Model-Muay Thai fighter Mia Kang

FIGHTING WORDS: With her first Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition behind her, model Mia Kang is training for her first professional Muay Thai fight next month in Koh Samui, Thailand. And her connection with Time Inc. will endure, with staffers trailing her for a digital documentary for SI.

The Hong Kong-born Kang won last year’s model search, which secured her appearance in the latest SI Swimsuit edition. Now the budding professional fighter has green lighted behind-the-scenes access in the lead-up to next month’s main event in Thailand. It has not been determined how SI will use the documentary, a spokeswoman for Kang said. Since launching her modeling career in Hong Kong, she has appeared on international covers for Elle and Cosmopolitan, and has modeled for such brands as Chanel, Guess Jeans, Guess Accessories, Aveda and Nike.

Taking a 10-day break in Thailand last year, Kang wandered into a Muay Thai gym purely out of curiosity. Nine months later, she was still training there and living with fighters from the gym. Developed several hundred years ago, it is the national sport and cultural martial art of Thailand. Known as “The Art of Eight Limbs,” the name references eight points of contact and that the body mimics weapons of war. As an overweight child she was bullied and later dealt with eating disorders. Kang has since overcome such issues and strives to share a message of empowerment. That message is paramount to her efforts to help set a more attainable standard of beauty that emphasizes healthy, diverse size, self-confident and multidimensional women.

Back in New York, Kang is still modeling and has been working out with Phil Nurse at The Wat and Hollywood Hino of Church Street Boxing. She will leave for Thailand Monday and will divide her training there between Yokkao in Bangkok and Yodyut Muay Thai on the island of Koh Samui, where her family has a home.

Kang isn’t the only model to take to the sport in a widely publicized way. Two weeks ago, Gracie Carvalho joined forces with former NFL player Marshawn Lynch (who is rumored to be about to make a comeback) to launch the Gracie x Beast Mode collection. The Brazilian model first tried the sport three years ago, after a self-defense trainer encouraged her to try it.

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