Chris ‘Bad News’ Baya (60-5-1, 35 KO’s) heads into this Friday’s GLORY 50 CHICAGO SUPERFIGHT SERIES card main event to face the biggest challenge of his career thus far: a showdown with lightweight champion Sitthichai Sitsongpeenong (118-30-5, 32 KO’s).
The fight will air live on UFC FIGHT PASS and features one of the most technically accomplished lightweights in the world against one of the hardest-hitting. Everyone who has ever fought or trained with Baya says he is possessed of unbelievable punching power for his weight.
“Sitthichai is very good, very skillful but Chris is powerful and he believes in himself,” says Baya’s coach Mike Passenier, of Mike’s Gym.
“He is someone I can look him in the eye and say, ‘If you hit that wall, the wall will fall down’ and he would just starting hitting the wall with all the power that he has. He believes in himself, he believes in me and I believe in him.”
Every fight who comes out of Mike’s Gym seems to have a relationship with him which extends beyond the usual coach/athlete relationship and into something deeper. There is a fierce loyalty between them all.
“Chris came to me as a B-class fighter. Nobody would give him a fight,” recalls Passenier. “He was training with me and with another trainer at the time and he needed to get enough B-Class fights so that he could progress to the A-Class level in Holland.
“His trainer made him an ultimatum: me or Mike. Well he chose me. But he came to me and he said, ‘Please don’t let me down. Don’t let me fall’.
“I said ‘Chris, give me your hand. Let me tell you, I wont let you fall, ever, I will be there for you but you have to be there for me, Don’t let me down. You have to help me to help you’. And… well, here we are now, fighting for the world title.”
Sitthichai is one of the pound-for-pound best competitors in kickboxing today. There are no particularly obvious holes in his game and Passenier does not attempt to downplay the tough nature of the challenge.
“The only thing you can do with a guy like Sitthichai to neutralize him is go at him with everything you have got. Everything you do has to be hard, constant pressure,” he says.
“Force him to give you something, one small gap, and when he does you put your fist or knee or foot through it as hard as you can, and that’s where the win is.”
GLORY 50 CHICAGO SUPERFIGHT SERIES takes place this Friday, February 1.