Cambodian martial art is thriving, and a clear indication is the number of professional athletes that are visiting and competing in “The Kingdom of Wonder.”
This Saturday, 17 March, World Lethwei Championship’s (WLC) light welterweight champion António Faria made his second appearance in Cambodia as he clashed with Kun Khmer talent Rith Phulu.
The 30-year-old Portuguese Faria has had a steady rise in popularity, but he reached new heights in February when he captured the WLC light welterweight belt by defeating local hero Saw Htoo Aung at WLC7: Mighty Warriors in Mandalay, Myanmar.
A life-long martial artist, Faria’s skills and determination has led him all the way to Cambodia.
“Cambodians are very tough, and have a big heart,” says Faria.
“Everyone has been really nice here, and they appreciate fighting.”
“[In my home country] when you say you’re a fighter they look at you strange, but here it’s different.”
Competing for the first time in the up-and-coming Ek Phnom Stadium in Battambang, Faria was excited to put on a performance against one of Cambodia’s top prospects in Rith Phulu.
The action-packed war began right away as the young Cambodian managed to cut the WLC Champion early in the first round, leaving him stunned and bloody.
”I really liked this fight, it was a real warrior fight,” Faria stated afterward.
“In the first round, I did not pay 100% attention, and he opened two cuts in the face, but it was no problem for me.”
Faria showed strong composure and managed to stay in the fight, even if he was severely hurt.
Phulu kept finding home with his powerful right hand, connecting several times during the five-round main event bout while Faria kept the pressure and high pace.
“Third, fourth, and fifth round I think I won,” Faria said.
“I was stronger than him, but this is the game. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.”
“I think a rematch would be a good idea.”
A vigorous bout that had the crowd roaring, it is safe to say that Ek Phnom Stadium visitors were pleased with seeing foreign fighters come to Battambang to compete against the local talents.
After five rounds of non-stop action, the judges gave the decision win to Phulu, further extending his impressive record with a win against a Lethwei Champion.
Now, Faria is looking for a rematch against Rith Phulu and would love to get the opportunity to once again compete in front of the Cambodian crowd.
“I like fighting in Cambodia,” Faria stated.
“Cambodian people love this sport, and that gives a lot of motivation to put on a good show!”
“Win or lose is sometimes not as important as to put on a good show for the people.”
“Maybe in one more month, I will be ready for a rematch!”