Sat listening to Rajan Swali talking about Muay Thai, it’s hard to believe the kid is only fifteen years old. Articulate, respectful, polite and remarkably intelligent, Rajan is a delightful anomaly – a Muay Thai guru trapped in a young man’s body. He oozes the class of a legend in the twilight of their career, whilst displaying the red-hot ambition of a fledgling fighter ravenous for their next bout.
Rajan’s rapid development can be attributed to spending years associating with people much older than himself. On almost every occasion he’s strolled through the doors of Pra Chao Suua gym, Raj has been the youngest competitive fighter in the building. It’s turned him into a surprisingly responsible and sophisticated teenager, one who’s well educated in both mind and body.
“I’ve never been intimidated by being the youngest fighter at the gym,” Rajan confirmed to the Tanko Management team. “Everyone there is really nice and they help me so much – Dean (James) especially. He’s the guy I look up to more than anyone.”
Rajan has learnt from Tanko teammate Dean James since signing up to the Birmingham gym back in 2011. The effect this has had on the youngster is unmistakable. Aside from harbouring a modest demeanour like Dean, Rajan is notably focused and balanced for a school kid, eager to discuss his progress in a constructive manner at every possible opportunity.
“Rajan actually finds it difficult to communicate with some kids his age,” Rajan’s father told Tanko Management. “He’s very mature for his age. He wants to sit down and have meaningful, productive conversations. A lot of fifteen-year-olds don’t want to do that.”
But that’s not to say Rajan’s maturity is a burden. In fact, it’s earned him a great deal of respect in the Muay Thai community, as well as a wide circle of friends in combat sports.
“I try to get to as many of Raj’s fights as I can,” explained the fighter’s father. “Whenever I go, I’m always taken aback by these adult fighters who approach Raj and talk to him like a grown-up. They treat him like a fellow athlete, in spite of his age. It just goes to show how highly he’s regarded.”
There’s little doubt Rajan is swimming in the deep end, but the youngster regards it nonsensical to be anywhere else. He knows exactly what he wants and believes testing himself is the only way to make that dream become reality.
“I wanna be UK number one,” Rajan told Tanko Management. “That is my ultimate goal. For now, though, I’m taking each fight as it comes. The main thing is getting a lot of fights in – but also the right kind of fights, too. There’s no point in fighting people who aren’t going to test you.
“One of the most important things for me right now is staying active. If I’m preparing for a fight, I’m disciplined. The more fights I get, the better I’ll become. It can be tricky to get fights sometimes, and a lot of my opponents have pulled out in the past which has been frustrating. But all I can do is keep looking forward and staying focused. The good fights will come.”
Despite his adoration for The Art of Eight Limbs, Rajan does his best to balance his hobby with school commitments. It’s no easy task, but he appears to be succeeding so far, earning good grades in class whilst excelling in the gym. He’s even found ways to integrate training into his journey to school – running there and back to improve his cardiovascular endurance.
“I have a lot going on with school and homework and GCSE’s, but if you love something enough you’ll make the time for it,” Rajan told us. “I’ll never be too busy for Muay Thai. I think I’ll be in combat sports for a long time yet.”
Now Rajan has signed on the dotted line for Tanko Management, his bright future has an added twinkle. If he continues to develop at such a blistering pace, the Brummie may soon claim that UK #1 spot he wants so much. It’s all set to be an exhilarating ride that everyone at Tanko Management is excited to be a part of.