A Croydon martial arts world champion is training young people in the hope of creating an Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) ‘legacy’ within the sport.
Sam Nankani’s achievements as a senior Kru, or instructor, in Muay Thai at the KO Next Generation gym in Thornton Heath have proved impressive with 14 champions holding 32 titles in just 18 months.
He trains gnarled professionals alongside beginners in sparring sessions – a family ethos that Nankani says other gyms lack.
“You have to be a very disciplined individual to compete in Muay Thai.”
Muay Thai is a combat sport known as the ‘art of eight limbs’ – characterised by the use of fists, elbows, knees and shins.
“People come here for various reasons,” explained Nankani.
“Some come for self-defence, some to get fit and some to compete.
Nankani travelled to Italy last year and became Grand Unified World Champion, having not stepped into a ring competitively for nine years.
Gavin Levy, one of his pupils known as the ‘Silent Assassin’, is just 18 years old yet is already a three-time amateur World Champion in addition to being World Kickboxing Association British Open champion for 2013.
“Hard work is the key,” Nankani said. “We want to prove a point and create a legacy in the sport.
“The plan is to have my guys conquer Muay Thai and eventually go into the MMA side of things.
The eventual goal is to send a fighter to the UFC, the very highest rank of mixed martial arts based in the USA which draws millions of viewers across the world, and whose fighters have the mythical status of rock stars.