Muay Thai coach Yarborough competes on stacked kickboxing card

If you want to see the man responsible for some of the top MMA stars in Vegas’ Muay Thai training, head out to The Joint Saturday night where Shawn Yarborough takes on Belarusian Pavel Turuk in a main bout of a Kickboxing Empire Card.

“I never intended on being a Muay Thai fighter,” said the 36-year-old Yarborough, a former college football player who took up the sport to recover from a bad back injury.

“I was just trying to rehab myself and find something to do to stay in shape. But after two months of training, I had my first belt test and they were like, ‘Hey, you want to fight?’ I had never even seen a Muay Thai fight before, but I thought it would be cool, so I said, ‘Yeah.’ ”

The Norfolk Va., native, who trains the likes of Frank Mir, Forrest Griffin, Gilbert Yvel, and Vitor Belfort, expects to have the audience on inside tonight at the Hard Rock in the 7:30 p.m. event that also features five current and former world kickboxing champions headlined by Alain “The Panther” Ngalani of Hong Kong against Dzevad “BH Machine” Poturak of Sarajevo, Bosnia in an International Kickboxing Association super heavyweight championship.

Yarborough — who sports a 13-3-1 record, and has won a World Boxing Council United States championship as well as the prestigious Kings Cup in Thailand — said he expects a tough test in Turuk.

“It’ll be a hard fight. He’s tough. He’s got good hands and he’s very intense. I know he’s going to bring it and I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “I’m going to have to slow him down and get it to him as best as I can.”

Other Las Vegans on the card include Chidi “Chidi Bang Bang” Njokuani, the brother of UFC fighter Anthony Njokuani, and Lee Henry Lily, Hector Lopez and female kickboxer Lindsay Barnes. Longtime boxing analyst Al Bernstein will handle the play-by-play duties.