Rising MMA star Sophanarith “Hanuman” Am— known as Soap—is fighting for more than just a victory each time he steps into the cage. The skillful competitor is fighting for a better future and a better life, not only for himself and his family, but for Cambodia.
The son of Cambodian refugees to the United States, Soap has seen just how tough it is to break free from poverty. Experiencing the struggle, the Chelsea, Massachusetts native turned to martial arts as a way out. Soap says, “growing up, it was hard to get by, but training Martial Arts made me disciplined and focused and I learned how to avoid trouble.”
He turned to his roots, specifically Kun Khmer which is Cambodia’s predominant martial art. Kun Khmer places its devotees in a special position to become a force in MMA, kickboxing, and/or Muay Thai competition on a global stage. The gritty, elbow-focused art instills discipline and endurance in its practitioners. Soap has adopted many of Kun Khmer’s principal elements in both his fighting style and mindset as a mixed martial artist. The sense of fighting for something more deeply inspires Soap.
Fighting is a universally accessible opportunity that collects its dues in blood, sweat, and tears, and through painful and challenging battles of endurance in the gym, in the mind, and in the cage. The reward, though, is sweet.
The bantamweight athlete has an undefeated professional record thus far. Through self-motivation, as well as an unparalleled work ethic, he has won all of his professional battles and finished two of his three victories before the final bell.
Additionally, the rewards from Soap’s fighting experience have inspired and funded a college education and a career in biotechnology as well as a career teaching others. Now that his studies are complete, Soap will turn his attention to what he loves – competing in the MMA cage.
His future is bright and win, lose, or draw, Soap inspires people around him and is committed to making a difference. He is a gifted martial arts teacher and is energized by goals much bigger than having his hand raised.
“I am motivated to train and teach” Says Soap, “there aren’t many Cambodians in the US teaching Kun Khmer; I’m proud of my heritage and I try my best to be a role model when I teach and fight.”
Soap has started assisting Fight for Cambodia—a martial-arts charity that provides support, equipment and training to Cambodian youth—and plans to make the journey to the country to directly provide assistance, teaching and coaching.
Monumental change rarely happens overnight. Soap’s commitment to push himself each and every day whether he’s training, fighting, coaching, or teaching is making a difference. It is this steadfast pledge to himself that creates the opportunity for change to occur.
For more information please visit Soap’s Facebook page:
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By Max King, Special Correspondent FFC