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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Cambodia set for ONE FC cage debut

Long Sophy will become Cambodia's first fighter in the ONE FC cage in Jakarta
Long Sophy will become Cambodia's first fighter in the ONE FC cage in Jakarta on September 13. SRENG MENG SRUN

Cambodia set for ONE FC cage debut

Long Sophy has been given a historic place on the undercard of the upcoming ONE FC mixed martial arts fight night in Jakarta on September 13, with the Cambodian kickboxing champion set to take on Indonesian fighter Max Metino, the Singapore-based company confirmed over the weekend.

The event, to be held at the 15,000-seater Istora Senayan stadium, will be screened live on Star Sports with the potential to expose the explosive talents of Sophy to an estimated audience of 500 million in 28 countries across the region.

“I am very proud that I have been chosen to fight abroad. My family are also proud of this achievement. It is a big honour as a Cambodian to be picked,” Long Sophy told the Post on Sunday.

ONE FC CEO Victor Cui said they were “beyond excited” to have the Kingdom’s first representative compete at one of their events.

“Cambodia has a rich history of combat sports and Cambodians have a never-say-die attitude that is unrivaled anywhere in the world,” he said.

“ONE FC is Asia’s largest mixed martial arts organisation and has the largest collection of world champions signed to exclusive contracts. Sophy, a Khmer boxing champion, joins an illustrious list of world champions from martial arts disciplines like Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Wushu, Silat and Muay Thai.”

The 23-year-old Long Sophy, who hails from Anlong Vel village in Svay Por commune, Battambang province, first laced his gloves at the tender age of six.

He comes from a famous fighting family, with older brother Long Salavorn now a coach and owner of an esteemed and eponymous boxing club. Another older brother, Long Cheysophal, was a national tournament runner-up for six successive years in the mid-2000s but has since retired after suffering a broken right leg. Younger sibling Long Sopheap still competes in the ring at provincial level.

Long Sophy’s professional record in Cambodian kickboxing, or Pradal Serey, stands at an impressive 69 wins with 32 knockouts, 21 losses and seven draws. He has been knocked out just twice in his career.

He has claimed winners' belts from numerous domestic tournaments including a 60kg event at CTN Arena in 2007 and the 63.5kg K Cement Championship at TV5 Arena in 2011.

Last year, Long Sophy was in dominant form in the 65kg division, triumphing at a Cambodian Boxing Federation national event at TV3 as well as CTN’s 10 million riel (US$2,470) Srah Pandey Championship.

However, his foray into the world of cage fighting began only six months ago, and he has fought just once against a local opponent at the start of CTN’s MMA-styled Kun Khmer Warriors Championship in May.

“My elbow blows are my best form of attack, but I will not rely solely on this. It depends on the situation of the fight,” said Long Sophy.

“I cannot compare my stamina to that of the foreigners. Everyone knows about our lack of training.”

The Battambang native admitted he was unaware of the quality of his opponent, and noted he would not underestimate him. “But I think I can do it. I’m not scared of anyone,” he said, adding that he was not nervous at the prospect of being watched by millions rather than thousands of TV viewers.

Long Sophy trains out of A Fighter MMA club in Phnom Penh’s Makara 7 district under the guidance of coach Im Ouk, who was born in Cambodia but grew up in Australia and garnered much of his martial arts knowledge in Thailand.

“Long Sophy will try to keep the fight standing up, where he is most comfortable, but he has no fears on the ground,” Im Ouk told the Post. “It's going to be a good fight.”

The coach noted they had been training for the past four months with an emphasis on groundwork. “We are working on ground techniques every day. By September, [Long Sophy] will be even better.

“[Long Sophy] comes from Cambodia – the Land of Fighting. This is a chance to show the world what the Kingdom has to offer in MMA. We will take it with both hands.

“We want to be part of the family that ONE FC is growing in the region. We thank them for the opportunity to keep going and keep learning.”

However, Im Ouk lamented the lack of funding in Cambodian MMA, which sees local athletes unable to afford the special supplements that most international fighters take to enhance their conditioning.

“There are only three or four [MMA] gyms currently in Cambodia, with 30 or 40 fighters – nobody special. It will take a few years before they can become real MMA fighters.

“[Long Sophy] has got a good 10 years in the sport ahead of him. He’s an A-grade fighter and we think he will go far.”

Victor Cui pledged the backing of his organisation for Long Sophy to pursue a career in international MMA.

“The ONE FC network that we have created is an exclusive partnership between the best gyms and promotions in Asia. We launched the network as to share ideas with each other and grow the sport collectively. The gyms in our network are arguably the best gyms in the world and Sophy will be able to reap the benefits of the network if he wishes to train outside of Cambodia,” he said.

American veteran Ray ‘Magical’ Elbe is also being flown in today to give some expert grappling tuition and will conduct a seminar tonight at K1 Fight & Fitness Factory.

Interestingly, Elbe beat Max Metino in a jiu-jitsu fight of the 2008 Djarum Submission Championships in Jakarta.

Metino is regarded as one of Indonesia’s best MMA and BJJ coaches, having studied under the country’s first BJJ black belt and founder of Synergy Jiu Jitsu Academy, Professor Niko Han.

With years of experience on the BJJ circuit and multiple national submission grappling titles to his name, Metino is also making his ONE FC debut in September.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY CHENG SERYRITH, CHORN NORN & YEUN PONLOK

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