Stéphane Nikiéma, a future around the ring

By , Monday July 18, 2005

Stéphane Nikiéma, 40 years old, had fought for the last time last year against Mourad Sari. Great champion, his record is 87 fights for 67 wins thus 35 KO, 18 loses and 2 draws, he won titles of France champion, European champion, World champion and even the belt of Lumpinee. We interviewed him so that it speaks tous about his course and his vision of current Muay Thai.

Muaythaitv : Hi Stéphane, can you tell us your beginnings, your first trainer?
Stéphane Nikiéma : Hi, I began in1983 in Belloni Gym. Before I did viet vo dao where I wasn’t good. As in the beginning of the 80’s we speak a lot of Muaythaï, I went to the Belloni Gym which was in Montreuil near my town of Rosny sous Bois (France). It was one the greatest gym at this time : there was Philippe CANTAMESSI, François KAPLER, JAID, Patrick BRIZON...they were the first French to fight in Thailand in 82-83. And there was the personnality of Gilles Belloni who did a lot for Muaythaï in France like Paschy, Brizon... I see that by putting a short and by striking a bag or a guy it went good. My evolution was quick because in 5 fights, I became France Champion.

Do your emember your first fight?
Itwas in1983, he was a student of Kouider. At the end of the fight, in the locker room I said I stop because my legs was hurting me, I couldn’t breath. And then I realize that it was the first fight the hardest. I won the fight by referee stop in the3rd round.

Do you have a favorite technique?

Yes,the knees. It’s something which go out easily especially with my long legs. With my morphology, it was easy to strike with the knees and theelbows with the punches and the legs. I liked the clinch too. In myyears in Thailand, without praising me, I trained champions like Robert Kenorasing, Somlak
Khamsing before he was olympic champion in boxing. They called me before a fight beacuse with my height they had difficulties to move me.

Which fights do you remenber the most?
There is a lot : my first fight in Thailand in 1989 against Turbo Kietisak(ranked n°4) live on tv at Sam Long stadium. I won by points. 17 years ago it was hard to win by points over there. There was Somsong I meet twice, he was at the top of his career. There was also Krongsak, Changpuek. I’ve got a lot of thai fighter as referencebecause they were famous. In Europe, there was Orlando Wiet (see picture). The fights I did at the border of Laos were of an extraordinary intensity : I was theonly black there in front of 2000 people, to win in this conditions made me very happy. I think that they are my best fights in Thailand.

Tell us the reasons which pushed you to go to Thailand.
In1986, Belloni stopped. So as I haven’t a gym anymore, I took my bag and went to Thailand. Arriving in the camp (the Joky Gym), as I hadn’t go out of my district I had a cultural clash. I realiee that Thailandese were open minded and they smile a lot. I quickly had goods relations with everybody : coaches, fighters...I began to learn the the language with them and because I learned it ine the camp I learned the language of the street.

Who did you meet the most?
In three years, I fought 4 times Kengkai Sor Vorapin. He was a gifted and tough fighter. In the end, there was 1 win (by KO in 1998 in Marseille), 2 loses (thus 1 in Paris which was worth Stephan 15 points of joining to his forehead), 1 draw. But because I won the last meeting I’m happy.

What are your objectives?

As my career has ended, my objective is closer of what I did this year when I trained Jerôme Le Banner. So my objective would be to work in Muaythaï. As I know people in Thaïland and Japan, I’d like to take care of fighters to develop their capacities. I think that since ten yearthe level in France stagnates : there is one athlete who goes out every 10 years. Today there is : Farid Villaume, Karim Saada, Farid Khider and Skarbowski who mainly fights in Thailand.
Thai boxing is indevelopment. With the K-1, the S-1, the A-1, the M-1 I say to me that we need good teams to put back France behind Thailand. It would be necessary to return like 10 years ago when we had 10-15 champions of equal level. There was a dive but I think that that will go up.  

Speaking of evolution, do you notice a difference in the boxing style of the Nak Muay during 20 years?
Before, we fought with elbows and without protections. So it was different, we had to always work the elbows as the knees because it was one of the weapons of Muay thai. Now with the protections, which are agood thing, it’s different even if one could cut. And the more important is the health of the fighters. The evolution will be by continuing this politic aiming to preserve the health of the fighters and developing something for the high level fighters who want to fight abroad. Because some Nak Muay have the level to fight against the best thailandese and I think that’s in this way we have to go, to see if there is something interesting to do.
The future is in a greater professionalism while keeping a large side amateur, for a development of all.
Muaythai is open to all, it’s not only a sport for the boxers who want tobeprofessionals. It is not necessary that the young people think that they will do Muay thai to become champions, to make money... All that is finished. It is necessary to advance considering this sport is under development.

What satisfied you more in boxing?
I’m somebody reserved and shy. Thus I had energy to resell and while goingin the training room I gave all I have and returned burst at home.Boxing enabled me to avoid certain temptations compared to all the buddies of my age.

