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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Heng on rise after fighting to survive

Cambodian MMA fighter Chan Heng (bottom) lost to compatriot Meas Meu by submission at ONE: Rise of the Kingdom on September 12, 2014.
Cambodian MMA fighter Chan Heng (bottom) lost to compatriot Meas Meu by submission at ONE: Rise of the Kingdom on September 12, 2014. ONE

Heng on rise after fighting to survive

Martial arts are deeply rooted in passion and dedication – a passion to uphold life and a dedication to protect it. Which is why for mixed martial artists Chan Heng of Cambodia and Mario Satya Wirawan of Indonesia, martial arts paved another path to follow, one different from what was offered, one providing much needed sustenance for their families,

On Saurday night at the Koh Pich Theater in Phnom Penh, Heng (8-2) and Wirawan (4-2) go head to head in a three-round featherweight bout at ONE: Kingdom of Khmer, as the two open the show with a spectacular clash of up-and-coming fighters.

“I am a handyman and I can fix anything. I don’t have a particular job – I can be an electrician, a plumber, a construction worker, or a moto taxi [driver], depending on what I can find each day,” Heng said.

“But I have to find a job every day because otherwise there won’t be food for my family.”

For Heng, such hardship is nothing new. He’s been going about this way his entire life, living off odd jobs, moving from one to the other to support his wife and two daughters.

When asked about why he took up a competing in the cage, Heng said that, at the time, it was more out of necessity than passion.

“I took up competing in MMA because I was very motivated to make money to support my family, so I used my skills in martial arts to make a living. I kept on fighting and waiting for my big break, and then I got a shot on the international stage,” Heng said.

Juggling work, family and training is tough, but Heng’s tenacity and perseverance, qualities that make him such an exceptional fighter, made sure he found the motivation to get up each morning to work hard each day.

As a fighter fighting for a life out of poverty, Heng is also thankful for the enormous support shown by his country and the Cambodian MMA community, who helped him get the necessary training to prepare for all his fights.

“I train with Kru Chan of Cambodian Top Team.

He is very kind and has helped provide me with some solid MMA skills that I have used in the cage. I am very eager to get into the ONE cage [on Saturday] to show the world what I am capable of and make a name for myself on the international stage,” Heng said.

On the other end of the spectrum stands Heng’s opponent, Mario Satya Wirawan from the small town of Bogor in Indonesia. A former varsity football player, Wirawan fell in love with mixed martial arts in 2011, the year ONE Championship held its first event in Singapore.

With ONE Championship’s wide reach across the region, the event, ONE: Champion VS Champion, was viewed by fans all across Asia. Wirawan was among those fans eagerly awaiting the debut of what is now Asia’s largest mixed martial arts organisation.

“[I got into MMA] by accident. I learned a bit of everything – muay Thai, boxing, jiu-jitsu. Then I saw an announcement on Facebook in 2011 about an amateur tournament,” Wirawan said.

“I got as high as the semi-finals, but from there I continued to learn and I was hooked. Now I’m here.

“My opponent [on Saturday] Chan Heng is an experienced fighter with submission skills, and I believe that styles make fights. It’s a good matchup for me and I look forward to demonstrate my improved skillset in the cage,” Wirawan said.

Though both Wirawan and Heng come from different backgrounds, they have similar motivations and are both hungry for a win. Whether it’s a fight for fame and glory, or a fight to survive, all questions will be answered on Saturday night on Koh Pich.

The ONE cage beckons.

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