Richard Smith – Founding the first Muay Thai Gym in Leeds

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A fighting career, while all-consuming while it lasts, can sometimes feel like a short time once it’s over. Sometimes a fighter isn’t ready mentally for something that has defined them for so long to be over. This is why a fighter will often decide to make a comeback and return to the ring following retirement. Many fighters devote their post-retirement life to training future generations of fighters. Among those retired professional fighters is the founder of the Bad Company Gym, Richard Smith. He is the WBC Muay Thai International Trainer of the Year. He has trained multiple world champions and some of the best-known Muay Thai fighters the UK has produced. Following his retirement, Smith made it his life goal to train emerging fighters at his gym named Bad Company.

With the beginning of a new chapter of his life as a trainer, Smith made this choice as one way to stay in touch with the sport in which he had been an active performer since he was 17. Smith was born in Sheffield, United Kingdom, on December 27, 1967. Since he was just 16, he developed an interest in martial arts. He began his Muay Thai fighting career in 1985. Smith has three British, Commonwealth, and European Muay Thai titles to his name and has fought internationally at the top level for almost 20 years.

Smith moved to Leeds in 1991 to work as a chartered surveyor. Upon his arrival in Leeds, he realized there was no Muay Thai Gym in the city where he could train, so he had to drive to Manchester 3 or 4 times a week and supplement his training in one of the many professional boxing gyms in the city. This prompted him to establish his own gym. Smith has trained several world-renowned Muay Thai Fighters at Bad Company, including Liam Harrison, Andy Howson, Jordan Watson, Lisa Houghton-Smith, and others. As of today, Leeds is not short of sporting heroes, and some of the talented Muay Thai fighters in the city have been able to showcase exactly what it means to be a world-class athlete.

Promoting the Next Generation

In 2000 Smith teamed up with Showsprt International to start promoting events that became some of the most popular in the UK at Leeds Town Hall. He or Lisa (now his wife) would top the bill, and his upcoming team of young fighters would take on opponents from all over the world in front of packed-out audiences. In 2012, Smith joined forces with Mike Tobin of Tobin’s gym to promote events at the home of Leeds United Football Club, Elland Road, once again providing his team and other local fighters a chance to showcase their skills. Through his hard work and dedication, Smith has seen his fighters achieve worldwide acclaim and trains to make superstars out of fighters. He is training three fighters who are currently signed to One Championship. Liam Harrison, Amber Kitchen, and Jacob Smith. Bad Company’s fighters travel internationally regularly and have performed in Thailand, Turkey, Canada, Philippines, Poland, Hungary, and Singapore in the last six months alone.

Winning the 26th world title

In 2019, Bad Company celebrated winning its 26th world title since its inception. Under Smith’s embodied vision, Bad Company is a gym driven not just to win titles but to produce world-class athletes. It also features a close-knit family environment that permeates the whole gym, with trainers cheering on their trainees as they drill the pads, encouraging them to keep pushing and pointing out areas where they can improve. Richard and his wife, Lisa Houghton-Smith, former 2x World Champion herself, now run Bad Company Gym together, helped by some of their retired champions like Andy Howson and James France, who coach in the gym.

Career after retiring as an active fighter

Smith has toured the world as a coach for fighters competing in some of the most prestigious events in the world, such as One Championship, Glory, Enfusion, Bellator, Lionfight, MTGP, and the All Japan Kickboxing Federation (AJKF). He was named Leeds Sports Federation Coach of the Year in 2008 and UK Coach of the Year in 2017. In 2012, his gym was voted the Yorkshire Evening Post Amateur Sports Team of the Year, and in 2013 and 2017, it was crowned the Thaifighter UK Muay Thai Gym of the Year. Smith recently voted WBC Muay Thai International coach of the year in 2023.

At Bad Company, Smith’s training isn’t limited to adults. He also teaches children’s classes at the gym, with an extensive team of junior fighters and those who want to learn how to defend themselves, allowing them to socialize and meet new friends while exercising.

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