Bunkerd Faphimai grew up in Chaiyaphum, a small country town in Thailand. His family made a living as rice farmers. When Bunkerd was just 11 years old, he was forced to quit school and get a job. At the same time, he started competing in small Muay Thai fights around the country for extra money. His first fight brought in the equivalent of one American dollar. Bunkerd dreamed of becoming a greatMuay Thai fighter, which would bring his family money and fame. Because he was shorter than the average fighter of his weight class, not too many people believed this dream was possible.
At 18, Bunkerd made off to Bangkok to try his luck in joining aMuay Thai training camp. Phillip Wong, of Fairtex, Thailand was the one who gave him his first break. Bunkerd proved all his doubters wrong and became a great champion – winning two of the most prestigious championships—one at the famed Lumpinee stadium and another at Rajadmnerm Stadium. His dedication, strength, perseverance and success in the sport of Muay Thai brought him much recognition and fame. Eventually, in the year 1992, Bunkerd came to the United States to become one of the head trainers in the new Fairtex camp in Chandler, Arizona. Simultaneously, he became a well-known world champion in the U.S. Because of Bunkerd’s humble disposition and fierce fighting style, he became known as the “People’s Champion.” It was at this new U.S. facility that Chris Cariaso and Bunkerd first met.
Chris, only 12 years old at this time, received a flyer about the Arizona gym while eating in a Thai restaurant with his mother. They immediately drove to the new facility and Chris became the very first student to sign up. Chris began training exclusively with Bunkerd. As a result, Chris excelled in this sport and began fighting at a very young age. Bunkerd and Chris became very close like father and son—Chris even lived at the gym for a period of time. Five years later, to the dismay of Chris and many other students, the gym closed down and the pair separated. At this time Bunkerd was moved around to many other gyms and Chris began pursuing another sport-BMX racing.
A few years later, a twist of fate landed the two in San Francisco at the same time. Alex Gong had started a new Fairtex in San Francisco and Bunkerd again served as head trainer. Chris, after winning the World Cup in BMX racing, moved to the Bay Area with his brother. Chris showed up at the gym with a seriously broken arm and jaw that would force his BMX career to come to a screeching halt. Chris remembered the one sport that made him strong before and decided that training with Bunkerd again was the best way to rehabilitate.
At the young age of 17, Chris became program director at the San Francisco Fairtex. Chris was a natural in this business and his enthusiasm about Muay Thai helped Alex’s business grow. Chris also began teaching classes and developed a following of dedicated private students.
After the tragic death of Alex Gong in 2003, Bunkerd and Chris decided to strike out on their own. Bunkerd, now with three sons and a wife in America, wanted to fulfill a life-long dream of owning a gym. He and Chris aggressively pursued the business knowledge needed to make this dream a reality. Once again Bunkerd faced opposition with the cynical, and this time he was not alone. Many thought Chris was too young to lead this business venture, and Bunkerd could not be his own boss. The skeptics didn’t sway the pair and finally, the hard work paid off. One of Chris’ private students rented them a space at 734 Bryant St. in San Francisco. Fight and Fitness opened its doors on March 15, 2004 and began a thriving and beloved gym.
In the age of the big corporate gym, many aspects about Fight and Fitness set it apart from the others. Fight and Fitness is family-owned and operated, and the positive atmosphere reflects that feeling. Every student is important to Bunkerd and Chris. Fight and Fitness gives every student the personal attention they deserve. The training is excellent for all ages and levels, and everyone is continually encouraged to do their personal best. Because of the opposition the two overcame, Bunkerd and Chris believe that anyone can achieve whatever they believe in. As long as you believe in yourself, they will help you achieve your goals. Their enthusiasm reflects this belief.
The pair plan to expand the business, but never at the expense of losing the personal touch Fight and Fitness acquired.