Dave Leduc: Lethwei’s King

“The King of Lethwei” Dave Leduc is the face of the brutal combat sport known as Lethwei. He is the biggest star and ambassador of the sport and has had a crazy journey to become a Lethwei champion

Here’s a brief rundown on the career of the Lethwei King, Dave Leduc. Going over how the Canadian-born fighter discovered Lethwei and how Leduc became the face of Lethwei.

Name:David Leduc
Date of Birth:December 13, 1991
Place of Birth:Gatineau, Quebec, Canada
Nicknames:The King of Lethwei, Steel Giraffe
Height:1.88 m (6 ft 2 in)
Weight:165 lb (75 kg; 11 st 11 lb)
Team:Patenaude Martial Arts (2009–present)
Trainer:Sifu Patrick Marcil
Rank:Blue belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
Years active:2013–present

Dave Leduc’s Early Life 

Dave Leduc had an average Canadian upbringing who had a decent life. This was until Leduc had a fight with his father, which led to him being kicked out of his house.

At seventeen, Leduc was living on the street. He was alone and filled with anger when he decided to direct this anger into marital arts.

Leduc would discover a small Kung Fu school called Kung Fu Patenaude. The school’s owner, Sifu Patrick Marcel, would allow Dave to train in the academy.

Dave would focus his anger in a positive direction and quickly take up the Kung Fu style of Sanda. Later, Leduc would also participate in the school’s No-Gi Jiu-Jitsu program.

Quebec would get into No-Gi and begin participating in tournaments. Even helping organize events for the small Quebec grappling community.

Dave Leduc’s Journey Into Lethwei 

One day, while hanging out with one of the Kung Fu school’s instructors, Leduc was introduced to the violent sport of Lethwei. This instructor showed Leduc an old videotape of a Lethwei event in Myanmar. 

From the moment Dave Leduc saw Lethwei fighting, he wanted to become a Lethwei fighter. But he then discovered that fulfilling this dream was not possible in Quebec.

During the 2000s, Muay Thai was banned in Quebec, which meant Lethwei was also banned in the province.

Leduc would also, unfortunately, discover that becoming a Lethwei fighter would be rather difficult. Myanmar is an extremely closed-off country, and attaining a Visa to the country was next to impossible.

Dave Leduc Lethwei

Dave Leduc Becomes a Muay Thai Fighter

While researching a Visa to Myanmar, Leduc discovered that a Visa to Thailand (Myanmar’s border country) was easier to attain.

Leduc would attain a 30-day Visa to Thailand and go on this journey with a group of friends. Admittedly, Dave has said he was doing a lot of partying during his Thailand visit.

At a bar he was drinking at, Thai boxing matches were going on. One of the fighters no-showed, which led Leduc to volunteer to fight in his first Muay Thai bout with no experience.

Dave Leduc would use his Sanda skills and win his debut. After the win, Leduc discovered that the Muay Thai camps would pay you to train and stay in the country. Then, by being able to stay, he could be able to find promoters that could get him a Lethwei fight. 

Some of Leduc’s friends who trained at Tiger Muay Thai were able to get him a tryout for the gym’s kickboxing team. He would pass the tryout and begin training alongside future world champions like Petr Yan and Alex Volkanovski.

Dave won his first few pro-Muay Thai bouts by 1st KO, but this got him on the bad side of Thai boxing promoters. Gambling is a big part of Muay Thai, and fighters customarily don’t KO their opponent until fans start placing bets.

Since Dave was knocking out his opponents in the first round, bookies couldn’t get action on his fights.

Dave Leduc in Lethwei Gym

Dave Leduc & Thai Prison Fights

After being blackballed by Thai boxing promoters, Dave Leduc was financially strapped. This would lead Dave to begin competing in the controversial Thai prison fight series.

The Thai Department of Corrections put on these Muay Thai events. They gave former Thai boxers turned criminals the chance to reduce their sentences or get their freedom outright.

Dave Leduc was one of the opponents who had to fight the criminal ex-fighters. Leduc fought in the last event in 2014 against former Lupini Stadium fighter Thahan Chor. A formerly ranked fighter who was arrested for drug trafficking.

How Dave Leduc Entered Lethwei

After running out of money, Dave Leduc would be forced to move back to Canada. While working odd jobs, he would contact Muay Thai promoters in Thailand.

One promoter who answered said he didn’t promote Thai boxing anymore but was promoting Lethwei. Dave realized this was his chance to achieve his dream of becoming a Lethwei fighter.

The promoter would lie about Leduc’s Lethwei experience to get him on the card. Telling the event organizer that Leduc had 40 pro-Muay Thai bouts instead of the 10 he really had.

Leduc’s Lethwei Debut

It would not be an easy introduction to the sport of Lethwei for Dave Leduc. He would begin his Lethwei career by fighting the sport’s undefeated world champion, Too Too.

