Muay Thai is looking to go global this year. MMA fighters are increasingly borrowing the knee-strikes and foot-thrusts and the relentlessly painful shinkicks. A new reality show called The Challenger: Muay Thai is launching on AXN throughout Asia. The show, which pits fighters from around the world against each other like some kind of Van Damme kumite revisited, may not unseat the Kardashians. But still, you have to be impressed by a sport where part of the training involves smacking your shins with sticks until you have a bunch of microfractures, a process called bone conditioning or, more clinically, “cortical remodeling”.

There are two Muay Thai venues in Bangkok: Lumpini and Ratchadamnoen. Lumpini is more famous, but Ratchadamnoen has the same fragrant mix of Thai bookies, western gawkers and desperate fighters with names like “Hyper Battle Cyborg” or “The Turbine from Hell” (take the full ring-name quiz at My Muay Thai).

Photographer Jonathan Hanson, who has been a friend of mine for years, got a rare look behind the scenes on fight night at Ratchadamnoen. From the bettors cage to the training table to ringside, this is Muay Thai. —Nathan Thornburgh

A Muay Thai fighter prepares for his bout at Rajadumnern stadium in Bangkok, Thailand.
Taping a young fighter pre-fight, in old days they wrapped hemp rope around arm & forearm.
Preparing pre-fight.
A brief version of the traditional wai khru prayer to teachers and ancestors.
A fighter walks to the ring.
The stadium band plays traditional muay thai music during the fight.
Rajadumnern (also spelled as Ratchadamnoen) stadium in Bangkok.
A corner man shouts instructions to his fighter.
Two men exchange money after a bout.
Bookies and bettors jump to their feet in the third class section.
A fighter pulls tape from his hands while one of his corner men massage knots from his legs after losing his bout.
A trainer massages a figher after his bout.
Washing off post-fight.