Khim Dima thought he had become the first Cambodian to win a major international mixed martial arts match when he stopped Rene Catalan with strikes in the second round of their fight at ONE FC: Total Domination in Singapore on Friday, but the victory was subsequently reviewed and changed to a no contest.
Dima received repeated warnings from Japanese referee Kenichi Serizawa for striking the back of Catalan’s head as he rained down a barrage of shots which left the Filipino prone on the canvass in what was initially announced as a TKO win for the flyweight from the A-fighter stable.
However in a press release put out the morning after the event, which took place at the 12,000-seater Singapore Indoor Stadium, ONE FC officials stated that the result would be changed to a no contest with the referee apparently culpable for the controversy.
“Kenichi Serizawa did not do enough to penalize Dhima during the bout for the illegal blows,” the press release stated.
It was a major disappointment for Dima, who had gone to bed believing he had won, and was already back in Phnom Penh when he heard the bad news. The Kun Khmer veteran, who is paying his way through a law degree at Build Bright University with the purse money from his fighting career, was upset.
“I don’t understand why they took my win away from me. I don’t speak English and I didn’t understand what the referee was saying to me so I didn’t think I was doing anything wrong,” he told the Post.
Dima’s trainer and owner of A Fighter MMA Club Im Ouk said: “It was one of those things when punches go through and a fighter turns his back.”
The language barrier might have been to blame for the failure of Serizawa to communicate to Dima that his strikes were illegal, and it was an anticlimactic end to what had been an exciting couple of days for the Cambodian.
“I cut nearly 10 kilograms for this fight and I have never done that before, so it was very hard for me. But when I saw how much taller I was than my opponent, it made me very confident,” Dima said.
“I enjoyed fighting for ONE FC and I hope they will give me an opportunity again soon.”
In Friday’s main event, Brazilain Bibiano Fernandes scored his third straight decision win under the banner of Asia’s biggest MMA promotion, beating Soo Chul Kim of South Korea to become the undisputed bantamweight champion.
Fernandes has previously held DREAM titles at both bantamweight and featherweight, both of which he won courtesy of finishing first out of a field of eight competitors in a Grand Prix, and is the most decorated mixed martial artist in the history of Asian MMA.
Japan’s Shinya Aoki has dominated the lightweight division in Asia for the best part of a decade and holds 155lb (70.3kg) titles with both ONE FC and DREAM. He dropped down to featherweight for the first time on Friday night, winning a hard-fought decision victory over Cody Stevens of the US.
There were also wins for Hong Kong’s Eddie Ng, Japan’s Tatsuya Mizuno and Thailand’s Shannon Wiratchai, with the venue completely sold out for this show. Next up for ONE FC is an event in Kuala Lumpur on November 15 which will be headlined by a welterweight title fight between Malaysian welterweight Adam Kayoom and Nobutatsu Suzuki of Japan.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY DAN RILEY