Bank Thainchai Pisitwuttinan. Co-founder and CEO of Global Sport Ventures (GSV)
Before we begin, let's establish the significance of our interviewee. When notable figures like the President of France and the world's elite fighters visit Thailand, specifically Bangkok, they make it a point to meet Bank. A self-made individual, Bank's journey from sleeping and growing up in a training camp, waking up to the sights and sounds of rigorous training, to now owning and managing the Rajadamnern Stadium, is nothing short of remarkable. This stadium isn’t just a landmark in Thailand; it’s a cornerstone in the world of Muay Thai. It is heritage, legacy.
Joe Rogan has remarked that Muay Thai possesses the greatest untapped potential among all combat sports, a sentiment I wholeheartedly share. It’s more than just a sport; it's a captivating cultural phenomenon that, in my opinion, deserves more recognition than even MMA. Highlighting its global impact, 'One Championship' ranks among the top five sports events worldwide, surpassing giants like the NBA, the Champions League, and the Bundesliga.
The essence of Muay Thai exceeds physical strength; it's about having a 'big heart' (Jai Su) and a 'calm/cool heart' (Jai Yen). This philosophy teaches the importance of composure over aggression. Consider Conor McGregor's journey, documented on Netflix, where his preparation, battle, and defeat against Khabib Nurmagomedov underscored a crucial lesson: sheer anger is futile against the need for Jai Su. This aligns with spiritual teachings about ego dissolution — the art of staying focused and unswayed by external forces, as true battlefields lie within our minds.
Muay Thai embodies this ethos. It’s a path of embracing and transcending pain. A Muay Thai fighter's day begins at dawn with a 10 km run, followed by a grueling day of training. This solitary pursuit in training and combat underscores a truth: in the ring, you stand alone. Success in Muay Thai demands physical prowess, a monumental heart, unwavering focus, and an obsession rooted in belief. Anger is your enemy; control and respect are your allies. This respect extends beyond oneself, manifesting in the rituals of bowing and honoring opponents and trainers alike, both pre- and post-fight.
My journey in Muay Thai is more than a pursuit of physical workout; it’s an exploration of life’s deeper truths. Through its rigorous discipline and rich cultural heritage, Muay Thai doesn’t just train the body — it shapes the soul.
Bank Thainchai Pisitwuttinan's
Could you start by sharing a brief introduction about yourself?
Hello! My name is Bank Thainchai Pisitwuttinan.
I am a co-founder and CEO of a company called Global Sport Ventures (GSV). At GSV, we are running Rajadamnern Stadium, which is the first Muay Thai Stadium in history, and we are hosting / promoting Muay Thai events 7 days a week. Our flagship program is called RWS - Rajadamnern World Series, which is now broadcasted on DAZN streaming platform in over 200 countries and territories around the world as well as on TV in Thailand.
Growing up, your bedroom opened up to a boxing gym. Sports have been with you 24/7. How did witnessing such determination and commitment at close quarters shape you?
Yes, I grew up with generations of fighters and witnessed their journeys - end to end for many. Some of them reached the World’s top level, while others did not. Reflecting back, I learned alot from these journeys along the way. For those who were able to reach World champion level (and being able to sustain their levels), there are at least three things that stick out:
World Class Mentality - In order to be World class, we have to think world class. It is not a guarantee that we will achieve the goals but more of a requirement. If we don’t benchmark ourselves against the best, there is almost no way we can be the best. This applies to determination, commitments, and beyond.
Fighter Spirit - Good planning is always very important, but it is rarely sufficient. Things will always get hard, and unexpected stuff always happens. Having a fighter spirit is the thing that can get us through uncertain and difficult times - to survive and thrive at the other ends. This applies for both inside and outside the ring.
Teamwork - Fight sports are individual sports. But from what I have seen throughout my decades of experience in the sports, all world class fighters have world class teams behind them.
These learnings have stuck with me. And they are now our DNA at GSV that we try to pass on to all our team members.
Your father nurtured your brother's boxing ambitions, hoping he'd clinch Thailand's first-ever Olympic gold medal in boxing. While your brother didn't achieve this, his friend did. How do you reflect on these parallel journeys? How did you grow as a family and evolve in sports and business, as it has been a family business since day one?
My eldest brother and I were born more than a decade apart, so I did not really get to witness his journey as a boxer. I only saw him as an accomplished trainer that trained many world boxing champions after his own boxing career.