10,000 spectators in Yangon, Myanmar attended his pro-Lethwei debut. Being a Western fighter, the Myanmar crowd began pelting him with garbage.

But Leduc knew he would be greeted by this and studied how to get the audience to respect him. Once he entered the round, Leduc would begin making gestures like smashing his elbow into his cupped hand.

Knowing he was placed in a fight to lose, Leduc would fight with something to prove. Despite his inexperience, he would give Too Too a great fight.

He would be knocked down and damaged by Too Too, but Dave was able to tire out the champion. At the end of the five rounds, neither fighter was knocked out or quit. 

Under Lethwei’s rules, this fight was declared a draw. Dave may not have won his debut, but he gained thousands of fans.

Dave Leduc Fights Tun Tun Min

Due to his impressive debut, Dave Leduc would quickly be offered another world title match. He would fight the Lethwei Open-Weight World Champion, Tun Tun Min.

The bought at Thein Pyu Stadium would be a back-and-forth battle. Both fighters would nearly win the fight, but it would end in another draw.

Tun Tun Min would offer Leduc an immediate rematch to see who was the better fighter. At the 2016 bout, Leduc hurt Min in the third round. Unable to answer the bell, Leduc would win the Lethwei Open-weight World Championship.

Dave Leduc: The Face of Lethwei

After winning the open-weight title in just his third pro-Lethwei bout, Dave became the face of Lethwei. Earning the nickname “The King of Lethwei.”

Leduc would instantly become a star in Myanmar, who could not walk the streets without getting accosted. The leader of Myanmar at the time even paid for his wedding and televised the ceremony.

As the king of Lethwei, Dave Leduc knew it was his responsibility to be an ambassador of the sport. He would begin calling anyone from Thai fighters to MMA fighters to come to try Lethwei.

These call-outs would lead to the biggest matches in the sport’s history. Two of the most memorable early bouts were against fellow Wester Lethwei fighter Cyrus Washington on two occasions. Leduc won both bouts that were held in both Myanmar and Japan.

His most viewed bout was against former UFC fighter Seth Baczynski, which Dave won by TKO.

JRE: Dave Leduc

Most of us became familiar with Dave’s story from his guest appearance on Joe Rogan’s podcast. His episode of JRE was listened to and viewed by nearly 100 million people.

Leduc telling his journey to becoming a Lethwei champion looked like it would elevate the sport to new heights. The Lethwei champion would also earn more lucrative opportunities from appearing on the podcast.

Millions would watch Dave’s fights on YouTube and buy his Lethwei instructionals that Dynamic Striking put out.

Dave Leduc Fighter

Dave Leduc’s Downward Spiral

The king of Lethwei’s star seemed to fall as fast as it had risen due to various factors. Here are some of the things that led to Leduc’s popularity diminishing.

Military Occupation in Myanmar 

Myanmar, or Burma as it was once known, had a brutal history of military dictatorship. Being controlled by totalitarian military regimes hindered the growth of Lethwei.

Democracy had just recently been introduced into the country when Dave began his Lethwei career. However, the Myanmar military would stage a coup in 2021 and retake the country.

This would immediately prevent all international and national Lethwei events from taking place. Leduc was also an outspoken advocate of the country’s freedom movement, which may have turned the Myanmar government against him.

Dave Leduc’s Suspension

In 2021, Dave made some negative comments about Thai boxer Buakaw and Muay Thai legend Nai Khanom Tom. Leduc claimed that the folklore hero was a work of Muay Thai propaganda and was just a prisoner of Burma.

This comment made Thai boxing promoters irate, who wrote to the Myanmar Traditional Lethwei Federation asking Leduc to be reprimanded. The federation would lay down a two-year suspension, which Leduc did not acknowledge.

He claimed that the World Lethwei Federation was the only Lethwei organization with power.

Dave Leduc’s Alleged Poisoning

In the latest controversy around the king of Lethwei, Dave is now claiming foul play by Muay Thai promoters. Leduc would take to social media to claim that he was hospitalized from eating at a Thai restaurant in Turkey.

He claimed that spies from Thailand who were in Europe may have attempted to poison him. Many did not believe Leduc as he had previously joked about being poisoned at Thai restaurants in previous social media posts.

Dave Leduc’s Retirement

In August of 2023, Leduc announced that he was retiring. His decision to retire was due to the upheaval in Myanmar and the Pandemic derailing his career.

Leduc made a heartfelt post on Instagram announcing retirement and his last fight that’s to be held in Cambodia. A date for this bout has yet to be announced. https://www.instagram.com/p/Cv3MvaCNJkC/?utm_source=ig_embed&ig_rid=28f3dae2-2d91-4c25-9241-a322387fdf45