Two Cambodian fighters took to the practice mat Tuesday alongside Brazilian mixed martial arts (MMA) star Adriano Moraes to get ready for “ONE FC: Rise of the Kingdom,” a nine-card cage fighting event set for Friday night at Phnom Penh’s Koh Pich Theater.
The bouts will be televised in more than 70 countries and will showcase eight of Cambodia’s fledgling MMA fighters.
On the practice mat at NagaWorld on Tuesday, Moraes showcased a combination of the locks and takedowns he hopes will overwhelm his opponent in Friday night’s main event, ONE FC’s inaugural flyweight championship against Filipino Geje Eustaquio.
This is Moraes’ first time in Cambodia, but with 11 wins and only one loss, he believes the country will find a place in his heart when he is crowned a ONE FC champion in Phnom Penh.
“It will be one of the best moments of my life,” he said. “I have never fought [Eustaquio] before, but I have more weapons. He is a good athlete, a good boxer, but I am a better MMA fighter.”
Cambodia has a rich tradition of training professional fighters, and for the hundreds of Khun Khmer boxers who eke out a punishing living week in and week out, MMA dangles a lucrative carrot.
Cambodians on the card will earn $1,000 for fighting, while the sport’s big names will take home six-figure paychecks.
While MMA is a new phenomenon here, Cambodian-American Chan Reach is spearheading its development by training young fighters in the sport’s unique blend of martial arts, at his AFighter gym in Phnom Penh.
While he usually focuses on teaching, the lure of the ONE FC lights persuaded him to pull on his gloves to compete twice on Friday.
“I mostly teach these days and it might be difficult fighting twice in one day, especially if I get injured in the first fight,” he said. “But this is the first time a ONE FC tournament has been held in Cambodia and I want my name to be written down in history.”