Every professional fighter has a motivation behind what they do. To take part in such a mentally and physically demanding sport, you have to be driven. When Chan Rothana takes to the ONE Championship cage on 21 April in Manila, he’ll be heading into battle for his country, his family, and his art.
The Cambodian athlete has endured hardships that most will never know, including being born in a refugee camp during the infamous and brutal civil war in his home nation. The next generation of Cambodians, Chan included, want to prove that their country is past its troubles, and that there’s more to their country than memories of war and destruction.
Though he was 6 years old by the time he finally got to make it home, Chan knew that he would never leave again.
“I realized the beauty of my culture and the horror of the civil war. Now our country is changing, war is in the past, and I want to show that Cambodia is once again a great country like it was.”
Throughout the war, and with the terrible genocide that accompanied it, the regime sought to erase certain people and their heritage from Cambodia’s history books. Part of that involved eradicating the martial arts they practiced. Most were outlawed, with their practitioners killed or jailed.
Chan’s father, one of only two grand masters, survived, and made it his aim to revive the Khmer martial art of Yutakhun Khom, and that’s another factor that fuels his son’s journey.
It was Chan’s enthusiasm for this mission which led him to ONE Championship, after being on the brink of retirement to focus on teaching. When he heard the promotion was heading to his homeland, he saw it as a huge opportunity to use the platform to raise awareness for his martial heritage.
That was in 2014, and now Chan has five bouts to his credit in the ONE cage. With three knockout wins and his only losses coming via disqualification and decision, he has shown that his skills can contend with opponents at an elite level. Now, with the awareness and money he generates from his bouts, he seeks to improve the lives of less fortunate youths at home.
“We identify young fighters with high potential and support them, because they generally come from poor backgrounds,” revealed the Selapak coach, of the organization FightforCambodia.org.
The more success he has, and the more he can entertain the ONE Championship crowds, the more exposure and revenue he can garner to help this most noble of causes.
"MMA is a great sport, and ONE Championship a great organization that changed my life conditions,” Chan stresses, and his continued success would only make things better.
On 21 April at ONE: KINGS OF DESTINY, he will be more motivated than ever for victory when he meets China’s Xie Bin, and it will take something special to stop him.