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A Fighter club’s MMA trainer Im Ouk (right) speaks with Long Sophy during a training session in Phnom Penh
A Fighter club’s MMA trainer Im Ouk (right) speaks with Long Sophy during a training session in Phnom Penh on Monday. SRENG MENG SRUN

MMA trainer Im Ouk promises Cambodian pride

Cambodia’s Long Sophy and his team, including trainer Im Ouk, flew out to Jakarta yesterday evening ahead of the historic fight against Indonesia’s Max Metino in ONE FC: Kings & Champions mixed martial arts event on Friday.

Born in Cambodia during the Pol Pot regime, Im Ouk lost two of his brothers during the war.

After the collapse of the Khmer Rouge, Ouk and his family fled to Thailand where he got to meet and train with some of the Cambodian Kun Khmer champions who had also managed to survive the upheaval.

After six years in Thailand, the family was sponsored to New Zealand and then moved to Australia, where he got involved with taekwondo, judo and kickboxing. His interest in MMA goes back to early ’90s. He promoted Kun Khmer in Australia and since meeting his wife in Cambodia moved back to the Kingdom to start the A Fighter club in Phnom Penh, where 20 fighters are now training in MMA.

In this exclusive interview with Post sports writer HS Manjunath, Im Ouk previews the big fight and talks about the two fighters, their records and chances.

How do you rate Sophy’s chances in this fight?
I am very confident that Sophy will win the fight because he is an all-round fighter. He can grapple, sprawl and his striking is world class. His opponent is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioner with no experiences in fighting, and I believe people give too much credit to BJJ guys because they know nothing about Kun Khmer art.

Kun Khmer is over 2,000 years old – we also have submissions and wrestling techniques that are crucial to MMA.

How is his fitness level and are you confident that he can stand up to the demands of this hard fight?
Sophy is very fit and strong he is ready.

What is your area of expertise and how are you helping Long Sophy?
I make sure the fighter’s mental side is 110 per cent ready. I sit down with all my coaches and decide the best game plan for the fight.

There are those who are expressing concern that Sophy may have been rushed into a big fight like this without adequate fitness or fighting skills in MMA. How do you counter this?
Long Sophy has been training well for over six months in MMA and he is more than ready to have his first MMA fight.

I saw a promotional video made by Metino’s Warriors team trying to project an image that he is a fearsome fighter and he has an imposing record to back that claim. Will this put Sophy under extra pressure?
Not at all! Sophy is just keen to jump in there and mix it with Metino.

As the first fighter from Cambodia to fight on a global platform in MMA, Sophy has already created history. How do you think this fight will impact other Cambodian fighters?
This fight is the stepping stone for a Cambodian fighter to leave the country to compete in MMA on the world stage, and I believe after seeing Sophy fight and discover ing that the money is good most of our Khmer fighters will be keen to follow.

Sceptics keep saying that this could turn out to be a one-way fight and there are fears expressed in some quarters that the outcome could prove physically dangerous for Sophy. Do you have any concerns at all about Sophy’s safety aspect?
Those people are just jealous of our team! Was it not our fighter Tork Sophon who claimed a win for the first international MMA event on CTN, when all of their Khmer fighters got KO’d?

That night, we were the only one who saved a bit of face for Cambodia. Plus a lot of people don’t realise MMA is much safer than what people think, so I have no concern for Sophy’s well being.

In your analysis, what are Sophy’s known strengths and Metino’s possible weaknesses?
Sophy is known for his striking and grappling. And Metino’s weaknesses would be his abilities while standing. And the fact he has never fought before [in a mixed martial arts cage] will also be his disadvantage.

It is a big night, big stage and big opportunity. Are you confident Sophy will bring credit to Cambodian MMA?
Yes! It will be a big night for the whole of Cambodia and we will show the world what A Fighter team can do.

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