Nine years ago, at the age of fifteen, Jordan Fielding pursued Muay Thai in an effort to break his ruinous drug and alcohol habits. Now, at twenty-four years old, Jordan has established himself as an internationally-recognised fighter and a local entrepreneur. Undoubtedly successful in the realm of Muay Thai, Jordan is also guiding Adelaide’s aspiring martial art athletes and Thailand’s most experienced trainers in finding solace, success, and boundless opportunities in what is renowned to be ‘the art of eight limbs’.
We caught up with Jordan to talk about his journey, life as an entrepreneur, the demands of training, and what the future holds for him and his Adelaide-based business, Strong Heart Muay Thai.
Tell us about how you first got involved in martial arts and what led you to Muay Thai.
Initially I didn’t really chose to do martial arts. I grew up with my single mum in Adelaide, and to cut the story short our household was unstable and unhealthy. I found myself getting into trouble, as well as dabbling in alcohol and drugs. When I turned fifteen my mum wasn’t stable enough to look after me, so I was sent to live with my uncle in Sydney. My uncle happened to own a successful Muay Thai gym in Bondi Beach (Bondi Muay Thai) and he was previously the NSW and Australian heavy weight champion. Every day after school and on weekends I was taken to the gym and I had a choice to either sit there and watch or to get up and train, so I decided to train. I fell in love with the sport and the rest is history, it was meant to be!
You recently travelled to Thailand for the MAX Muay Thai Ultimate 2016. How was this experience?
Max Muay Thai was awesome! I was very fortunate to be invited to fight on the show, as it is usually fighters who are living or doing long stints in Thailand who get the opportunity to fight on Max. Because I have Thai trainers at my gym, the promoter trusted that I would be well prepared and ready to fight in the competition. The majority of my training was based in Australia, however, two weeks before the fight I flew to Thailand to climatise and to finish the last of my training. The experience was very surreal and is aired live on Thai TV every Sunday night, with over eight million people watching at one time!
You fought against Thailand’s Sangpanom Por.Petchkaikaew and claimed victory (congratulations)! Can you talk us through this fight?
Thank you! I didn’t know who I was fighting beforehand and every time I asked my trainer he would reply with, “why do you care? Are you scared?” so I stopped asking him and just focused on myself. I felt really relaxed and confident because I had done all the hard work, so when I went in there my goal was to just have fun. The first round my trainer told me not to relax and to pick my shots, so I observed how my opponent moved and what he had to offer and just went from there in the following rounds. Afterwards, people said it was the best fight of the night and thankfully I have been invited back to fight again.
What does your training schedule and mental preparation involve in the lead up for such a big competition?
Training is pretty intense, as I train six days a week. A typical session of mine starts with a seven-km run, followed by hundreds of knees, punch kicks, kicks on the bag, four-five rounds on pads (four minutes each), then either clinching or sparring before a shit load of more kicks, push-ups, sit ups, and pull ups. Four weeks before a fight I pick it up again and train twice a day.
My mental preparation comes from being at peace with myself and accepting the reality of whatever may happen in the ring. Trusting my trainer is also a huge part. It’s a really good feeling when you have done all the hard work and have a trainer who genuinely cares.
When you’re not representing Australia/Adelaide in international and interstate competitions, you’re running your own business, Strong Heart Muay Thai. Can you tell us a bit about Strong Heart?
I started Strong Heart in 2014 when I was twenty-two. It started quite small with just two classes a week in an empty room at the St. Claire Rec Center. We had no equipment, except a few pairs of Thai pads to start with. Word of mouth quickly spread and it blew up a lot faster than I was expecting. Now it's full time and we have a strong base of members and a great up and coming fight team with seven active fighters. We have now outgrown our current premise and we are relocating to a much bigger place within the next few months—so keep an eye out for that.
You previously fought for Soot Raaeng Geert Thai Boxing Gym in Sydney. Can you tell us about the journey you’ve been on to get to where you are today?
Yes! Not long after I moved to Sydney my uncle sold his gym and moved interstate. All his students then went their separate ways, and one of my uncle’s students at the time (Luis Regis) started his own gym, Soot Raaeng Geert (SRG). I got along well with Luis so I stuck with him and he soon became my trainer. I trained and fought for SRG for seven years until I moved back to Adelaide in 2013.