Growing up in a boxing family, I was trained to box and fought in a small amateur tournament but I had never been trained to fight professionally. I have been more involved in the business side of it since I was in middle school - helping out my dad here and there. And, later on in life, as an economics and business student, I have always been curious to understand the sports through different lenses, e.g. how it is structured in Thailand and elsewhere, how the dynamics work in the industry, etc.
One thing that has always stuck with me was that I saw how sports can really change the lives of the fighters and their families. Most fighters in Thailand came from underprivileged backgrounds, and achieving their goals in boxing can really improve their lives and the lives of their families. I personally know several fighters who can support their families, sending their kids to good schools who can later have great jobs - and it is very inspiring to see how sports can change the lives of generations.
I believe that there are many different ways to make the world a better place. And, I believe that one of the ways to improve lives is through sports. Some people are born to be great sports players or fighters rather than doctors or businessmen, and having a good platform that can give economic reward to them can be life changing. Back when I was young, the sport industry in Thailand was not as well developed and there were not many opportunities for sport players or fighters. So it got stuck in my mind for a long time ago that I hope, one day, I can contribute in building a solid sport platform that can create rewarding career paths for fighters.
Your path contrasts starkly with the typical boxer's journey. A McKinsey consultant and an MBA at Stanford, you've navigated the corporate and fighting worlds. How do these worlds differ, and what's been the unifying factor in your journey?
In some aspects, the two worlds are the same. There are great people who are driven and inspiring. The main principles for success are the same - dedication and determination. We are all fighters - but just fighting in different arenas.
In some aspects, the two worlds are different: the cultures, the languages, the priorities, etc.
Growing up, I see the gap between the two worlds. There have really not been many professional sport companies in Thailand the same way other countries do. For example, when I graduated, I wanted to work in sports but I could not find any job opportunities or career path in the sport world; while some of my friends abroad would be able to apply for jobs in organizations like the NBA, NFL teams, UFC, or IMG.
So, I had been hoping to one day help bridge the gap between the two worlds somehow. And, one of the things that we are doing right now at our company is to build the bridge between the two worlds - building a professional sport company that can work well with both the business world and the sport world.
Our team has been growing quite a lot now in a short period of time. We have team members who are young and driven as well as those who are well experienced in the fight world. We are working hard to build a business that can elevate Muay Thai to be a global sport and that can help provide better lives for the fighters while also building solid business for all stakeholders and solid career paths for the team members as well. I believe this is the most sustainable way for the industry to grow the sports.
You once mentioned an impactful talk by an HBO Sports representative at Stanford and shared the start of Global Sports Ventures with me. How did these experiences shape your perspective on the sport, especially within the context of your family's legacy in boxing?
I was very fortunate that in one of my MBA classes at Stanford, Peter Nelson, who was the Head of HBO Sports, joined as a speaker of the class. It was the period when Floyd Mayweather just retired, and HBO was building up a future star named “Chocolatito” Roman Gonzalez to be the number one pound for pound boxer in the world.
It happened that my family’s camp had a challenger in the same weight class as Chocolatito, so I asked to meet with Peter after the class, and he kindly accepted. Among other boxing topics, I proposed our challenger, Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, to fight with Cholatito on HBO. I spent a year working with all relevant parties. And, with the great help of many parties, especially HBO, WBC, and the promoter, the stars aligned and the World title fight between Chocolatito vs Srisaket Sor Rungvisai happened in Madison Square Garden on HBO Pay-Per-View.
Having a Thai boxer fighting on the main stage in the USA rarely happened in our country’s history. Before the fight was confirmed, nobody in Thailand believed that the fight would be possible. Many people in the industry personally or publicly said that it is even wrong to dream that Srisaket will get to fight Chocolatito since Chocolatito was already a star in the US while nobody there knew who Srisaket was yet.
The fact that that fight could really happen really changed my perspective on what is possible and what is not. We all heard of the concept of limitless possibilities or something of that sort, but it felt a lot more real to me after this fight materialized.
In Thai boxing history, the 2017 fight at Madison Square Garden, where a Thai fighter defied 20:1 odds, stands out. How did this victory impact your journey as a promoter? You have been involved in setting this up; tell us what happened.
After the fight was confirmed, nobody thought that Srisaket had a chance against Chocolatito, who was undefeated in almost 50 fights and was believed by many, at that time, to break Floyd Mayweather’s unbeaten record. Many people personally said to me that we are in a “different league” - Chocolatito was “World class” while we were “Asia level” at best.
