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OTHER: John Wayne Parr

Featured in Freestyle Volume 07 2009. Story by Cristian Diaz. Photography by Sunny Brar and Lawrence Ripsher.

Do a Google search on the name John Wayne and you get a boring-ass American actor who played a cowboy in crummy old movies. But add Parr to the name and you’ll find an Aussie white boy tearing shit up against the best Muay Thai fighters in the world.

Researching for JWP was fun to say the least. I mean who doesn’t enjoy You Tubing fighters getting their asses handed to them all day long? Knockdown after devastating knockdown, the clips had me wanting to elbow my mum in the face, but obviously without looking as cool as JWP. To find out how I needed to brave a one-on-one with the Australian Muay Thai legend and ask him the tough questions about his training methods, The Contender and masturbation.

Tell me John, what possessed a kid from the Gold Coast to take on Muay Thai or Kickboxing as his main form of sport?
I’m actually from a small country town called Albury, where my parents were horse trainers. Since the time I could walk I loved anything to do with fighting, didn’t matter where it came from. I was either imitating the TV, the movies or even sparring my biggest teddy bear with someone punching me with his paws. But it was also because of our family moving around a lot when I was growing up, I basically used any new gym that I could find for Martial Arts and it helped keep me sane.

You must have been deadly in the school yard as a kid then?
Nah, I was always the new kid and pretty shy. No matter where I moved my new gym would become my second home and the kids at my new school would always respect that I was into my Martial Arts.

Plus the fact you could ‘Street Fighter’ their heads off if they said anything?
Ha-ha, yeah maybe.

What about other forms of combat like Boxing and mixed Martial Arts? What made you stick with Muay Thai?
I started Taekwondo when I was 11, but then they moved out from the hall I was training in and Kickboxing moved into the same hall six months later, so I stuck with it. Since my first fight in Muay Thai I fell in love with the sport and it’s become my greatest passion. However in 2001, I thought the grass was greener on the other side of the fence as I thought Boxing could give me bigger pay days and international fights. But after thirteen pro fights (10wins, 10ko’s), I soon learnt that it was boring because you only had straight punches, upper cuts and hooks! Call me old fashioned but I like to kick, knee and elbow people in the face, so I decided Muay Thai was for me.

Is it true that you lost your only professional Mixed Martial Arts bout?
Yeah, I fought Tony Bonello. Man that fight was a joke in the first place because I weighed 80kg wringing wet and Bonello was 97kg, not to mention he was 16-0 in the cage and I was having my first crack at it. Needless to say the fight went a minute from a rear naked choke. I was hurt though and once the fight was over I walked over to Tony and asked if we could fight again right then. I told him I wasn’t hurt and let’s give the crowd their moneys worth. He said nah not today and one day we would rematch under Muay Thai rules. It’s been over two years and I’m still waiting for the phone to ring.

I also heard you went full Bloodsport style where you trained in a Muay Thai camp in Thailand for four years. What was that experience like?
That was one of the best times of my life, I mean I was only 19 and the only white dude in my town just outside Bangkok. The training was insane and the fights were always wars but I learnt to hold my own and picked up the language pretty well. I became a white Thai and most importantly I got respect from the Thai people because they appreciated my never-say-die attitude in the ring.

You must have taken away so much from those training and sparring sessions. So what does a standard training session consist of now?
Every morning I wake up and on the road at 7am for a 12km run. I come back and train on pads and spar for an hour and a half, finishing with 250 sit ups and push ups. Afternoon is a smaller 6km run but more intense sessions on the hand pads, Thai pads, kick shields, bag work and mixing up grappling and boxing sparring with another 250 sit ups and push ups. That’s Monday to Friday and Saturday morning we just spar for two hours. Sunday is a lazy day.

I think I’ll take your Sunday program for myself. Are the sessions intense enough to break bones?
I broke my ribs a few times in sparring from body shots. I have gotten stitches as well from accidents in the gym, but you get that on the big jobs.

Shit man it’s just training, I’d hate to see the bones you break in a real fight!
Yeah it happens but I’ve luckily just broken my knuckles. I went to load up with a massive right hand, just as it was about to land he put his hand down and I punched him on top of the head which sent instant pain down my arm. I ended up knocking him out with an elbow a round later but my hand was stuffed for about six months.

A perfect example for sticking with Muay Thai, as if it would have been a Boxing match there would probably have been no KO?
Yep, that’s right.

Moving along to your journey with The Contender, just from watching the show it looked like you really enjoyed your time there and making it to the final?
The Contender was another once in a life time opportunity that I got to experience. For eight weeks we lived, ate, trained, slept and then fought each other. I got to walk away with heaps of free shit as well like a 42inch plasma, iPod, DS, new suit, jewellery and of course world wide fame which is priceless. Plus, it was real fun to see how things work in front of the camera and behind the scenes.

