brutal,” she said of kick boxing as compared to Muay Thai. In a clinch, Muay Thai fighters take advantage of their elbows and knees, which can inflict severe lacerations, similar to head butting in Western style boxing. Boxing, in contrast, doesn’t allow fighters to lock in a clinch to keep inflicting cuts.

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When Americans seem confused about her sport Toledo likes to point out that if they watch UFC events, then they’ve already encountered Muay Thai. In the “stand-up part of (UFC), most of the time they’re using Muay Thai” techniques, she said.

To recruit fighters to the Lion Fights banner, Toledo plans amateur events to observe new fighters. She also watches fight videos and uses her worldwide contacts. During her pro career, she fought matches in England, China and Thailand, and got to know their athletes and trainers. Toledo fought 20 bouts total, six of them pro. Her record was 17 wins, three losses.

Not bad for a woman who dropped out of middle school soccer after she broke a toe.  Toledo said she took up Muay Thai in her early 20s, simply for a change from “going to the gym and running around the block.”

Unlike other fight sports, Muay Thai is not organized into leagues. Fighters are loyal to the particular master they train with, and are dispersed among numerous “camps” around the world.

Since her sport is not yet well-known in the States, the fight purses aren’t high compared to boxing or mixed martial arts. That, Toledo admitted, causes a talent drain, as some top fighters migrate over to the UFC and MMA. “That’s our goal,” she said, to make Muay Thai as popular and lucrative as the other “blood sports.”                      

But, she added, Muay Thai fighters are “graceful when they throw their strokes. I don’t see the violence.”

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(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
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