Sometimes we have mental blocks or mental ceilings that were made either by ourselves or by society. We were often looked down upon by our own people and were told that the “gap” between us and “world class” is too big. The victory that night shocked the world, and I believe it also helped me overcome my own mental ceiling in some ways. It made me realize that we can be on the World’s stage too.
After Srisaket became the World Champion, I came back to Thailand to continue supporting the team and also build up on the momentum that we had. Srisaket became a national hero in Thailand, and the fight between Srisaket and Chocolatito was selected to be the “Fight of the Year” that year by many leading boxing press.
Apart from the fight part itself, another thing that got stuck with me was the great experience and atmosphere at the Madison Square Garden that night. It was full house, the level of production at the MSG was top notch; and with the level of intensity of the fight, the experience was quite unreal. I think that is something very special about fighting sports. With great facilities, great production and great fights, we can have the atmosphere where tens of thousands of people focus their energy at one single spot - on the ring - and the moment becomes magical.
The experience that night in the MSG ignited my thought and dream to recreate those types of magical moments in Thailand. The special thing about Thailand is that we have our own highly entertaining fight sport called Muay Thai, which can be even more intense and entertaining than any other fight sport in the world. We also have a very large pool of high level talents in Thailand and outside, so if we do it right, we could have those experiences weekly or even daily in Thailand.
The pandemic disrupted many industries, including boxing. How did you pivot during this challenging time?
Covid pandemic happened a few years after I came back to Thailand. When it happened, it was the worst time in history for our boxing and Muay Thai industry in Thailand. Stadiums had to be shut down, promoters could not host fights, all camps were suffering with no income, and fighters could not get any fight and earnings.
For me personally, I spent much of my time on the toes - working out ways to host the next events when the situation gets better. In between those times, I had some time and space to step back and reflect on the business and the industry as well as planning for the future.
I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to get together and discuss with Plan B Media and Rajadamnern Stadium leaderships who later became great partners. We believed, even during that difficult time, that Muay Thai can be much more. We believe that Muay Thai is one of the most entertaining sports out there and that it can be a global sport one day. We believe that, if we do it right, we can make Muay Thai to be much bigger at the global level.
During the pandemic, you collaborated with "Plan B" to organize fights in Buri Ram province, the only few locations permitted by the Thai government during that time. How did you pull off 60 Muay Thai fights in just 2.5 months?
It was in late 2021 during the ending of the pandemic when the industry and everyone involved had been suffering, some without jobs, for a few years already. So, we knew that, before we can do anything new or big with the sport, we need to restart it and help everyone in the ecosystem to be able to stand on their feets first.
We worked together with the Thai government agencies and the province of Buriram to host a few months-long events - mainly so that the Muay Thai industry can restart - fighters get to start training and fights, camps get to operate, etc. It was also one of the first times for a long time that we, as an industry, were able to unite all the leading Muay Thai promoters to work together on the project.
In those few months, we basically moved everyone in the industry to Buriram and hosted almost daily Muay Thai events there - sometimes 2 events a day. It was a successful and meaningful project for us in a sense that we were able to restart the sport again, especially for fighters to get back to training, fighting, and earning incomes for their families again.
In 2022, you took the reins of Rajadamnern Stadium, a landmark with deep-rooted heritage. Tell us about the investment and the careful balance of preserving its legacy while preparing for its future.
Yes, we have worked on the partnership deal with Rajadamnern Stadium since 2021 and we officially started our operations at the stadium in February 2022. At that time, we just got out of the pandemic, and things were not looking very well for the industry both in terms of the business fundamentals and also the perspectives toward it.
In the past decade, Muay Thai has grown to become popular worldwide, but its image in Thailand was not positive. Most people still associated Muay Thai with something outdated, and some were even scared to enter Muay Thai stadiums or events. We knew that we had a mountain to climb.
However, we knew the importance and significance of Rajadamnern Stadium to the sports, and we had strong passion to help rebuild the sport at the Home of Muay Thai.
Rajadamnern is the World’s first Muay Thai stadium in history. Muay Thai has been around for hundreds or thousands of years as a martial art for wars and then as a casual sport for high society. Before Rajadamnern stadium was built, Muay Thai was not a professional sport. The Thai government built the Rajadamnern Stadium to be both the first national stadium for Muay Thai and the first entity that cooperated with the government to build Muay Thai to be a professional sport that we know today.
