The first rule of fight club is… you do not talk about fight club. Unless course it’s Angkor Fight Club, in which case all discussion is welcome.
Kickboxing trainer Nicholas Chevdar has been steadily building a loyal group of students over the last five years, but for the first time has a proper set up at the former Paddy’s Gym, which he bought last year with a couple of friends and transformed into Angkor Fight Club.
“I have been trying to open up my own gym for a while,” says Chevdar. “This past November a fighter and coach from Paddy's Gym asked me to help train him for a fight he had coming up. After the fight he approached me about buying Paddy's.”
As boxing promoter and trainer, Paddy Carson already had his hands full running kickboxing stadium CTN Angkor Arena plus his original gym in Phnom Penh. So it seemed like a good arrangement for everyone. Along with Brandon Ross and Sasha Revolver, who both also fight at CTN, Chevdar took over the gym just before Christmas.
The gym, near the Galaxy Goal Football Club, is spacious and well equipped, with mirrors, punching bags and a boxing ring. Chevdar trains professional fighters and those simply wishing to have a good workout and keep fit, of which there are many.
His kickboxing classes run on weekday evenings, from beginner to intermediate, with an additional women’s class.
“Over the past five years you’d be surprised how many expats have come through my classes,” he says. “Classes are usually maintained around 10-15 people, and I just kept that going over the years. We have a lot of beginners, that’s the majority of our enrolling.”
The fight club is also popular with Khmer kick boxers, as Chevdar says it’s far better equipped than the typical Khmer gym.
“There are some Khmer gyms in town, but the reason I even started teaching the classes in the first place was because I felt like I could just spend a few hundred dollars and have a much better place to train.
“The average Khmer gym is dirt floors, one old beat up bag, and you get very little pad time. You see those guys shadow boxing in the mirror,” he says, indicating some guys training. “It’s more like they do that without the mirror. That’s what they get to do.”
Chevdar, who has lived here for seven years, has been interested in kickboxing since childhood and started to train in Siem Reap to get into shape.
“I spent a couple of years training, went to Bangkok, trained there a bit, went to Norway where my wife’s from, trained there a bit,” he says. “When I go back to the States I train there, so I’ve kind of picked up pieces from all different gyms.”
He feels kickboxing is not only a great workout, but encourages people to be more disciplined generally.
“Some of the stats they throw about in the West is that you actually burn more calories kickboxing than you do cross-country skiing, swimming or running, because it’s a full-body workout,” he says. “I say that among the benefits, I also feel you tend to become more disciplined. As I became more into training, I started watching what I ate and now I practically cook all my own food.”
In the future, Chevdar plans to court the tourist market as well.
“I still think there’s a lot of people out there who want to try and just haven’t taken the step to do it,” he says.
“We’re trying to get the tourists to come in during the day, thinking that if they have an off day this is something they might want to do. And then that way if they’re beginner level we can take them aside and teach them a class while all the fighters are around them, so they get that kind of feeling of being in the gym. And if they’re really good then they can just train with the fighters.”
Angkor Fight Club is open Monday – Friday, 2-6pm; with classes starting after 6pm. There is also a cross-fit class on Saturday. Classes cost $5, or $40 for monthly membership.