Rob Hayward – “Fighting is the biggest rush of all”

Rob Hayward – “Fighting is the biggest rush of all”

I remember when I first started Muay Thai, I had no intention of competing at any level. I initially just wanted a new sport/hobby to start so I could lose some weight.

I was 107kg, I never use to be that big. I was always a ‘’stocky’’ lad and usually around the 86-88kg mark. I had a lads lifestyle, I was drinking almost every night, partying, smoking 20 a day amongst other things. The only exercise I got was 5 a side football twice a week and the odd 11 aside game when I could be bothered to get up (usually when I wasn’t hanging from the night before).

I realised something needed to change in 2009 when I suffered serious ligament damage in my left leg and all the way into my ankle and foot.

I had just about recovered from injury when I saw myself in a picture and I was almost sick at the sight of myself. Injury stopped me playing football, however I continued the lifestyle and my weight piled on.

I started training at Shin Kick Muay Thai and got down to 96kg and I asked Jesse (Saunders) if I could do an interclub (I was on a lads holiday when this conversation took place). He said he would be happy to put my name down but he wanted me to get to 86kg before he would even consider matching me.

I soon forgot the conversation, having no belief in myself and continued with the lifestyle I was accustomed too.

Fast forward 6 months and in the March of 2011 I was still 96kg and I again asked Jesse to match me, he reiterated his last comment. ‘’Make 86kg and I’ll consider it’’.

I knew there was an interclub coming up at the Old Woking Community centre and that was my target. More determined than ever, I immediately emptied my fridge and cupboards of all crap food, I threw my cigarette’s in the bin and went cold turkey from that moment.

I embarked on my first ever run (about 3km) and it took me about 30 minutes and I even stopped 2-3 times but determined I continued and even manged to drag myself to class that evening for the sparring and the dreaded 5*5’s.

As the week’s passed, I felt myself getting fitter and more confident. I was pushing myself to places I haven’t been too previously and it was paying off!

rob-hayward-muay-thai-blogIt come round to May and I hit the target, I had lost an additional 10kg and I was matched for my first interclub. The nerves were sickening. I was shaking like a constipated dog.

I can’t remember the name of the lad I fought, all I saw was someone ripped and I looked like a pudding in comparison.

After that, I caught the bug. I was hooked on the sport.

I got matched on a weekly basis all over Surrey, London and Kent.

I remember in the September speaking to Jesse about whether he could match me under C Class rules so I could develop myself further and make my next step.

I remember the conversation clearly, the basic requirements he had for fighters competing at C/B class level. They’re the same guidelines that I set out for anyone that I set for those that I help train today.

These were the minimum requirements and ones you saw everyone sticking too. However the likes of Che, Joe Colville, Phil Pullen were always in the gym, morning, noon and night. Sparring, clinching, running, S&C, pads all in addition to the requirement’s set. (Dave Fensom was always doing his handwraps).

  • 44km of running per week split over 6 days.
  • Minimum of 4 classes per week.
  • No Smoking.
  • No drinking (6 weeks before a bout).

It was tough, I never thought I would ever have an interclub let alone prepping for a proper bout. I was running every morning and doing bag drills or PT before work. In the evenings even after work, I was at the gym. Sparring, pads, clinch.

The exhaustion was not only physical but mental too. There were days that I genuinely didn’t want to train but there was a guilt that swept over me if I even attempted to skip class but I was determined. I would not only do it but in the process, I’d be sticking two fingers up to anyone that ever doubted me along the way.

It was hard, especially having a heavily pregnant girlfriend and a child at home. Luckily I was given the support to continue as it would’ve been difficult had I not. What I learnt very quickly, is that you have to be selfish and you can’t do this sport without the support of your loved ones.

Come the night of November 11th 2011, I was matched on ‘Keddles’ show at the City Pavilion in Brentwood, Essex.

I was 77kg and I felt great.

My opponent was Pete Adams, he had one bout previously and that to me was as experienced as Buakaw. I was bricking it, my stomach going round in circles, on and off the toilet, constantly having dry mouth and needing water. Running to the bog again to pee, pacing back and forth.

The venue was huge, the crowd had the place packed out.

I had constant questions going on in my head: ‘’why are you doing this’’?, ‘’what have you got yourself into’’?

I remember warming up in the changing room and the show runners coming in to give me the 1 fight warning. It was those words ‘’Fight 21 is going out now, You’re up next’’ that knotted my stomach and I become gripped with nervous adrenaline.

Now is the time, all the work I had done is now going to be put into action.

rob-hayward-muay-thai-blogI was given water by Joe Colville who was in my corner and he was muttering words to me for encouragement. I cannot remember for the life of me what was said. My head was filled with noise, all I could see was what was in front of me. I had no peripheral vision, nothing.

As strange as I was feeling, I felt like I was a superstar. The venue was incredible and it was packed and although my support was minimal, I knew those in the crowd had paid to watch a fight and I was going to give them one.

All I heard was my name get called by the MC and the rest of the journey was a blur, I couldn’t even tell you what my entrance song was or what was said in between rounds.

I couldn’t tell you how the fight went in the rounds, I remember it being fairly even and I remember him being unable to continue at one point due to a shoulder injury.

The final bell went and it was over.

I was so overwhelmed, I can’t explain what I was feeling. I had done it, I lost on points (should’ve been a win due to the stoppage for assistance…… I maintain this Pete lol) but I had my first bare shin bout against a great opponent from a well respected and very credible gym.

I’d like to add that all trainers will help you get ready both mentally and physically, they will support from the start of camp until the end of the fight.

One thing they don’t tell you, is what it feels like the next day.

I felt invincible in my first bout, going bare shin and clashing and not feeling any pain. The morning after becomes a fight in itself to just get out of bed and for your legs to work again. Stairs become your enemy, the slightest touch makes you wince in pain.

The only thing that feels worse than the pain is the sound of the laughter from your coach and gym buddies as they mock you with choruses of ‘’man up’’…..

I won’t begin to explain the feeling of hitting pads again for the first time and finding a soft spot that you didn’t know was there.

If you are reading this and are prepping for your first fight. Good luck and push yourself to the limits, listen to your coaches but enjoy the experience.

Fighting is the biggest rush of all and the feeling you get is irreplaceable.

Like me, you may not be a ‘’natural’’ but don’t let that stop you.

Adopting the right attitude and having a good support network around you are the most important factors in succeeding at anything.

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