If you pull up to Dan’s Gym on an early Saturday morning you can spot Tierra Brandt through the windows before you even make it through the door, but you must be quick because she won’t be there long.
Brandt and other fighters are chattering underneath the row of Champion belts nailed to the wall, while they wait for their coach, who is Brandt’s father, Dan Brandt.
Tierra Brandt, a senior at Williams Field High School, is a competitive soccer player, a multi-event track runner, a boxer who is climbing the national ranks, and more predominantly one of the best youth Muay Thai fighters in the world.
Brandt has just returned from the Youth Muay Thai World Championships in Turkey with her second gold medal. This was her fourth time competing at the championships and this time, she served as the US team captain alongside thirty other athletes. The 2019 World Championships wrapped up her youth Muay Thai career.
Muay Thai is known as “the art of eight limbs.” It refers to the eight points of contact used in the sport. Athletes use their fists, elbows, knees, and shins in the ring with a combination of stand-up striking and clinching techniques.
In preparation for the Championships, Brandt trained at least twice a day working around her school schedule. She increased conditioning and her coaches worked on some of her technical fighting because the scoring systems is different at tournaments outside of the US.
Her mother said that she’s always training. “I used to get nervous with her, but not so much now. I’m pretty confident in her skills sets. I know she's good.”
Brandt grew up in a gym training alongside her parents, Dan and Desiree. Fighting was in her blood, her mother said. She started kicking and punching when she started walking and had her first fight in 2013, when she was nine years old.
It is no secret that Brandt has potential to break some glass ceilings in her sport. Even though she captured gold last week at the Youth World Championships, she’s looking toward the future. Her mother is the manager of the gym and the National Youth team and mentioned their desire for her appearance in the Olympics.
Brandt can’t compete with the American boxing team until she is 19 but will attend the USA Boxing Nationals Championships in December against many Olympic athletes. Muay Thai is still on provisional status with the Olympic committee, but she would have the opportunity to compete as a Muay Thai fighter in the World Games in 2021. Desiree said that she will probably be an athlete her whole life, but she likes to have options.
Even though her family in and outside of the gym realize her potential, Brandt and her mother expressed how important it was to them that she participated in “normal high school things” and balanced high school and Muay Thai.
She led the student section at the homecoming football game and planned to attend the homecoming dance the day before she hopped on the plane to Turkey. Desiree said she made sure that all her daughters had every opportunity to participate in high school because she never did. Many times, Brandt talked about balance and working everything into her life, managing training around high school.
“If it was up to my dad, I would be training all day long,” Brandt said, then laughed and added, “but I’m already training all day long anyway. He sometimes forgets and then is grateful when we remind him that I have to go to all these school events.”
Dan Brandt realizes how good his daughter is now, but when she first started training, he was not as easily persuaded. “I waited as long as I could to let her compete,” Dan said. “I wanted to make sure she was ready.”
Her first fight in 2013 ended quickly. Brandt laughed and said she wrecked the girl. Her dad had waited long enough to let her start fighting.
After graduation, Brandt said she plans to stay close to home and attend a community college so she still can train at her dad’s gym. It’s her goal to turn pro in the next couple years while she also manages school.
“She’s a special circumstance,” her mother said. “She has so many options between soccer, track, and Muay Thai. Whatever she wants to do we will support her. There are too many kids who end up doing something they don’t like because they weren’t supported. We love that she’s passionate about it and this has been our lives for as long as I can remember.”
Sydney Fite is a sports journalism student at Arizona State's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism covering Williams Field High School athletics.