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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - MMA grappler to crime fighter

MMA fighter and coach Chan Reach (above) helped stop an attempted armed robbery of a lady along Mao Tse-tung Boulevard in the early hours of Saturday morning
MMA fighter and coach Chan Reach (above) helped stop an attempted armed robbery of a lady along Mao Tse-tung Boulevard in the early hours of Saturday morning. Sreng Meng Srun

MMA grappler to crime fighter

On September 12, Chan Reach, a 26-year-old Cam­bodian mixed martial artist, will enter the cage in the ONE Fighting Championship event Rise of the Kingdom at the capital’s Koh Pich Theatre.

For Reach, who was born in Brooklyn, New York, the match will be his professional MMA debut. But over the weekend, he made his crime-fighting debut on the streets of Phnom Penh by foiling a robbery.

“I just finished dropping off my girlfriend at her friend’s place because they were catching an early ride to the province and I was on my motorcycle driving home through the Tuol Tompong [commune] when I heard screaming behind me and decided to do a U-turn and go back,” said Reach, the head coach at the capital’s A-Fighter Gym.

It was around 3:30am on Mao Tse-tung Boulevard, and Reach had to be up at 7am for a training session to prepare for his important fight for Asia’s biggest MMA organisation. He could have ignored the cries, gone home and put his feet up. Instead, he put his feet to use against several men allegedly attacking a middle-aged woman.

“I went back and saw four guys on mopeds trying to rob a lady in her 40s. They had knocked her off her moped and one of them was trying to steal it while the other was trying to grab her bag,” Reach said. “They got her bag and tried to make their escape but while the driver was fighting to balance his moped I rushed over and push-kicked him off the moped. He and his buddy both fell down and when they tried to get back up I kicked them again to stop them from standing.”

Reach said he was unarmed, and the suspects had knives. In the middle of the confrontation, however, an elderly man living in the area ran out of his house with a gun, ratcheting up the stakes.

“At first I thought he was with them and was worried I was going to get shot, but instead he held those crooks at gunpoint until police arrived,” he said. “The woman was pretty banged up because they knocked [her] off her moving moped … at the time I didn’t think of my own safety, my only concern was saving her from being attacked but afterwards I thought that it could’ve ended badly for me because they were armed with knives and who knows what else.”

Reach left the scene and the police arrived, arresting one of the men who had not escaped in the confusion of the moment.

Chamkarmon district military police commander Khoun Sam Ol told the Post yesterday that the man is 23-year-old Sok Rano.

The victim, Chab Symorn, 45, said during a phone interview with Post reporters yesterday that she was too scared to remember the incident clearly, however she did confirm that a man had helped to ward off the robbers.

Mixed martial arts fighters have intervened in criminal activity before. Last month, a petrol station clerk with professional MMA experience beat would-be thieves out of a parking lot in Houston, Texas, kicking one of the suspects several times on the ground.

Reach says the reflexes he honed during hours of training helped him to defuse a potentially deadly situation.

“Without the training, I would not have reacted fast enough to the situation nor would I have the confidence to help the poor lady. I used the awareness and kicking skills which comes from my martial arts training,” he said.

“I didn’t stick around to wait for the cops to arrive because I had training in two hours. ONE FC [Fighting Championship] is a huge event and I plan to put on a show, so I rushed home to rest and left the old guy with the gun to take credit for it.”

But Symorn won’t let the gun-toting Good Samaritan take all the credit.

“I don’t know the guy,” she said of Reach. “But I want to find him and thank him.”

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY CHENG SERYRITH

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