20-year-old Airdronian Damion Smith credits Muay Thai with saving his life. But the discipline and dedication he has given to the sport have not only set a better path for him; it has also given him a coveted win in the ring. 

Smith won the gold medal at the Muay Thai World Cup: The Road to One championship, which was held at the Grey Eagle Event Centre in late March. Going fist-to-fist with his opponent Daniel Zhou (Ottawa) in the 150 lb. prospects bout, Smith said this fight was the first time he has gone five rounds with a competitor.

"That was a little bit different. I knew that it was going to be a long fight, but it wasn't a worry for me," Smith said. "I know that I have amazing cardio and the guy ended up tiring himself out in the later rounds and I stayed on him."

After 10 minutes of fighting (since each round lasts two minutes) a decision was made.

"Honestly, it was very close and we were both standing there for a while. I was kind of nervous because [it] could have gone either way. But when I got my hand raised, it was a really good feeling," Smith added.

Having now fought six fights in the ring, Smith hasn't had much time to sit on his laurels as he is training hard with the Airdrie Bellegarde Dragons, for his next competition: The Trial By Fire 13. This event will be held in Airdrie on May 27. Smith said he is in the gym at least two hours a day. 

"In the past, I did dabble in like boxing or Karate, but some of them were money grabs. When I first did Muay Thai; when I came to this gym, it was super real, it felt like a family," he said. "The training was super intensive and it hooked me in."

When asked who he idolizes in the world of professional Muy Thai, Smith said there is only one answer.

"Rodtang [Jitmuangnon]. Everybody knows that guy," Smith remarked.

Rodtang, who also goes by the moniker, The Iron Man and The Tank is the reigning Flyweight champion in the world of Muy Thai.

However, Smith isn't the only Airdrie Bellegarde Dragon who has his sights set on a professional career. Fellow dragon, 21-year-old Airdronian Anthony Palombo is also training tirelessly as he is preparing to fight in the Trail By Fire tournament.

He is hoping to beat his opponent who is flying in all the way from Amman, Jordan. If Palombo does dominate in the ring, he can add the World Kickboxing Association's (WKA) World title to his achievements.

Having won the North American champion in kickboxing last November, Palombo is confident the upcoming fight in May will go his way.

"I've been here before; I fought for titles before. This is going to be my third time fighting for the WTA title. So, I'm pretty comfortable with what it takes," he said. "I'm not worried because I know who I'm going to war with."

Palombo credits the extraordinary team of coaches and mentors that he knows stand firmly in his corner. 

"I have Luis Cofre, Vanessa Bellegarde; I have coach Philip, who is my 'cutman' [Garduqu]. He makes sure that if I get cut or damaged in any way that I'm healed up and ready to go in the next round."

Although his opponent may be flying across the oceans and continents to fight him in the ring, Palombo said that considering he has been fighting since he was eight years old and has fought opponents from across the globe, the prospect is not one that gives him nerves.

"It's an international fight and it's for a world title. But at the end of the day, it's me versus him," he said. "I know what it takes to win a fight at any day anytime. I've been here before; I have a feeling he hasn't. So, I'm ready to show up and do my job on May 27." 

Palombo eagerly gave a shout-out to the Airdrie Martial Arts Centre and the Airdrie Bellegarde Dragons, saying definitively it is the best gym in Airdrie. 

"[The coaches], they've always had my back. I just want to shout out my coaches; they've all helped me so much get to this point. I'm just grateful for them and couldn't wish for a better team." 

While Palombo's focus is now on the world title, he added that he is up for any challenge and any title that might be available to him. 

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