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 great Muay 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 a Muay 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.
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. The gym changed its name to Rise Combat Sports in 2017 but has retained the same coaches and instructors along with the welcoming environment and active community.