Cheers erupted from the crowds as the referee grabbed the arm of Montgomery County local Keemaan (pronounced “k?y?-m?n”) Diop and raised it high in the air. The referee then wrapped around Diop’s waist the championship belt for the American Muay Thai League’s 147lb weight division.
Diop defeated Brian O’Halloran from Capital MMA with an astonishing kick to the head, leaving O’Halloran screaming in pain on the canvas in the semi-final round. Then, a unanimous decision against Stephen Nguyen from Lotus Thai Boxing-Fairfax in the finals to marked the end of his amateur matches and the start of his pro career.
“After a win, I like to say I added another brick to building my dream. It’s a great memory. Now it’s on to the next,” Diop said.
The AMTL hosted two 4-man championship tournaments at the 140lb and 147lb weight divisions in Washington DC last Saturday March 11, 2017, but those were not the only fights of the evening. There were 10 other matches that took place including fighters from Singnamsaab Gym, Capital MMA, Ambang, Lotus Thai Boxing – Sterling, Lotus Thai Boxing – Fairfax, Lotus Thai Boxing – Winchester, Level Up MD, Kaizen MMA, 8 Limbs Philadelphia, 8 Points NC, Revolution MMA, Ground Control MD, Beta Academy DC, and Diop’s gym-mate Tial Thang from Crazy 88 MMA.
Two of those matches were fought by women in the 120lb and 135lb divisions, showing that Muay Thai isn’t just a man’s sport.
The venue was packed and lively as the crowd cheered with each strike that landed between fighters on the blue canvas closed off by red ropes.
The 140lb championship title was won by Chas Cody from Level Up MD. The 147lb championship title would be Diop’s seventh win in his amateur career. He holds two titles in Thai Championship Boxing (TCB), two in RFS (Revolution Fight Series), one in Extreme Cage Fighting (ECF), one in Stellar Fights, and now one in the American Muay Thai League (AMTL). Now he is looking to his professional career to compete in Lion Fights, Glory Kickboxing, and Belletor Kickboxing.
Diop says his dream is to be a champion in Lion Fights but he doesn’t plan to stop there.
“After I get the world title in Lion fights, I will step into MMA,” he said.
Diop also explained a little bit of what goes on behind the scenes come fight day.
“Before the fight, I try to stay calm and light-hearted up until it’s time to warm up. Then I zone everything out and focus on my fight mentality. I don’t think about winning or losing. I only think and focus on bringing out the most deadly version of myself to the ring because I can’t control anything else in a fight situation. I can only control myself,” said Diop.
Diop says to anyone interested in Muay Thai, “Whatever walk in life you’re on or whatever reason you have in wanting to train, whether it’s to get fit, fight, or just a new hobby, you should do it. You won’t regret doing so.”
Keemaan Diop contributes his successes to his coaches, Jamal Hargrove and Aung La NSang, and the owner of Crazy 88 MMA, Julius Park. If an opponent can be found, Diop will debut his professional career in a Lion Fight Promotion televised live on AXS TV on April 28, 2017.