CTN’S efforts at hosting a mixed martial arts competition have drawn fierce criticism from the sport’s newly formed governing body as well as local fight fans, who think Cambodian boxers have yet to gain a sufficient understanding of cage fighting rules and tactics.
The local broadcasters are currently in the midst of their Kun Khmer Warriors Championship, which started on May 5 and involves purely Cambodian match-ups in a specially constructed cage at CTN Arena.
In a separate and often shambolic first attempt at hosting an international cage fight night on May 28, which was screened live on sister channel MyTV, viewers witnessed the majority of the Cambodian boxers get completely outclassed by experienced foreign MMA fighters.
In one of the bouts between Ty Tonghy and Englishman Jamie Lee, the visitor had to stop himself punching his opponent in the head after the Cambodian had been knocked out cold, with referee Ei Phouthang seemingly unable to make the decision to stop the fight. Knockouts are relatively uncommon in professional MMA contests, with referees usually diving in to force stoppages before a fighter becomes unconscious.
An official request has been made by governing body Cambodian Mixed Martial Arts Association to CTN for a halt to its fights under claims that the events were never sanctioned by them and should not have gone ahead.
According to CMMAA president Vath Chamroeun, who also serves as General Secretary of the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia, CTN had been asked to postpone the fights beforehand to allow official sanctioning and regulating from the organisation.
The president asserted that, as the tournament uses the term Kun Khmer Warriors, it should not allow takedowns and ground moves, which are a staple of MMA but prohibited in Cambodian kickboxing.
“Furthermore, the championship does not properly set the rules for fighters yet – how many rounds do the fighters fight and how many minutes per round?” added Vath Chamroeun.
NOCC executive member and administrative director Hem Thon noted that any sport must be in cooperation with a federation or association which is recognised by the national authority. “One federation can control only one particular sport,” he said.
“For instance, amateur English boxers must wear both head and body guards, but the professional boxers do not have to wear them . . . professional and amateur boxing stay in different federations.
“For this reason, [Kun Khmer Warriors Championship] must be halted and needs to be amended.”
Hem Thon also commented on the appearance of the fighters, which he said did not follow the traditional look of Cambodian martial arts, as well as their apparent poor standard in MMA.
“MMA requires lots of hard training and it originates from foreign culture, so if they want to follow the sport, they must initially strengthen their training otherwise we will encounter the same embarrassing situation that we had at the inaugural International Cage Fight Night, in which most Cambodian fighters got knocked out.”
Tem Moeun, president of the Cambodian Amateur Boxing Federation, denied responsibility for the faults in the tournament.
“I’m not the one who is responsible to organise this game – CTN are the only organisers. Instead, I am responsible to observe the fairness of referees and judges, and to check which clubs or associations the boxers are from.”
However, the boxing chief agreed that all events should cooperate with their appropriate federations.
“All sport events must be under the control of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport as well as National Olympic Committee of Cambodia,” said Tem Moeun, who added that CTN had been given the green light to host the championship by the Ministry.
Infighting among authorities and promoters may hinder the progress needed to attract further international fight cards to the Kingdom, such as from Asia’s biggest organisation ONE FC, who have already stated an interest in bringing an event to Cambodia next year.
TRANSLATED BY CHENG SERYRITH, ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY DAN RILEY