Ethan Quiachon’s fight nickname wasn’t what he expected, but when it’s given to you by Golden Era Muay Thai legend, Jongsanan “The Woodenman” Fairtex, you don’t turn it down.
“It’s because you’re little – like a bonsai tree!” Quiachon laughs, as he thought about Jongsanan reasoning behind his new fight name.
What makes bonsai trees so prized is the skill involved in their growth. These trees are small but mighty with strong roots that calls for a watchful eye.
Quiachon built his career on a high-level Muay Thai technique at age 16, which took him from competing in smokers around the Bay Area to representing the US at the 2012 IFMA World Championships in Russia under.
Five years after his IFMA appearance, Quiachon made his pro debut with Jongsanan in his corner. Quiachon walked away from that fight victorious with a well-performed unanimous decision over Darren Uyenoyama, a UFC and Strikeforce veteran. “Jongsanan really put everything into me,” Quiachon, 26, says. “He took me under his wing and we trained only a year before turning me pro. He said I was ready and I trust him with everything. We had some tough fights, but I got better and our relationship got closer as we prepare for every fight that came along.”
Many trees including the bonsai are built to stand tall and be resilient, even when the weather tests their limits. Their tough trunks, sometimes scarred by the storm, serve as reminders of adversity and courage to rise. In 2015, Quiachon watched his mother, one of the most important people in his life, battle an illness. And in those tough moments, he began to rethink and examine his own life.
“I grew up without a father, so my mom played both roles,” says Quiachon, who was 21 at the time. “From the beginning (of my fighting career), my mom was always on my side supporting my dreams and never shutting me down.”
“It gave me time to think about things. I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with (my) life, between dedicating all my energy to Muay Thai as a trainer and fighter or do the generic route and go back to school. At the same time, I didn't know what was happening with my mom, so my main focus was her,” he says. “During that time, I wasn't training and I missed it. That break that really made me realize how much I love the sport and how much more I have to give.”
That experience led Quiachon to stay strong and look forward to the next steps in his career, especially when fights are able to resume consistently.
“My mom, my family, my girlfriend, my team, my boss, Jongsanan, and everyone that supports me,” he says, “I don't want to let them down.”Quiachon’s design features a bonsai tree growing in front of the Golden Gate Bridge, a tribute to his nickname and his hometown. These symbols are outlined by the Filipino sun, a nod to his heritage and the fighting spirit of Filipinos across the world.
Written by: Geoff Stelfox Photos by: Geoff Stelfox