When I was in Sydney I lived in and out of share houses and was getting into all sorts of trouble, but no matter what I always went to training. I can honestly say I don’t know where I would be without the support of SRG and particularly my trainer for being a good role model and showing me the right path. Even though I don’t live in Sydney now I still have a close relationship with SRG. They support me with my business and I still go back to Sydney three-four times a year to train and to show my gratitude.
Strong Heart is the only Muay Thai business in South Australia that regularly organises for Thai trainers to travel to Adelaide. What is your motivation for this? How does this benefit you, your clients, and the Thai trainers?
My motivation behind this is for a few reasons. When I first started the gym it was hard to keep up with my own training as well as teach everybody. I needed a way to keep learning and growing, and I wanted to learn from the best. Originally my idea was to move to Thailand to train and fight permanently, but I had already started Strong Heart and couldn’t turn my back on what I had created, so I believed the best thing to do was to bring my Thai trainers here. Now we have the best of both worlds!
Besides all of that, it is also a great experience for the trainers. I look after them, feed them, house them, and they become part of the family. Their wage here in Australia is massive compared to what they earn in Thailand, so it makes me feel good knowing that I am genuinely helping them and their families back home—it’s my favorite part of it all and we become life-long friends.
What is the most challenging thing about being an entrepreneur? How do you manage it?
I think being a leader or entrepreneur is being different, original, and not following everyone else. When I started the gym, a lot of people said that I was too young, that I wouldn’t have time to train or fight anymore, and some friends were even laughing at me. Now students travel from all around Adelaide to train with us. I have never learnt as much as I do now, and thanks to our Thai trainers, myself and the students have opportunities to fight on some of the best shows in the world. Unfortunately, being a leader comes with a lot of criticism and sometimes even hate, but I believe that it’s just jealousy and, sadly not everyone is happy when you are successful.
Who (or what) is your muse? Why?
I would have to say my inspiration is my former trainer, Luis Regis. He is an amazing role model and someone who I look up to. He trained and taught me a lot of my techniques that I now teach today. Now that I’m living in Adelaide, Luis and the SRG manager, Eduardo, help me considerably with my business behind the scenes. They have become my business mentors and inspire me in that respect.
I’m also inspired by our Thai trainers. They are so experienced, yet they are such humble, peaceful, and happy people. I really love their attitude – not only towards the sport – but also in life, as drama and politics is nonexistent in my business, which I love! Also, my partner, Coco Lombardi, and her family help me a lot. They are like the family I never had.
You stress the importance of persistence and encourage a strong never-give-up attitude. Where did you develop this mentality? Or have you always been this way inclined?
I don’t think I was always inclined that way, I’m actually a very laid back happy go lucky person. I had a tough upbringing, and when I was young in Sydney my bedroom was often crowded with four or more backpackers and other weird people. Many days I went without money to eat I had to go to desperate measures just to feed myself. After Year Ten I was forced to leave school so that I could work and pay rent. I had three different apprenticeships but I had to quit them all because the wage was so low that I couldn’t afford to support myself. I got caught up in a rut and I didn’t know where I was going in life.
Now when you ask me this question, I look back and can say that my past is where I gained this attitude. There was no other option. I realise it was a blessing in disguise because it has given me the strength and belief to achieve whatever I want in life—nothing can stop me.
Where do you see yourself and Strong Heart in five years?
From looking at the speed Strong Heart has grown already, I have no doubt it will continue to be even more successful. I say that with determination and confidence because I put over 100% of my energy into it—it’s not just something I do on the side.
For myself, in five years I will be twenty-nine and hopefully still fighting, travelling around the world with Muay Thai, being a trainer, and sharing my knowledge. I also hope to be putting on some good fight promotions in the future. Opening a second Strong Heart gym in either Adelaide or Thailand is also at the back of my mind!
Strong Heart welcomes people of all ages and abilities to join their Muay Thai family. Training everyone from beginners through to experienced fighters, Jordan’s business offers a range of classes including kid’s classes, women-only classes, and general fighting classes.
You can follow Jordan and Strong Heart on Facebook here.
Header image and image gallery via MAX Muay Thai.