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Cambodia is priority for expansion of Burmese bare knuckle boxing

Jose Rodriguez T. Senase / Khmer Times Share:
Nou Srey Pov of Cambodia (left) in action at a Lethwei event in Myanmar. WLC

Cambodia is the number one priority for the international expansion of the Burmese martial art called Lethwei.

This was according to Gerald Ng, ceo of World Lethwei Championship (WLC). The WLC is the organiser of a major Lethwei tournament of the same name.

“Cambodia has always been our top priority for international expansion since day one. That’s why we have committed to having Khmer fighters on every show,” he said.

The fact that martial arts is very popular in Cambodia would make it natural for Lethwei to expand into the Kingdom. There are also similarities between Lethwei and Cambodian martial arts like Kun Khmer and Bokator.

Ng said their focus on Cambodia is further reflected in the viewership and social media metrics.

“We are live on Bayon TV, our first international free-to-air partner,” he disclosed.

Ng said that Cambodians are among Lethwei’s biggest fans. “Cambodians also make up 20 percent of our social media fanbase across the various platforms.

A combat sport out of Myanmar, Lethwei is considered among the most aggressive and brutal martial arts in the world. In Lethwei, players are allowed to use their fist, elbow, knee and even their head to subdue their opponents. Players fight with bare knuckles, leading to many people referring to it as ‘Burmese bareknuckle boxing’.

Lethwei is closely connected to traditional culture. Traditional offering ceremony, orchestra and even pyrotechnics play a part in every match.

Ng said Lethwei’s expansion into Cambodia would include blending it with the local culture.

“We intend to showcase Lethwei in Cambodia, but blend it with cultural aspects from there. Fighters will be outfitted in Khmer warrior outfits, a Khmer orchestra will be playing, and we will showcase the best that Cambodia has to offer to the world,” he stressed.

In a prior interview with MMA Crossfire, Ng said their target for expansion also include Thailand, Japan and the United States.

“I am extremely optimistic that with our current growth trajectory, we can make Lethwei become as internationally recognizable as football, basketball, or Formula 1,” he told the combat sport website.

Early this month, Phnom Penh was supposed to host the first-ever World Lethwei Championship to be held outside of Myanmar. But the onset of the Coronavirus outbreak forced its organisers to postpone the tournament.

The WLC was among the many sports activities and events in Cambodia that were disrupted because of the pandemic.

“We are looking at August or September if this crisis clears up,” Ng ended.

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