Lanna MMA Fighter of The Week
John Wayne Parr
Born Wayne Gregory Parr on May 25th 1976, it would take some time for the future multiple times world middleweight champion to receive his monikers ‘John Wayne’, ‘The Gunslinger’, or ‘JWP’. He is one of the greatest foreign fighters to ever compete in Thailand. Known for his authentic Thai style of fighting, strong hand combinations, and a lion heart in battle, he is one of the most respected non-Thai fighters in Thailand and worldwide. He has major likability, a famous Wai Kru, and lives with a sense of humility you don’t typically find in athletes of his caliber. He is without a doubt one of the most excited fighters you’ll ever watch inside the ring.
He has fought legends and superstars like Songchai, Paeng-Rit, Yodsanklai, Jean-Charles Skarbowsky, Lamsongkan, and Orono, to name a few. He was the first Australian to compete in the famed Lumpinee Stadium, fighting under Songchai Rattanasuban’s promotion. Under Songchai, Wayne only fought the best Thais in the sport at that time, and won many important bouts.
Like most young boys, Wayne took an immediate liking to martial arts in his teens. Two of his biggest heroes growing up were Jean Claude Van Damme, and Bruce Lee. He began training in Tae Kwon Do at a young age, and his first fight came at 14. After his TKD school closed, he transitioned to kickboxing. A fateful encounter would change his life forever.
He met his mentor Richard Vell, owner of Boonchu restaurant when he was 16, ordering some food. It was before his first fight against a Thai. A friend recommended that he seek out the instruction of someone who could teach him real Muaythai. Richard became his first sponsor, and a strong bond was created. He’d literally spend his whole day in the restaurant listening to him. Richard encouraged Wayne to go to Thailand, because he believed he had what it took to become a great fighter in the sport.
He lived like a Thai, training at Sityodtong Camp in Pattaya at 19 years old. He spent 3 months at the camp, but felt like he wasn’t growing as a fighter. He wanted to be a star in the sport. He moved to Bangkok to train Mornut Borbud’s Loomingkwan Camp in Nonthabiru, with fighter’s like Sangtiennoi. At first the camp didn’t want to take on a foreign fighter. Richard Vell begged on Wayne’s behalf for the gym to take Wayne on. Eventually Mornut gave in. He was given his fight name ‘John Wayne’ by Mornut, and the ‘Gunslinger’ was born.
All of his fights are full of high level excitement. His battles with Orono are legendary, especially their rematch at the King’s birthday on December 5th 2000, which Wayne won by decision (a difficult feat for a foreigner), for the IMF World Title, by fighting the southpaw in a southpaw stance. The idea to change his stance was made by legendary Sangtiennoi, who cornered him for that fight, as a counter to Orono’s elbows, because in their first bout, Orono cut Wayne with an elbow over his right eye, forcing the doctor to stop the fight.
He is still widely respected by fans, fighters and promoters worldwide, and especially in Thailand, as one of the greatest muay farang (foreign fighters), because he honours the sport by fighting like a Thai.
He is a true ambassador of the sport to the world, especially in Australia. He shows his support for Thailand’s sport and culture by making an effort to speak the language and live the Thai culture. He embodies the Thai spirit of the sport because he shows humility in both success and defeat, and he fights with all his heart. In Thailand, more respect is given to a fighter who loses with excitement over one who wins in boring fashion.
Wayne lives in Queensland Gold Coast Australia with his wife, World Champion and 8x United States Champion, Angie Parr, and their daughter Jazzy, a junior champion, where he runs Boonchu Gym and his promotion, Caged Muay Thai.
Check out our previous Lanna MMA Fighter of The Week Joe Frazier
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Written by Ryan McKinnon, Lanna MMA Team Member and host of The Bloody Ballet Podcast, a weekly Muay Thai show that can be found at The Bloody Ballet