ONE Championship Brings Attention, Respect to Years of Cambodian Martial Arts
By: MAXKING, special correspondent
On December 5, 2015, ONE Championship—Asia’s largest MMA promotion—will return to Phnom Penh, Cambodia for yet another action-packed fight card.
The promotion was incredibly impressed with its first trip to Phnom Penh in 2014, when the energy of the fans culminated with the outstanding technique and killer-instinct of the card’s athletes. All but one of the night’s fights ended in a finish. As the event’s subtitle (Rise of the Kingdom) indicated, the card truly would mark the moment where the Cambodian MMA Kingdom—and all of the athletes that it houses—began to receive the respect that was deserved.
But to believe that the warrior spirit demonstrated by Cambodian MMA fighters, along with the energy of the fans, was formed in response to the rise of MMA would be shortsighted; Cambodian combat-sports professionals have been battling for thousands of years.
It’s not a coincidence that Cambodian fighters are some of the most dangerous—and exciting—athletes around. Kun Khmer—Cambodia’s exclusive, long-time, and lesser-known stand-up art—has produced a vicious set of fighters and maneuvers. Although it may not command the global recognition and appreciation of Muay Thai, Kun Khmer is, at the very least, equally as dangerous. More importantly, the martial art is now achieving its own worldwide recognition, thanks partly to ONE Championship.
ONE has brought more attention than ever to Asian martial arts, Cambodia included. From Rise of the Kingdom to the Kingdom of Khmer, ONE actively promotes and draws attention to Cambodian fighters, as well as MMA as a whole (in a country with thousands of years of combat-sports experience, finding an audience for a new sport may be initially difficult). This additional attention garners athletes more respect—and additional pay. As fans’ interest in the sport of MMA builds, and fighters’ purses grow, the general thinking behind MMA will improve; the sport will be a viable career option for many Cambodian MMA fighters of the future. As the first large-scale MMA promotion to explore the Cambodian market, ONE is and will be largely responsible for this growing popularity and viability.
Thanks to ONE, a thousand years of Cambodian combat-sports experience are finally being recognized on a global scale.
Accordingly, MMA is a great career option for young Cambodians. The additional growth of the sport, in terms of coaching and gym development—along with the aforementioned recognition and pay increases—help to drive this point home. With ONE and the pioneers of Cambodian MMA cementing the road for the success of the sport in the country’s future, the athletes of tomorrow have a lot to look forward to.
On December 5th the Kingdom of Khmer will have another opportunity to make itself—and its fighters—known on a national scale. Cambodian pride and grit are still on the line, but this amplified audience—both locally and around the globe—will allow for more pressure and excitement to befall upon the athletes.
In short, there’s never been a better time to be an MMA fighter or fan in Cambodia. ONE has given the country’s athletes the ability to demonstrate their rich combat-sports history inside the cage; this attention will ultimately create an MMA scene that is thriving even more than it is today.
A thousand years of fighting experience will be condensed down into another event on December 5th at ONE Championship’s Kingdom of Khmer. History indicates that exciting action and energy will help to mold Cambodia’s MMA landscape of the future—resulting in great things for ONE, Cambodian MMA fighters and fans, and other fans all around the world.
Despite the delay, Cambodia has finally emerged onto the global stage of MMA powerhouses; things will get even better from here.
Photo credit: ONE Championship