Barrington native Kyle Messenger is a headliner on the fight card for his North American Muay Thai pro-fight debut in Las Vegas on Feb. 23.
“It’s a big deal for myself and my team,” said Messenger in a phone interview from his home in Calgary. “It’s our first trip to Vegas. We’re on a big stage. It’s one of the biggest promotions in the U.S. so I’m really focused on that.”
Always an athlete while growing up in Shelburne County, Messenger, who is now 29, said his journey into the martial arts started when he moved to Calgary five years ago.
“I was coming home from work one day and (saw) the Muay Thai gym and decided to stop in. That’s where the journey started. I went because I wanted to get back in shape. I played sports in Barrington my whole life.”
It didn’t take long for Messenger to decide Muay Thai was for him and that he wanted to compete.
“I had my first fight after a year and a bit of training and now it’s turned into my career.”
His team/gym is Elite Martial Arts Academy.
The national sport of Thailand, Muay Thai is known as the art of eight limbs, said Messenger.
“You have eight weapons available. You can punch, elbow, knee and kick. It’s kind of like kickboxing, but the big difference is you can clinch, like grappling on your feet. You can throw people to the ground, but then you get back up. There’s no ground fighting.”
As an amateur, Messenger has competed on the national stage, winning gold in 2016 at the Canadian nationals (Class B) and qualifying for Team Canada for world competition, but he ended up not competing. In 2017, he won the Challenger Muay Thai super welterweight title and in 2018 the WKA Alberta super welterweight championship.
Messenger’s first pro fight was in Thailand about a year ago.
He lost the televised bout but said, “it was a good fight, though.”
“That’s the other thing about Muay Thai … the way the sport conducts itself,” he said, and the respect competitors have for each other. “After the fight everyone’s friends. You fight your enemy but afterwards you’re friends.”
There is no ranking system in Muay Thai, said Messenger.
“Wins and losses, they matter, but if you show heart, if you’re willing to fight and don’t back down, you can lose but still fight for a title. They want exciting fights, action-packed. Everyone has to fight hard.”
Messenger works out and trains daily, running five to 10 kilometres a day in addition to weight training, pad training and sparring with full gear.
“Pad work is probably the hardest part of training camp. Lots and lots and lots of kicks,” he said.
Messenger said he often gets words of encouragement from people in his hometown community.
“It’s special coming from a small town. Everyone cares and have been reaching out, commenting, wishing me the best. It means a lot and I am very grateful for it,” he said.
“It’s awesome to know I’ve got a following back home. A lot of people have asked, ‘when are you going to fight in Nova Scotia?’ Hopefully we can make that happen sooner rather than later.”
Last year, Messenger fought five times and is hoping for as many, if not more, this year.
“I have a new manager who is helping me out finding fights,” he said, “but really, I don’t look past the fight I have in front of me. That is where my concentration is.”
Follow Kyle Messenger on Instagram
“Everyone cares and have been reaching out, commenting, wishing me the best. It means a lot and I am very grateful for it. It’s awesome to know I’ve got a following back home. A lot of people have asked, ‘when are you going to fight in Nova Scotia?’ Hopefully we can make that happen sooner rather than later.”