Battling through broken sternums, losses of teeth, and countless bruises, it is safe to say Matthew Semper never backs down. A fixture at Tiger Muay Thai & MMA Training Camp Phuket, Thailand, Semper has taken a very different route to his Muay Thai career than most and is still one of the top draws in the local Phuket circuit.
“During high school I was involved with online gaming guild called Genocide X and we were the top gamers in a lot of servers,” Semper says, “I took gaming a little toos eriously and it took over my life. I started gaining weight, not going anywhere, not going outside, nto doing any sports or anything.”
The catalyst for his decision to take up Muay Thai was when he looked at a photo and could not recognize himself. That is the moment Semper remembers realizing he needed a change, so he quit a cushy job at a magazine, quit his online gaming habit, and devoted himself to Muay Thai full-time at Five Points Academy in lower Manhattan, New York City.
“When first started doing [Muay Thai], it was a hobby to get in better shape, I didn’t think I would be able to get anywhere with it,” Semper says, admitting that he wanted to go to Thailand after just a year of training.
Semper arrived at Tiger Muay Thai in October 2008 and stayed for a year and a half. Once he got back to the states, the fighting bug got to him.
“Fighting became part of me and I had to make this a full-time gig living and training here. That is when I realized that this is all I wanted in my life,” the 25-year-old says.
In early 2010, Semper packed his bags once again – this time with the intention to fight for a living and make a name for himself. He took up a few smoker fights in NYC, but it was BBQ Beatdown 10 at Tiger Muay Thai where he gained the attention of the Thai trainers.
“I fought this guy named Frank the Tank, and Australia that was a lot bigger than me. People expected him to come out and pummel me, but it didn’t happen that way. I threw a lot of kicks and messed up his leg,” Semper says, “it was definitely a kickstarter for me. I loved that it was available for me to do. If I didn’t do it, I don’t think I would’ve gotten into fighting.”
Two weeks later, Semper stepped into his first professional fight and won by thrd round KO with his right hand. That fight was when close friend Adrian Shead named his right hand “Songkram” – meaning “war” and signalling that Semper brings war to his opponents through his strong hand.
Semper has made his dream a reality ever since that first bout. Even now, closing in on his 50th fight, Semper looks back at the time when he was known amongst his friends as “fat Matt” – it’s a very different story now.
“Wining each and every fight is the best moments for me. You feel that rush, like a drug once you win it hits you,” Semper says, “You learn to live life out here in Phuket and not let your job kill you.”