Up-and-coming Cambodian-American mixed martial artist Savannah Em has revealed her desire to return to her roots after joining Asian MMA organisation ONE Championship.
“I very much hope to have a chance to compete in the country of my parents and all my relatives,” Em said from her native Long Beach, California. “I’m sure it would also please my kun Khmer teacher, who was a champion before Cambodia entered a dark period of political turmoil.”
Having grown up entirely in the United States, Em says she is eager to visit the birthplace of her parents in any upcoming events.
“I’ve had conversations with my family, friends, coaches, learning how they had endured those difficult times, and these people, even after going through such traumatic events, still remain to be some of the sweetest humans I know.
“But they have told me stories, not just of hardship, but also the beauty of what the culture was and remains to be. It’s an honour to represent that kind of strength and courage. I am excited to discover my roots.”
Kun Khmer in arsenal
Particularly strong in stand-up fighting and noted for fluid grappling techniques and an aggressive striking style, the 25-year-old is considered a promising addition to the promotion, with her previous wins in California’s Gladiator Challenge coming by way of knockout within the first round.
“I view martial arts as a tool for self-perfection, so I don’t care for the trash-talking, and other behaviour that is encouraged in many other promotions,” she says. “I love how ONE strives to promote a positive image of martial arts, rather than as a violent sport.
“The first thing that attracted me to ONE Championship has been the fact that its philosophy revolves around true martial arts values like respect, courage, and honour.”
In 2012, Em’s boyfriend introduced her to combat sports, and she started out training in boxing and jiu-jitsu. She has since added to her skill-set wrestling, judo and kun Khmer, an ancient Cambodian martial art that can trace its roots back to the Khmer empire.
Em is joining a strong group of women currently competing in ONE, including their Singaporean women’s atomweight champion “Unstoppable” Angela Lee.
“The lady warriors in ONE are excellent. Angela [Lee] is simply phenomenal, but there are plenty others who are quite impressive. I look forward to joining their ranks,” she said.