Darren Phillips

GFC Muay Thai’s senior instruction Darren Phillips began training Thai Boxing in 1984 under Master Sken, with Sandy Holt at the highly successful Bolton Thai Boxing Club. He began teaching after about a year’s training and was a very active instructor there in the hay day of the Bolton Gym when they had people such as Phil Nurse, Bobby Beckles, Trevor Hine, Ste Reilly, John Taylor, Craig Howlin, Brian Power, Ste Sharples, all of whom were at one time or another at least British and some European champions.

Darren set up his own gym in Heywood in 1993, before moving to the current location in Bury in Feburary of 1996. One of the most important times in Darren’s Thai boxing career was when he started to look into how fights should be scored correctly, how they are scored in Thailand. This prompted a change in the style of the gym and how things were taught. Since then the gym has become a much more traditional style of gym and has been even more successful in competition than it was previously.

Luke Phillips

Luke Phillips is Darren’s son and was always destined to be a top quality instructor. As a junior Luke picked up three British Titles in no time at all, when a knee injury forced him to stop competing. He returned some years later and was undefeated as an adult before a re-occurrence of the injury once again stopped him competing. Luke has spent a vast amount of time not only training in Thailand, but also doing some teaching. He has a vast knowledge and a great rapport with the students he trains.

Michael Howarth

Michael has been at GFC Muay Thai since it opened in its current location, sparring and training with all of the fighters to come though GFC’s doors to date. Again vastly experienced, Michael has taught the Sunday basics class for over ten years now, has competed at pro rules himself and has also trained in Thailand with some of the country’s top level fighters. Michael is also very well known as one of the best Muay Thai Photographers on the circuit and has seen more fights through his lens than most people have had hot dinners.

Adam Haslam

Adam has a degree in sports development and coaching, a former European junior champion and one of the most experienced fighters at GFC Muay Thai. He is currently ranked inside the top ten of UK fighters in his weight category.


In Addition to the main core of instructors all the fighters, both young and old, help out with teaching. Current active adult fighters, Myk Estlick, Haidon Wheeldon, Hassan Din and Kieran Lee are all very highly regarded and in addition to being top quality fighters have all also trained in Thailand.

Junior fighters Aaron Bentley, Lewis Bentley, Lewis George and Kelisha Dodds also help out with occasional instruction and have all been raked number 1 in the UK in their respective fight categories.

Gym Philosophy

The gyms Philosophy is simple and straight-forward. The instructors at the gym want to offer quality Thai Boxing instruction to as many people as possible regardless of their age, sex, ethnic background and ability. Whilst we have been successful in competition, we realise that not everyone wants to enter the ring and compete. Whatever the persons desires and ability we will do everything we can to help you achieve your desires and potential.


GFC Muay Thai runs several different classes; both adult and junior. As a rule up to the age of 13/14 we put people into the junior classes, and then after that, into the adult classes. Basics classes are aimed at those with no previous experience in Muay Thai, but can still put to good use by even the most experienced practitioner. Mixed level classes are for people of all levels, sparring classes are for those who are more experienced, probably competing or getting ready to start competing.

We also run general fitness/circuit classes. These are for people who want to get fit but don’t really want to do Muay Thai. They are run by a very experienced and knowledgeable fitness instructor, who has also competed in Muay Thai but now concentrates on performance coaching.

Private Lessons

Private lessons are the best way to learn Thai Boxing. Smaller classes, between 1 and 6 people maximum, they are catered around your specific needs and ability. It is often a good idea to try a private lesson first of all then you can have intensive basic training before you join in the classes.


There are various levels of competition within Thai Boxing. GFC Muay Thai itself holds regular interclubs, these are very light contact bouts of sparring where people can take their first steps towards active competition.  Interclubs are sparring sessions with an audience, but no decision so that there is less pressure that a real fight. These prove to be very popular with juniors especially, full padding is worn and it very difficult to pick up any kind of an injury. In addition to holding interclubs the gym travels around the northwest to interclubs held at other gyms.

For the seniors there are two further types of competition, amateur and professional, although these reflect the rules used and not actual payment of money. Amateur competitions are the initial steps as again full padding is worn. Once you have tried amateur competitions then, if you want, you can move on to professional, where only boxing gloves are worn as protection.


In addition to Muay Thai Darren also coaches western boxing. Scott Quigg, Bury’s most successful ever professional boxer actually started as Thai Boxer at GFC Muay Thai. Shortly after turning professional Scott asked Darren to continue to be involved in his career, as a result Darren became a boxing coach also. He studied with Brian Hughes at the world famous Collyhurst and Moston Boxing gym, and also assisted with Joe Gallagher’s very successful gym. He was not only in Scott’s corner for all his world Title fights, but many other professional title fights, including Anthony Crolla and Liam Smith’s world title winning nights and some of their defences. Darren has also travelled to America and studied in Freddie Roaches Wild Card Boxing gym.