In 1945, right after World War II, the construction of the stadium was finished. The mission for the stadium was to be the place that built Muay Thai to be a professional sport for all, and it was started then on December 23, 1945. Many historical events in Muay Thai happened at Rajadamnern Stadium; for example, the first ever Muay Thai rules book was written at Rajadamnern Stadium and the first ever professional Muay Thai Championship was held with the Rajadamnern Stadium championship belt.
Our intention from the first day of operating Rajadamnern Stadium was to make it “Modern but Classic”. By being Modern, we want to make Rajadamnern Stadium a world class sports stadium - the same way the MSG is to boxing. We want to renovate the stadium with top class production and facilities where people of all generations, ages, and nationalities can come and enjoy the events with great entertainment aspects.
At the same time, we want the stadium to be Classic. We want to keep all historical and cultural aspects of Muay Thai and Rajadamnern Stadium with the stadium. We want people to see the beauty of the arts of Muay Thai both as a martial art and as a culture. This is why we keep all the identities of authentic Muay Thai at the stadium, and we also portray the arts part of Muay Thai to the audiences in different ways during the events.
We worked with Thailand’s top designing company to rebrand Rajadamnern Stadium branding and renovated the stadium while keeping in mind our key objectives mentioned. We invited and united all the top Muay Thai promoters to host events weekly at Rajadamnern Stadium with the top fighter talents in the country and in the world. And, we created a new Muay Thai program called RWS - Rajadamnern World Series - with the idea to promote the top Muay Thai talents on earth in the biggest tournament where we simplified some rules to make the sport more entertaining while keeping all the authentic identities of Muay Thai.
When things were ready, we relaunched the sport with our “Grand Opening” event for our New Era of Muay Thai in August 2022. And, it was a great success. We promoted our RWS event with the return of the legend, Buakaw Banchamek. The event became super viral throughout the country and we sold out the stadium. More importantly, over 80% of the attendees that night were those who had never stepped inside a Muay Thai stadium or seen a fight event before in their lives. We had people of all ages, genders, and nationalities at the stadium. It was a great rebirth moment of Muay Thai for us.
With Rajadamnern Stadium, you have a three-pronged vision: transforming it into a tourist destination, scouting and exporting talent, and launching a global roadshow. Could you elaborate on this?
Definitely, at Rajadamnern Stadium, we had a few different roles that we are responsible for and which gave us great opportunities to grow the company and the sport of Muay Thai together with all stakeholders in the industry.
First, as a Venue, Rajadamnern Stadium is the most historical location for the sport with so much history behind the stadium as mentioned earlier. We want Rajadamnern Stadium to be the place where everyone can come and see the true warriors of Muay Thai and the true arts of 8 limbs. On top of that, we want to be the place where people from all over the world can come and learn about Muay Thai in all aspects - to learn about the history, to see the authentic Wai Kru ceremony and the traditional Pee Muay music, and to experience the real Muay Thai in all aspects.
As Muay Thai grows globally, people might know Muay Thai from different places; for example, some might know it from UFC fighters, some might see Muay Thai movies, or some might watch Buakaw or legendary fighters on the internet. However, no matter where each individual sees Muay Thai, we want to make sure there is a place where they can come to learn and see the real authentic Muay Thai, and that place should be the Home of Muay Thai - Rajadamnern Stadium.
Since last year, our international audience has grown 16 times year on year. We have visitors from over 190 countries around the world at Rajadamnern Stadium this year. There have been many significant international guests visiting Rajadamnern Stadium, such as President Emmanuel Macron of France, Arctic Monkeys band, Tyson Fury - and many more. We became one of the top destinations in Bangkok for visitors, and this is our way of growing Muay Thai through our venue.
Second, as a fundamental organization, Rajadamnern Stadium was where the first rules book of Muay Thai was written and where the first championship committee and belt for Muay Thai was built. In this role, we want to fulfill the original intention of the stadium, which is to expand Muay Thai to all - which in our context, it would mean to expand Muay Thai internationally.
We have been working with many local promoters from around the world in supporting their activities in many ways. One example is our “Road to Rajadamnern” project where we collaborate with Muay Thai promoters from around the world in hosting the authentic Muay Thai competitions in their own countries with local talents. Only in our first year of Road to Rajadamnern, we are already having events in 5 different cities, i.e. Trenčín (Slovakia), Yokosuka (Japan), Yokohama (Japan), Bali (Indonesia), and Liverpool (UK), and there will be many more in the years to come.
