Kurt Finlayson: Winning From the Inside Out

For every fighter who ever sets foot in the ring, world champion is the fairest hope. Few can imagine that when the opportunity arrives, it will be granted in front of a home-town crowd. Kurt Finlayson takes Jarrod Boyle for a walk back along the long, hard road to a championship.

How many fights have you had now, Kurt?

93. That’s 79 wins with 12 losses and 2 draws. In Muay Thai, I’ve had ten years’ fighting.

Where are you training?

The same place I always have – with Joe Hilton at the Sunshine Coast Thai Boxing Centre. He’s a good motivator! Really disciplined. I met him when I first walked into his gym, years ago. There’s lots of gyms up here now that Muay Thai has taken off, but back then, his was the only gym around. He has a really high intensity approach to training. The intensity hurts you at first, but the body will adapt to whatever you ask of it, if you give it time.

Did you ever train in Thailand?

I did some training at the WMC camp, on Koh Samui. The Thai method is different because it’s all they do, they can spend hours working on their technique. At home, because we have to get in and get out, it’s a much higher work rate. I found this better in the long run; it makes you more tolerant to pressure.

Are you doing anything differently, coming up to this fight?

Lots more cross-training. Swimming, cycling and the trampoline! I brought one for the kids, and I’ve been spending a bit of time on it. It develops real spring in your legs, which can only help with kicking and moving around. It’s another way to take some of the monopoly out of all the Muay Thai training.

Is it fair to say that Muay Thai for you is a family affair?

The kids come and watch me fight now. They love it! My son Jaydon is eleven, and my daughter, Abbi, is six. I run the kid’s class at the gym, and both my kids are in it. There were boxers on both sides of their family. I swear, it’s in their blood. While some of the other kids struggle with parts of the technique, they’re both really natural. My son Jaydon has enormous legs. He’s like a little white Thai!

What weight is the world title fight going to be held at?

61.8kg. It’s for a WMC world title, which, as a Thai boxer, is really the Holy Grail. And to get the opportunity to do it in front of a home town crowd, it’s almost unheard of.

You held a WMC Australian title, didn’t you?

I won the WMC Australian title eight years ago, in 2002 at 63.5kg. I won it from Adam ‘Aggressor’ Houlahan, and successfully defended against Shannon Forrester.

I did have a crack at the world title at 63.8 kilos, back in 2003. I fought the title holder at that time on the Knees of Fury show, In Adelaide. It came out a draw unfortunately, so he kept it. After that, we had a rematch, 4 months later, but I lost.

You’ve had some international experience of late, also.

I have. I’ve fought in Beijing, Canada, and Hong Kong. Most recently, I fought on what was called the WGN Big 8 in Minsk, Belarus. Minsk is a beautiful place. We arrived a few days early and stayed for about a week after the fight. The people there were so friendly; they made a great effort to show us around. They’ve got a really strong fighting culture there.

How was the tournament?

I fought the eventual runner-up, Nopparat. I felt I did enough to beat him, but what can you do? He lost to Kulebin in the finals, though, so I didn’t feel too bad about it.

What did you think about Kulebin? There is a lot of buzz surrounding him.

He’s good, no doubt; you’d have to be on your game to beat him, but I’d like to give it a shot. From what I’ve seen, he needs to be pressured. When you pressure a fighter, you can put them off their strategy.    

Do you think it’s fair to say that pressure is a big part of your game?

When I fight, I like to go forward. I want to feel the person to see what they’ve got. We train for 13 rounds in the gym, more when you count the grappling, so when you get in to fight, you should be able to do 5 easy.

Muay Thai is a mind game. Everyone has fear of the unknown; I like to use that to my advantage. Put pressure on the person. If you can make them feel within themselves that you’re winning the fight, it breaks their spirit. When I fought Sanchai, he was operating on the same principle. He gets right up in your face. A lot of Thai fighters are like that.

How did you come to approach fighting that way?

When I was a kid, I did some Kung Fu and since then, I’ve always been really interested in that mind/body split. It led me to my other work, which is as a reiki master. I’m really interested in natural healing. Reiki operates along the principle that you have an emotional body, a spiritual body and a physical body. If you can heal the emotional body, then the physical one will follow. Again, it all comes back to the mind.

So it isn’t giving anything away to say that you’ll be approaching your world title fight from this angle?

I’m fighting the current world champ, Anawut. He’s Thai. I think he’s had over 200 fights. He and I are quite similar; both all-rounders, both aggressive. He’s also got that in-your-face fighting style. I’ll be somewhat cautious at the start, but it’ll be hard from start to finish. It’s a rare opportunity, so I’m going to seize it with both hands.

What is your training schedule?

Monday to Friday, I’m in the gym from 430am until 6am before work. I’ll start with a 3k run. After that, it’s seven rounds on the Thai pads, with 30 seconds rest in between. After that, it’s 600 knees on the bag and then another 3 rounds of focus pads for sharpening up my hands. Then it’s another 600 knees. The boys all partner up and spend whatever time is left in the session grappling.

In the afternoon, from 430 until 545pm, it’s back to the gym. I do 3 rounds of  Thai pads and then spar. We leave the elbows out, so no one gets cut. Then I head over to my gym, Red Dragon Fighting Arts, so I can run my class.

Best of Luck, Kurt. The Australian Muay Thai and Kickboxing community is behind you!

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