Cambodian athlete Chan Rothana might enter the cage at ONE: KINGS OF DESTINY on Friday Night, 21 April, with just six professional MMA bouts to his credit, but he has spent a lifetime fighting.
Whether it is war, poverty, or the martial arts he inherited from his father, fighting is all he has known, so another battle at the Mall of Asia Arena in Manila will not faze him.
The traditional art of Yutakhun Khom has been in his family for generations, but it was endangered by a political regime that sought to banish it. Chan learned the skills in order to fight, so it could be kept alive in the most effective way — competition success. Using these skills in over a hundred kun khmer bouts, he already had a wealth of experience before first stepping into the MMA cage.
“Regarding the standup techniques, my experience in kun khmer helped me to be efficient in MMA,” he reveals. “For the ground technique, we have some wrestling in Yutakhun Khom. [It is] not as elaborate as in BJJ, but I had some basics when I first fought in MMA.”
After just one bout, the Phnom Penh fighter inked a deal with ONE Championship, and he has been entertaining fans and displaying his martial heritage ever since.
This time out, at ONE: KINGS OF DESTINY, he meets China’s Xie Bin, an aggressive 19-year-old from Tianjin Top Team who has strong wrestling and extensive BJJ training. The teen holds a 2-2 record, and won his last fight against Mario Satya Wirawan at the promotion’s last Manila show, ONE: AGE OF DOMINATION, in December.
“Xie Bin a young, talented fighter,” the Phnom Penh native says. “He is well-rounded in all aspects of the game, and it will not be an easy fight for both of us.”
Chan, 4-2, opts to train at Tiger Muay Thai in Phuket, Thailand, for his ONE battles, which allows him to focus on his own preparation, rather than coaching others at his home gym of Selapak.
Although he sees his future as passing on his knowledge to the next generation, right now he still has the hunger and drive to succeed, and show that Yutakhun Khom is not just a thing of the past.
“If I stay in Cambodia, I cannot train 100 per cent,” he explains. “International training camps offer a very large range of quality sparring partners in all MMA aspects. I am very lucky to be able to go to a training camp, thanks to the FightForCambodia.org Foundation, which finances it.”
With his mind on his own performance, Chan knows he still has what it takes to move up the ranks in ONE. Plus, he is determined not to be a stepping stone for Xie.
“He wants to show he can beat an experienced guy like me,” Chan stated. “On my side, I want to to make a statement about my future. I want to go as far as possible and get a chance [to fight] for the belt.”
Chan is motivated not only to climb the divisional ladder, but to get back in the win column after tasting defeat at the hands of Ma Hao Bin in his last promotional outing at ONE: HEROES OF THE WORLD last August.
“Something went wrong during my preparation, and I was not 100 per cent. [I was] getting exhausted at the end of round one,” he remembers. “Ma won the decision, but I know I should have won that fight. That is life, and I learn. Now I am preparing very well for this fight, with the help of my team.”
If that was not motivation enough, Chan has even more at stake. For him, competition provides a better life for his family, and showcases his nation to the world. Most importantly, it keeps his national traditions alive, and helps to spread the art of Yutakhun Khom. Victory is the most efficient medium.
“My dad is one of the two Grand Masters alive [in Yutakhun Khom], so I need to succeed for him and make him proud.”