In mid-February, Cambodian Top Team’s Nou Srey Pov picked up her career’s most significant victory as she made her mixed martial arts debut in Bangkok, Thailand and defeated Rika “Tinydoll” Ishige in the Impact Arena.
Despite her young age, 24-year-old Srey Pov has become a nation-wide phenom that spans the world of martial arts, and she has helped spark a new interest amongst young girls that feel inspired by her accomplishments.
16-year-old Dy Chealing began training mixed martial arts at Cambodian Top Team just a week ago, and together with her training partner Chheng Tharoth, they are looking to sharpen both their stand-up and ground skills.
“I love it,” says Tharoth
“I watched Srey Pov’s fight, and it inspired me to pick up more boxing as well.”
Chealing is learning the very basics of mixed martial arts while 18-year-old Tharoth is a prolific Bokator practitioner and has been a part of the Bokator Young National Team for a year.
Both of them kept a close eye on ONE: CLASH OF CHAMPIONS in Bangkok, Thailand on 16 February, and cheered on their idol Srey Pov as she dismantled the Thai superstar “Tinydoll.”
“I was very happy for her, I think she did it perfectly,” says Tharoth and Chealing agree.
“I knew she gonna win. She knew how to defend herself, and she didn’t leave any space for [Ishige] to get to her.”
Both girls feel that Srey Pov’s achievement was also a moral victory and that her success in the world’s largest martial arts organization makes it easier for more girls to feel confident in at least trying combat sports.
“It’s still very rare to see Cambodian women competing on the international stage. That’s why I think Srey Pov is awesome,” Tharoth says.
“I think we will see more Cambodian women [in martial arts] because our abilities aren’t bad.”
With a couple of strong role models in combat sports, Cambodia’s women seem to be on the rise and victories for Khmer competitors like Srey Pov and Cambodian-American Sovannahry Em help fuel the fire.
Neither Tharoth or Chealing are sure about their future as martial artists, but see the benefits of their training and urge more girls to try it out.
“I would recommend more girls to start doing sports, and not just mixed martial art, but any kind of sport,” Tharoth states.
“It helps to boost your strong spirit, and flexibility. More than that, you will learn self-defense and being healthy!”