During the final you were battling a lot of emotional demons with your father’s condition and your wife’s pregnancy; do you feel these issues affected your performance in the final drastically with the loss to Yodsaenklai?
Yeah that sucked. The final was a bad time in my life as my dad was on his last legs with terminal cancer and my wife was three weeks away from giving birth to my son. I fought my hardest trying to win for my Dad as it was the last time he was going to see me fight, but Yod is a monster and so strong and defensive. But when I left Australia for the final I was trying not to break down on the plane the whole way to Singapore. This was the first time I was away from my family so there were no distractions. One thing for sure was that I was not going to let him stop me, when I got dropped twice I would tell myself to get up and get back in there. When you’re fighting you’re only one punch away from victory no matter what is happening but unfortunately for me it never came. Who knows maybe a rematch one day?

Has the Yod monster been your toughest opponent to date?
Yeah without a doubt, the guy is an absolute freak. He is so young, so strong, and a bloody southpaw, grrrrrrrr!

I’ve heard the term ‘shoot fighting’ used a few times in fights, what’s the difference between that and Muay Thai?
Shoot Boxing is like Muay Thai except you’re allowed to stand and choke your opponent as well as hip throw and suplex for extra points. They also wear funny ass pants that don’t do the male appendage any justice.

Haha, do you enjoy the funky pants and Wrestle Mania style over Muay Thai?
Muay Thai is definitely my favourite form of violence; it has so much history and tradition and you can never learn it all. Just when you think you have got it mastered, your next opponent brings something new to the table and you will have to change your whole style to adapt.

Has there been any specific fighter that’s been an inspiration to you in the sport?
The first white super star Ramon Dekkers! He was a crazy fighter from Holland that was in Thailand taking on the Thai’s before most people even knew what Muay Thai was. When he was knocking them out left and right the promoter would throw the best of the best at him and he would stand there and trade most of the time coming out on top. Sometimes he would get his ass handed to him but he always made them earn it.

Talk me through your mentality before a big fight? Do you have any pre-fight superstitions? Rituals? Voodoo shit? Are you more anxious to smash your opponent or nervous?
I like to pray the night before, asking for strength and a good game plan plus to keep me safe. I’m sometimes worried that if I pray the day of the fight and Heaven is too far away it might not make same day delivery. I don’t get that nervous anymore, I’ve had 96 fights now, and I know stressing just burns energy so why waste it on stupid shit.

Speaking of stupid shit, you fought the one-armed fighter, Baxter Humby in the states a few years ago. Even though you easily won the fight did you feel that it was fair considering that your opponent only had one arm, or do you feel that Baxter had the right to fight an able bodied professional such as yourself?
Ha-ha D’oh! Yes, I fought Humpy and yes, he only had one good arm and he put a glove on his stump. He is a great fighter and has had over 60 fights now and won a few world titles. But I was actually meant to fight a Thai dude who just days before could not get a passport. The promoter said there is only one fighter that will fight you, but he only has one arm! Back in those days I had no money and needed to fight so Angie and I could move out of her parent’s house. I stopped him in round three with punches but it was a lose/lose fight, plus honestly speaking if I had lost I think I would have retired.

Most memorable fight and why?
There was a tournament in Thailand called the S-1 at Rajadum Stadium in Bangkok. I fought three times in two hours, I beat a Russian on points over three rounds, I stopped a French guy in round three with a right hand breaking his nose and knocking out a few teeth, then I went another five rounds with a Thai who had beaten me three times before that on points. I won a world title, received One Million Baht and a trophy from the Prime Minister of Thailand live on Thai TV. It was very, very cool.

Best venue?
Lumpinee Stadium in Bangkok, the mecca of Muay Thai in Thailand.

Just getting a bit deeper, tell me something about yourself that not too many people know both professionally and personally?
As a professional I hate to lose and get super depressed if I do. My wife goes on suicide watch for seven days if I lose a fight, no shit. Personally I love Karaoke, I sound like crap but I make people listen to me or I beat them up ha-ha.

Man I hope I don’t end up pissed at some karaoke bar with you. So that’s your personal winding down method, karaoke?
Yeah plus the internet and masturbating.

Hmmm can’t disagree there, what about fast cars, what are your favourites?
I own a WRX that’s very fast and I used to own a 200sx.

Considering that your wife is also a professional, is Muay Thai a family tradition you hope your kids will continue on?
My kids have been in the gym everyday since the time they were born. We teach classes morning and night so they have no choice but to come with us. I hope they get into it but I honestly think they’ll be well and truly over it by the time they enter their teens.

So then what advice would you give your kids or any other young aspiring fighters that want become the next JWP?
Never give up on your dreams. You get one life to leave an impression on the world. Money is nice but if you get a chance in life to stand out from the crowd grab it with both hands and never let go.

Thanks for the insight bro and good luck with your future ass whooping endeavours.
No worries, cheers.

To find out more about John Wayne Parr, visit www.johnwayneparr.com.au

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