What is your best memorie of Nak Muay?
It was in my small room, in my building with the Thailandese, my ventilator and sometimes the television. I awoke at 5 a.m. to go to run. I have a lot of memories but that to be in the camp with the others, with the cockroaches, to eat with the hands is a very goodmemory. These are the journeys in Thailand which mainly marked me : thewhole thing between the life in the camp and the fights. I boxed to be able to pay me a plane ticket and gone in the camp. Even now when I go back there, I find the boxers of my time and we eat together, we remind memories etc... And I find the places where I lived. More thanthe sport it is the discovery of another culture which marked me the most.

Which titles did you win?
Iwon 3 titles of France champion, I was 3 times European champion and world champion, and the WPKN title which is an european title. And the Lumpinee title that that I did not obtain for various reasons, the principal one being that 2 belts could not leave the country at the sametime and as Mourad Sari fought before me, it was him which had the right to have it.
I won by KO but they said that there was a Lom Muay which means that the fighter would have been paid to lose which is wrong and impossible. Furthermore, I fought him some months before and I hurted him. The only title in the world that everybody want to have is a belt from Rajadamnoem or Lumpinee. There is 2 or 3 belts which were out of Thailand in 50 years : Fujiwara 30 years ago and Mourad Sari.
This belt was my life dream. I won it but didn’t have it. That’s my worst memory, I couldn’t sleep for several nights. I made big sacrifices to have it. In 1999 I go under 67 kg while some years before I boxed in 76-77 kg. To be at 66 kg while I’m 1,88 meters, I had to eat only boiled rice for a moment.  

Is there Nak Muay which become your friends?
Yes, we are in sport where we see often each other. Among the old ones : Scalp, Dida, Prestia, Kantamisi. We always remained buddies, I will not say friend, we do not see each other every month. But in this sport,everyone knows the others and is attended. It is true that there is someanimosity between 2-3 boxers, it is normal it is like in the othersports. But generally when we see us, we kiss, we are well in group.

Speaking of old ones, what did you feel to come on the ring of Thiais may 7th being surrounded by all this old champions?
That gives pleasure because that made a long time that we had not found as many former champions at a meeting on a boxing ring. That make me reminds of the old meetings where everyone met. What pleased to me these is that after so many years young people of 17, 18 years old come to seeme for pictures, autographs... that given pleasure seeing that the boxers who left a good image are always appreciated.

Who are for you the best current Nak Muay in Thailand and in France?
In Thailand the top is Sengchai Sor Kramsing (61-64 kg). And I don’t say itbeacuase he’s from the Joky Gym but no one wants to fight him anymore. There is a lot of fighters in Thailand : Buakaw and Kaoklai I knew before they go to K-1. More over Kaoklai which was in my camp was going to seek me my orange juices etc...
There is the stars of the K-1 like Bonjasky, Le Banner...
In France we have great fighters I mentionned earlier : Saada, Khider,Villaume and there is the old ones like Müller, Benhadj but I say that there is less great boxers than before.

Could you tell us about your last fight against Mourad Sari where you wasn’t at your best shape.
No, I wasn’t at the best of my form. I stopped Muay thai for 4 years. I was 39 years old, with one month of training, furthermore in a discipline which is not mine, kick boxing. So I hadn’t the automatism anymore, often I wanted to launch the knees, the precision was no more there. I realise that we couldn’t catch up with time, physically the body can’t follow. I’d like to make this fight in muay thai where the result could have been different. But I don’t regret to have done this fight.
Did your notoriety of Nak Muay open you doors ?
Of course and there is a lot I didn’t cross. That is destiny, personnality of everyone. Because of boxing I knew 20 beautiful years. Now it’s to me find something which allow me to open out me and to use all that I stored.
Concretely one invites me to open gym, one invited me to take care of one of the best boxers of K-1. They contacted me because they knew I had capacities of trainer.That enabled me to understand that I had possibilities of remaining in this way because it’s the only one I know, even if I am a landscape designer of formation, and that I had good results with him.

Do you see you open a gym to take care of young people ?
2-3 years ago, I had taken the thai boxing section of Krongsak in the temple of themartial arts. At the beginning there was 10 pupils and at the end there was 80-90. I like much given courses, certain champions have problems to be a pedagogue. I have the chance since my 20 years to be attracted by the drive, the formation... By taking the section of Krongsak I realized that it wasn’t what I sought : I give much and I don’t receive enough. One may propose to me to involve 5 confirmed champions and I hope that will be done in september.

To occupy you of professionals, is it a way of reviving the feelings of the boxing ring ?
I made a good career, therefore if I may bring something to boxers technically or morally that will be more for them. I do not project myself in them. I want more to bring techniques to them that they do not know and to see win a  fighter with a technic I teached him will please me. But I am very severe with the drive thus it is necessary to have results for me.

Do you have a word to say to our Net surfers?
Continue to come on Muaythaïtv and come in the meetings, come to see the champions. And look for the actulity of Muay thai.

Remarks collected by Vincent Dao