Two of the kingdom’s finest mixed martial arts fighters enter the ONE Championship cage tonight knowing that bringing back a pair of unlikely wins from Singapore will do much to boost Cambodia’s prospects in the cage.
After Cambodian duo Thai Rithy and Phat Soda fell to their opponents in Manila earlier this month, Vy Srey Khuoch (2W-1L) and Sim Bunsrun (3W-4L) will be hoping to reverse Cambodia’s MMA fortunes at ONE: Immortal Pursuit at the Singapore Indoor Stadium tonight.
Vy Srey, known as ‘Pretty Punch’ and fighting out of Phnom Penh’s Selapak gym, goes up against hometown favourite May Ooi.
Vy Srey made her professional debut in 2015, winning by decision at ONE: Kingdom of Khmer held at Koh Pich in the Cambodian capital. In her most recent bout in February, she fell just short against Ann Osman at ONE: Throne of Tigers succumbing to a volley of punches from the bigger Malaysian.
Speaking at Wednesday’s press conference, Vy Srey, a Southeast Asian Games boxer, said her training would help her topple the crowd favourite.
“I know that she is gifted, so I will try not to hug her and try and keep my distance. But I wish to win for Cambodia in the international arena and show our quality as fighters.”
Ooi said she was aware of her rivals’ stand-up and striking quality and she was prepared to go toe-to-toe with the Cambodian pugilist.
“I think I knew about her even before she’d heard of me. I was at the Singapore SEA Games in 2015 working as a doctor,” said Ooi.
“She punches hard and I kept an eye on her as I knew she would transition to MMA.”
Ooi, a former Olympian swimmer and a capoeira exponent, made her thrilling debut against Ann Osman at ONE: Quest for Greatness in August. She submitted the Malaysian via a rear-naked choke nearly three and a half minutes into round one.
Meanwhile Bunsrun, training under Chan Reach of Cambodian Top Team, will face China’s Miao Li Tao who is making his ONE debut and is an adept striker.
Bunsrun was swiftly submitted in his most recent bout but has two hard fought decision wins on his ONE resume but said he is confident of the win tonight.
“The ability of Miao Li Tao and I are similar, but I hope to win. I give myself an 80 percent chance as I know of my ability,” Bunsrun said on the eve of the bout.
“I think I fight well against Chinese fighters. With my kickboxing and judo, I think can overwhelm him. I have to be wary when and if the fight gets to grappling on the mat though,” he added.
At Wednesday’s press conference, CEO of ONE Chatri Sityodtong, boasted of his organisation’s desire to create Asian heroes – and avoid the scandals plaguing rival promotions UFC and Bellator.
“The DNA of ONE Championship is martial arts, the whole martial arts in Asia, with Asian values, run by a martial artist,” said Sityodtong, who is Thai.
“Since day one, ONE Championship has always been about that. We’ve always been about celebrating, unity the continent celebrating what we are best at: martial arts and the values.
“Have we ever had any kind of scandal? They have weekly scandals; people in jail, people on drugs or cocaine. That is unacceptable in ONE Championship.
“My dream is for these heroes to have children all over Asia to have posters and their parents crowd because these athletes, our heroes, are honourable, dignified, respectable athletes, who are uniting the world with confidence, courage, hope, dreams and strength.”
ONE last held an event in Cambodia in December 2015, although it is expected to announce an event for 2018 as it seeks to expand and bolster its stranglehold as Asia’s largest mixed martial arts promotion.
For now, Cambodia’s stable of fighters and mixed martial artists will have to continue punching above its weight as it seeks a slice of the MMA pie.