Without a doubt, the coach plays a pivotal role in any sport. Coaches use their experience and knowledge to guide athletes on an effective development path in their training and career. When it comes to Muay Thai, it is best learned through developing a relationship with an experienced coach who knows how to get the best out of a fighter. Muay Thai is recognized for its incredible strength, power, and efficiency. Although highly technical, it is relatively simple to learn and carry out. Muay Thai has become one of the most popular martial arts because of its fitness and self-defense benefits and because it is exciting to watch. It involves a fluid and graceful mix of kicks, punches, knees, and elbows. Choosing the coach is the singular most crucial factor that determines the rest of the martial arts career of a fighter.
A competent coach is adaptable to their students’ wants and needs and can handle different abilities and characteristics. Being a Muay Thai coach requires substantial knowledge and expertise in sports psychology, fitness training, strength and conditioning, nutrition, and knowing how to motivate and get the best out of people. In this regard, Richard Smith of Bad Company Gym in Leeds, UK, sets a good example of a fighter-turned-coach who passes on his knowledge to upcoming fighters training at his gym. Smith has coached some of the UK’s most successful and well-known fighters ever.
He began his Muay Thai career in 1986 with Chesterfield Cobras. He then joined Manchester’s Master Toddy’s and Master A’s Gym before founding Bad Company in Leeds in 1992. Smith has three British, a Commonwealth, and a European Muay Thai titles to his name but retired from his successful fight career at 35 to concentrate on coaching the increasing number of up-and-coming young fighters in his gym at the time, such as a young Liam Harrison, Andy Howson, and Jordan Watson who have since become amongst the best-known names in UK Muay Thai.
Smith has played an essential role in the careers of several fighters who trained at his gym. Nearly 20 fighters who trained with him have become world champions. Smith has spent a significant amount of time in Thailand, both training and fighting. He believes training with and like the Thais is the best way to develop a fighter. He understands how to fight like a Thai while crafting a Westernized hybrid version of the sport.
Smith has seen his athletes gain international recognition due to a mixture of hard work and devotion and by developing a teamwork spirit. The fighters of Bad Company have performed at the highest level at the biggest events in the UK for over 20 years and competed in nations like Italy, Spain, France, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Lithuania, USA and Canada, Jamaica Philippines, China and of course Thailand.
Smith, as a coach, customizes his teaching with each fighter, making them part of sessions tailoring lessons to a fighter’s unique requirements. Since opening Bad Company Gym, he has trained some of the most well-known Muay Thai fighters in the UK, including Liam Harrison, Andy Howson, Jordan Watson, James France, Joe Craven, Lisa Houghton-Smith, Mateusz Duczmal, and Richard Cadden. Smith and his wife, Lisa Houghton-Smith, who run Bad COMPANY together, are Head Coaches of the WBC Muay Thai Amateur Team England. The Team won in 2022 at the WBC Muay Thai Youth Games in Calgary, Canada. He currently coaches three fighters signed to One Championship: Liam Harrison, Amber Kitchen, and Jacob Smith.
Richard was awarded Leeds Sports Federation Coach of the Year in 2012 and 2018. Bad Company was recognized as Club of the Year at the 2013 and 2017 Awards. He has over 30 years of Muay Thai and Strength & Conditioning coaching experience and was named the WBC Muay Thai International coach in 2023.