by Don Heatrick

Bryan Popejoy has found himself at the forefront of American Muay Thai since the 1980’s, literally involved from Illinois in the East, through Arizona, to California in the West.

His experience both as a Muay Thai fighter himself (in the early “Wild West” period of American Muay Thai), and as a coach to some of the best fighters in the US, provides a valuable insight into what it takes to succeed in Muay Thai on the world stage.

In this episode…

Bryan Popejoy, coach and owner of Boxing Works Gym in California, a former IFMA Gold medallist Thai boxer himself, and the first US coach to have a fighter win a One Championship title, with Janet Todd. And not to mention a Muay Thai Golden Era aficionado!

You can follow Byan on Instagram @bryanpopejoy, and follow the Boxing Works Gym @boxingworks

And check out the Boxing Works website

Full show notes for this episode with further references and resources below!

Each episode revolves around my Four Big Questions

  1. What’s Your Story?
  2. What’s Your Why?
  3. What Makes A Champion?
  4. Challenges And Lessons Learned?

Digging into the answers to these questions helps uncover and share both the commonalities, and the differences in the journey to become a champion. And can help inspire and fast-track your journey too.

During this informative episode, these are the points you shouldn’t miss…

0:00 – Intro and how Bryan Popejoy got into Muay Thai, from punk rocker to the skinny fighter from the magazines.

6:52 – Does this work? Post High School chapter – from self defense to competition

9:11 – Muay Thai from Illinois, through Arizona, to California

11:14 – Boxing Works Gym… Ending up with a gym, well before he deserved to?! 

12:01 – Stable of fighters: Janet Todd (ONE Championship), Jackie Buntan (ONE Championship) and Nathan Ward (Glory Kickboxing).

13:37 – Intrigue… Hard training and strange cultural aspects!

17:26 – Appreciation for the people in Muay Thai 

19:38 – Going in, all or nothing as a coach to those Bryan loves.

22:58 – Using fighting to get know the real you – willingly putting yourself at risk

24:20 – Flow state for fighters is where it’s at!  

27:30 – Don on using flow to accidentally KO an opponent 

31:10 –  Using your own fight experience to empathise with your fighters

33:38 – The differences a fighter should expect when stepping up to fight on events like the One Championship 

37:37 – Bryan shares what makes a champion?

39:40 – Having the right amount of “selfish” as a fighter  

42:44 – The hidden energy demands that can sabotage a fighter

48:10 – General adaptation syndrome and HRV 

52:03 – Balancing the fighter’s instinct just thrash themselves all the time 

55:45 – Do you need to replicate the Thai training/lifestyle outside of Thailand?

01:00:06 – Fighter’s cultural taboo

01:02:44 – The challenge of finding domestic fighting opportunities for high level female fighters in the US

01:05:17 – Balancing the business side of the gym, with the fighting side, and family life!

01:08:31 – Evolving from cookie cutter training approach to an individualised one

01:12:30 – Recognising you’re not always ready to learn something yet 

01:17:14 – Bryan’s advice to achieve whatever you set out to do

Don Heatrick

Founder of Heatrick Strength and Conditioning

Don Heatrick is a family man from the UK, former mechanical design engineer, European Muay Thai silver medallist, former pro Thai boxer (ranked 4th in UK while aged 40-years), a Muay Thai coach, podcast host, and the go-to expert on Muay Thai performance training with over 25 years of coaching experience.

Don helps ambitious fighters and coaches take their game to the next level by bridging the gap between Strength & Conditioning, Performance Science, and Muay Thai.

Follow Don Heatrick on Instagram:


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