ONE Fighting Championship, Asia’s largest mixed martial arts organisation, yesterday emphasised their intent on bringing Cambodian sports fans the biggest spectacle they have ever witnessed with their inaugural fight night in the Kingdom on September 12, although their CEO Victor Cui hinted there may be even more at stake for him.
“September 12 is my wife’s birthday and she comes with me to every ONE FC event,” Cui told a packed out press conference at NagaWorld yesterday.
“So I have to promise her that when she comes to Cambodia that this is the most exciting fight card that she’s ever been to.”
Cui, however, seemed confident his organisation would rise to the challenge. “We bring world class entertainment wherever we go,” he added.
“It is a night of heart-thumping, hair-raising, Las Vegas-style level of entertainment of fights, music, celebrities, the whose who of people that are in town and the entire fight community.”
Billed as "ONE FC: Rise of the Kingdom", the September 12 event will be held at the Koh Pich Theater on Diamond Island with an expected capacity crowd of around 3,000. Ticket prices will be announced in the coming weeks.
Cui was joined on stage by three representatives from ONE FC’s “three pillars” of event production in Cambodia who had laid the foundations for the historic fight card.
Firstly there was Vath Chamroeun, president of the Cambodian Mixed Martial Arts Association and secretary-general of the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia, who brokered a deal via the Tourism Minister Thong Khon to supply government sanctioning.
Secondly, NagaWorld chief operating officer Mark Brown represented the corporate sponsorship, with the Phnom Penh entertainment hub having signed a two-year partnership deal with ONE FC last month that covers 10 events including two on home soil.
Lastly was Cambodian Broadcasting Service general manager Bernard Anthony, who facilitated the media backing in live action coverage of ONE FC events on local channel MyTV. ONE FC shows are currently screened in 70 countries with a potential reach of a billion people.
“These three pillars are what enables world class sport to come to Cambodia,” said Cui of the CMMMAA, NagaWorld and MyTV. “Without them, this [event] would not be possible.”
As the representatives each gave addresses, a gleaming multi-tiered trophy stood illuminated at the side of the stage.
“Grand Prix” bouts between locals have been proposed for the September 12 card in each of the featherweight (65.8kg), bantamweight (61.2kg) and flyweight (56.7kg) divisions “to identify who are the best Cambodian fighters in the nation,” according to Cui.
“This beautiful trophy, which will find its home right here in NagaWorld and the winners with their names etched on it for history, is up for grabs,” he added.
The 10-bout card is set to include further Cambodian battles, including the Kingdom’s first female ONE FC cage fight.
No fighters have yet been named for the event, although local MMA club A Fighter is likely to provide a few familiar faces.
Media officials yesterday were shown an impressive set of video montages showcasing some of the most explosive action from past ONE FC nights included a specially produced segment highlighting the exploits of three A Fighter prospects – Khim Dima, Tok Sophon and Long Sophy – who have fought abroad for ONE FC over the past year.
In his closing remarks, Cui recited a short story that encapsulated the reasons why MMA is one of fast-growing sports in the world, why it is so popular in Asia and why he loved martial arts.
“A few months ago, we had a rematch fight between a Malaysian champion [Saiful Mercian] and a Cambodian champion [Khim Dima] ... It was held in Kuala Lumpur, so the Malaysian had the home advantage.
“The first time they had fought, Khim Dima won, but this time the Malaysia took the win.
“After he had collected his prize winnings, Saiful Merican heard that Khim Dima’s [sister’s] house had burnt down and they’d lost everything.
“In the true spirit of martial arts, Saiful Merican took his envelope and wrote on there: ‘To my brother in martial arts. I heard about the bad luck and I want to give you my prize purse.’
“And he did that not in front of media, he did it not in front of me. He did it privately. Just gave his envelope of cash.
“That is the beauty of this community.
“You will never see in any other sport, two men face off and fight with all of their heart for 15 minutes and afterwards, [one gives the other] his prize purse because he’s his brother in martial arts.”