Cambodian Top Team athlete Thai Rithy was supposed to make his long-awaited return to competition at ONE: ETERNAL GLORY on Saturday, 19 January in Jakarta, Indonesia.
Unfortunately, an injury sustained during a Kun Khmer bout has prevented the 19-year-old from participating in his scheduled featherweight tilt with Dutch-Indonesian star Anthony “The Archangel” Engelen and simultaneously hindered his chance to avenge his teammate Meas Meul’s loss from early November.
“During my last fight on 16 December, I got a small cut over my eyebrow,” Rithy states.
“I needed six stitches, but it’s completely healed now, and I don’t think it would have affected my competition.”
Cambodian Top Team leader and founder Hun Chan Reach ultimately made the difficult decision to pull his athlete from the Jakarta showdown, even though the powerful youngster rallied to keep his name on the stacked card.
“I am not very happy,” the athlete says. “I have pushed myself and trained so hard for this fight.”
New year and new mindset for Cambodian Top Team
The gym’s leader is also disappointed over the canceled match-up, but finds comfort in the fact that the situation will allow the team to implement a new attitude towards both training and competing.
For the last couple of weeks, Cambodian Top Team has begun a collaboration with Yorky MMA founder and former ONE Championship athlete Nicholas “JJ” Lee, and they have already seen a positive change.
Inspired by the tremendous success of Kun Khmer expert Chan Rothana and promotional newcomer Sovannahry Em during ONE: DESTINY OF CHAMPIONS in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia last December, Chan Reach has a brand new mindset and hopes to start 2019 on the right foot.
“Rothana and Sovannahry ended the year with big wins for [Cambodia], so we have to start the year with big wins for them,” he states.
“We don’t want to start the year off with a loss due to a cut that prevents Rithy from training properly and stepping into the cage unprepared.”
Chan Reach says Rithy’s emotions are yet another demonstration of the youngster’s strong mind and combativeness, something which will help him as he looks to continue climbing the ranks in the world’s largest martial arts organization.
“All fighters have that will to fight, regardless of injury. That fighting spirit where nothing can keep them down,” the coach states. “But it’s up to us to make good choices for their well-being.”
Engelen is now scheduled to take on South Korea’s Won Il Kwon on the evening’s prelims.