Come Friday, Long Sophy will be making history at the Istora Senayan indoor stadium in Jakarta before an estimated worldwide TV audience of 500 million as the first Cambodian to step into the ONE FC cage to fight Max “Ombak” Metino in the biggest mixed martial arts fight night ever staged in Indonesia – ONE FC: Champions & Warriors.
The Singapore-based ONE Fighting Championship, Asia’s leading MMA promotion, has lined up for its fourth event of the year an explosive 11-bout card involving some of the world’s best in the business and the most fearsome homegrown warriors, who are exponents of the indigenous martial art penchak silak.
For a country that has taken immense pride for centuries in its own traditional forms of fighting like bokator and Khun Khmer kickboxing, Cambodia may find MMA to be a relatively new experience at this global level. But an invitation from ONE FC to a rising star like Long Sophy for a night as big and truly international as this has completely changed the dynamics and is creating an exciting buzz in Cambodia.
A highly-motivated 23-year-old from Anlong Vel village, located in the Svay Por commune of Battambang province, Long Sophy has developed himself as an all-round fighter in much shorter time than most of his fellow boxers.
He has acquired a level of striking that his trainer Australian-Cambodian Im Ouk, who runs the A Fighter MMA club in Phnom Penh, regards as world class.
While Long Sophy has youth, energy and passion, his rival, Jakarta hometown star Metino has a wealth of experience, mixing his sharp skills in Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) with numerous other fight disciplines since 2001.
The 38-year-old Indonesian fights out of the Warrior Dojo Fight Camp, part of Jakarta’s Synergy MMA Team he first joined in 2004 under Indonesia’s first BJJ black belt Niko Han.
There is one common thread, however, that runs through both these accomplished bantamweights that could perhaps give the fight of their lives a touch of parity. They are both making their MMA cage debut.
Metino is giving away 15 years in age to his Cambodian rival. Will it make a difference? In most other sporting ventures, it would to a certain extent.
“But not here. MMA is a mature fighter’s sport,” Im Ouk told the Post.
However, the trainer noted that the main factor was getting a hit in the face. “Metino has never taken a punch, kick or an elbow in the face before,” added Im Ouk.
As is to be expected, both Sophy and Metino have no time to lose when it comes to preparation and both camps are doing it on a war footing.
Two of the best MMA coaches in Cambodia, Chan Richard Hun and Barry Guerin, are working with Sophy at the Olympic Stadium and to sharpen his special technique, elbowing, he turns to his brother and renowned Khun Khmer boxing coach Long Salvorn.
The Sophy camp knows far too well that Metino is quite formidable on the ground and the best chance for their fighter to topple him is by standing up.
Sophy told the Post he was learning how to grapple. “So if I hit the ground, I can control the situation in order to stand up and quickly counter attack,” he said.
“I believe I can do it and I am not concerned about my stamina. I am used to boxing over 10 rounds quite often.”
Intensive cross-training is what Metino has been going through, and his professed strengths like his ground game and submissions make him a tough fighter to handle.
“Yes, I have the confidence that I will win,” he told the Post. “This is the biggest combat sports competition ever held in Indonesia and I will be looking to put on a show for my countrymen . . . It is an honour for me to fight in my home town.”
The Indonesian revealed that he did not see a specific way of winning the fight. “I will just go along with the flow of the fight, flowing like water. I have the best coaches and team with the right strategy and I think I can defeat [Sophy].”
Metino’s patriotic fervour and the massive crowd support is certain to give him an edge even before he enters the cage.
But Long Sophy is neither anxious nor worried. As he proudly declared: “I am there to give my best and do my country proud.”
The Sophy-Metino fight is the third match-up on the undercard of Friday’s event, which features a top billing flyweight contest between Japan’s Shinichi Kojima and Andrew Leone of the United States. Bouts are slated to start at 7pm Cambodian time and can be viewed live on STAR Sports.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY CHENG SERYRITH & DAN RILEY
ONE FC: Champions & Warriors
Fightcard – Friday September 13
Shinichi Kojima (Japan) v Andrew Leone (USA)
Kotetsu Boku (Japan) v Vuyisile Colossa (South Africa)
Willy Ni (Netherlands) v Vincent Latoel (Indonesia/Neth)
Jake Butler (USA) v James Kouame (Canada)
Mahmoud Hassan (Egypt) v Alain Ngalani (Hong Kong)
Bruno Pucci (Brazil) v Bashir Ahmad (Pakistan)
Eugenio Tan (Malaysia) v Vincent Majid (Indonesia)
Caros Fodor (USA) v Yang Seung Ho (Japan)
Long Sophy (Cambodia) v Max Metino (Indonesia)
Almiro Barros (Brazil) v Kian Pham (Australia)
Raymond Tan (Malaysia) v Brianata Rosadhi (Indonesia)