For the past decades, Muay Thai fighters around the world have been dreaming of fighting at Rajadamnern Stadium one day - but the path has not been made for them. One promoter in Australia told me that; for runners in Australia, they would run everyday with a dream to run in the Olympics one day; for Tennis players in Australia, they would play tennis everyday with a dream to play in the Grand Slam one day; and for Muay Thai fighters in Australia, they would train everyday with a dream to fight at the Rajadamnern Stadium one day. We want to build a path of dreams for those talents. The idea is that well performing talents from Road to Rajadamnern events will get to fight at Rajadamnern Stadium and can be ranked in our Rajadamnern Championship ranking - which is considered the most prestigious Muay Thai by many in the industry.
Third, as a program, we want to build our Muay Thai programs to be a global sport program with a worldwide audience. Our flagship program, RWS - Rajadamnern World Series is now broadcasted in over 200 countries and territories around the world on DAZN which is the world’s top sport streaming platform. We want to continue to build our programs to reach the global audience and convert people from all nationalities to become fans of Muay Thai.
What is your overarching vision for Muay Thai, Thailand, and your legacy?
As with the original intention for Rajadamnern Stadium, we want Muay Thai to be the sport for all: All ages, nationalities, genders, and backgrounds.
We believe that Muay Thai can be the sport that people from around the world can train to get strong physically and mentally. We believe that Muay Thai can be the sport that people from around the world can appreciate and be a fan of. And, we believe that, one day when Muay Thai becomes a global sport, Muay Thai fighters can be a global role model that can set good examples for the world.
Muay Thai has evolved and grown significantly in the past several years, and we can now be a platform that changes many lives for the better. At Rajadamnern Stadium, we are hosting over 5,000 fighters a year, and we believe that we are making impacts through giving opportunities for tens of thousands of people in the industry. We want to continue to grow to be a platform that can support and give better lives to all stakeholders in the ecosystem.
As for Thailand in this context, we want to help build Muay Thai to be one of Thailand’s main “Soft Power” that people from around the world learn and appreciate. Muay Thai was built from Thailand and specially at Rajadamnern Stadium. We want to create a hub that exports the arts of Muay Thai to all over the world. And, we also want to go to the mega spot where people around the world have to come visit to see the most authentic and the best of Muay Thai.
As for my legacy, it does not mean much to me. I thank God for this opportunity to be able to contribute to the things that I love while working together with great people and partners around me. Muay Thai has been around for hundreds of years as a martial art and almost 80 years as a professional sport. There have been countless great people throughout history who made Muay Thai what it is today. I just hope that my team and I can do our best in carrying this torch forward into this new era and be ready to pass it on to the next generation who can build it up even further.
Thank you, Bank!
About Bank Thainchai Pisitwuttinan
Bank Thainchai Pisitwuttinan is the Chief Executive Officer and Co-founder of Global Sport Ventures Co., Ltd (GSV), a subsidiary of Plan B Media Public Company Limited, and a Board Director of Rajadamnern Stadium.
In early 2022, GSV entered a partnership with Rajadamnern Stadium, which is the World’s First Muay Thai stadium in history and the birthplace of Muay Thai as a professional sport. Since then, GSV has fully renovated and rebranded the Rajadamnern stadium to be a world class sport entertainment venue as well as revolutionized the sport of Muay Thai to be a modern sport that is fan-friendly for people of all nationalities, genders, and ages.
Rajadamnern Stadium is now ranked as #8 of the Top Things to do in Bangkok on Tripadvisor, and its number of tourist attendances grew 16 times (1,600%) within one year. Its flagship program, RWS - Rajdamnern World Series, is the fastest growing Muay Thai program in the country with over 200% TV rating growth, and RWS is now being broadcasted to over 200 countries and territories around the world on DAZN, the highest grossing sports app in the world.
Bank Thainchai graduated from Chulalongkorn University with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and holds a MBA from Stanford Graduate School of Business, Stanford University. He started his professional career as a management consultant at McKinsey&Company. Some of his highlights in the combat sports industry before co-founding GSV include leading the careers of boxers such as Srisaket Sor Rungvisai to win the World title at Madison Square Garden, NYC on HBO Pay-Per-View and promoting WP Boxing series to be awarded as the Program of the Year by the World Boxing Council in 2019.