Into The Lion Fight Den – A Michael Schiavello Interview

Into The Lion Fight Den – A Michael Schiavello Interview
By PDG Staff


It is very fitting that Michael Schiavello has the best seat in the house for Lion Fight’s live events. A fixture at ringside alongside “verbal sparring partner” Pat Miletich, Schiavello, aka “The Voice,” calls the action for all of AXS TV Fights’ broadcasts including Lion Fight, the lone Muay Thai promotion on the AXS TV Fights’ docket. Schiavello is a perfect fit for the role as he is huge fan of Muay Thai, a functioning encyclopedia of knowledge on a combat sport that is only starting to blossom in appeal in the United States though it has massive appeal on a world-wide basis.

Originally from Melbourne, Australia, Schiavello now makes his home in Las Vegas yet he’s constantly on the go for AXS TV Fights events across the U.S. He is closing in on his 25th year of calling kickboxing action, dating back to the epic 1992 battle between Stan “The Man” Longinidis and Dennis Alexio. Schiavello has been at the helm of countless events in all corners of the world from mixed martial arts in Japan to Lucha Underground pro wrestling in Los Angeles and all points in between.

Schiavello, Miletich and the rest of the AXS TV Fight crew will be on-hand for Lion Fight 31 on Friday, Sept. 2 at Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket, Connecticut, when the organization sets a new high with four title fights including three in women’s divisions.

Schiavello took some time to sit down with Scott Zerr to discuss Lion Fight’s present and future as well as Muay Thai’s presence on the United States combat sports scene:

Scott Zerr: Lion Fight 31 is heavy impacted in two ways – international talent and female talent. I’d like to get your thoughts on the importance of both aspects as Lion Fight continues to grow in appeal?
Michael Schiavello: I think these two areas are very important. American Muay Thai will only grow in terms of audience if Americans are exposed to high quality Muay Thai so they can see what the sport is really about. The best way to do this is to continue bringing in the big names like Yodsanklai, Baars, Pique and the like. As far as the women go, some of the best fighters in the world are female and Muay Thai has a lot of them. The women put on exciting fights and bring great skill sets and plenty of vigor, plus a high level of marketability. On both counts Lion Fight is doing everything right!

Scott Zerr: In regards to the female talent like Jorina Baars, Iman Barlow, and all the others, would you say there’s a good opportunity there for Lion Fight in terms of audience growth to keep bringing in the best ladies?
Michael Schiavello: Women’s fighting opens up a whole new aspect of marketing. Add sexiness to a brutal sport and stir… keep stirring. So long as the women Lion Fight promotes are class acts in that they can actually fight and are no tomato cans brought in to get clobbered or pad someone’s record, it is great. There is so much fantastic women’s talent in the Muay Thai world, especially in Europe and Australia. Lion Fight needs to keep bringing in this talent.

Scott Zerr: On the international front, is there a value in showcasing fighters from around the world especially since there are so many hotbeds of Muay Thai like Europe and Australia?
Michael Schiavello: Big value! Sorry America but the best Muay Thai fighters are not from your shores. Thailand aside, the best fighters these days are in Holland, France, the Eastern bloc countries, and down under in Australia. American audiences need to see these amazing fighters and Lion Fight is the platform to do it on. When I went back home to Australia recently, I was amazed how many Muay Thai fighters said it was their dream to fight in Lion Fight! Not Lumpinee or Rajdamnern or in Holland, but in Lion Fight!
Scott Zerr: That’s quite amazing and very exciting. On that note, two fighters on this show – Iman Barlow and Tum Sityodtong – are title challengers thanks to Lion Fight’s partnerships with England MTGP and Warriors Way in Australia. I’d like to get your thoughts on those types of talent-sharing partnerships, what it could mean for Lion Fight, and what it could do for Muay Thai on a whole worldwide?
Michael Schiavello: These two fighters come out of the U.K. via Kieran Keddle’s show and out of Australia via Mark Castagnini’s show. These two partnerships with Lion Fight will serve a tremendous purpose in feeding top international fighters to the U.S. I’ve seen Tum fight many times and he is a gun. He had to get through a tough four-man eliminator to qualify for the world title shot against Bolanos. He’s hungry, talented, experienced, and nasty. I can’t wait. So yeah, having two internationally known promotions in two different countries sourcing and filtering their best talent to Lion Fight is a godsend.

Scott Zerr: You mentioned the fight between Tum and Gaston Bolanos for the Lion Fight super lightweight title. Gaston is such a talent. I’ve heard you and Pat have such great calls on his fights – “the spinning back elbow from Hell” and “the spinning elbow of death” come to mind. He’s got his hands full with Tum, but do you see Gaston as one of those guys who could be mentioned with the greats one day?
Michael Schiavello: Gaston needs to keep fighting big names, that is, big international names. Gaston is awesome. He may be the most exciting Muay Thai fighter going round at the moment, most certainly in his weight class. He’s still a baby in Muay Thai terms but his rise has been meteoric. Tum will be a huge test, and if he passes that test it is actually going to be very hard to match him on American soil I feel. Will he be one of the greats? I’d like to see that. Couldn’t happen to a nicer or more talented individual. But I don’t think Gaston cares about having his name etched into the annals of greatness, which in Muay Thai terms includes such names as Samart Payakaroon, Dieselnoi, Ramon Dekkers, Coban, Jongsanan, Saenchai, Yodsanklai, Rob Kaman and Wayne Parr. He cares about beating whoever is in front of him at the moment.

Scott Zerr: Take guys like Gaston, maybe Ky Hollenbeck, maybe a guy like Brett Hlavacek, do you think America needs a “face of Muay Thai” to really get it more exposure? A lot of media and fans don’t make much time for Muay Thai and kickboxingI You would think that the highlight reels of knockouts would be enough to generate more interest.
Michael Schiavello: It does need a face of Muay Thai. That’s the key. But where to find it? Bolanos is there, sure, and has great advice coming his way from Kevin Ross. I don’t think Hollenbeck or Hlavacek have what it takes to become the ‘face’ of American Muay Thai. Perhaps the ‘face’ is yet to be discovered. It’s a tough one. But every country that ever succeeded in pushing kickboxing / Muay Thai into mainstream awareness had a face to do it through. For example, in Australia we had Stan “The Man” Longinidis for years and then Wayne Parr. New Zealand had Ray Sefo for ages. South Africa had Mike Bernardo. In the old days, the USA had Dennis Alexio, Joe Lewis, Benn Urquidez, and Don Wilson. America needs to find their modern day Muay Thai pin-up star to propel the sport.

The history-making Lion Fight 31 lineup features three women’s title fights topped by Holland’s Jorina “Jojo” Baars defending her welterweight crown against undefeated Angela “Riptide” Whitley of Puerto Rico. As well, Valentina Shevchenko defends her newly awarded lightweight title against Italian star Paola Cappucci, and Spain’s Lara “Sekhmet” Fernandez faces England’s Iman “Pretty Killer” Barlow for the super bantamweight belt. The other title fight sees American sensation Gaston “The Dreamkiller” Bolanos square off against Thailand’s Tum “Hollywood” Sityodtong for the Lion Fight super lightweight crown.

Lion Fight 31 will air live on AXS TV Fights with a special start time of 9 p.m. ET / 6 p.m. PT. with commentary from renowned duo “The Voice” Michael Schiavello and UFC Hall of Famer Pat Miletich.