Through ONE, Sovannahry Em Is Rediscovering Her Cambodian Roots

Sovannahry Em

Emerging flyweight Sovannahry Em knows she will look back on her first ONE Championship experience as a special time in her life.

The 26-year-old Cambodian-American is scheduled to make her ONE Championship debut against Ukraine’s Iryna “Delsa” Kyselova in a flyweight contest at ONE: DESTINY OF CHAMPIONS in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Needless to say, Em will arrive at the Axiata Arena for her global debut excited and confident after a whirlwind build-up to the contest.

Em’s blossoming mixed martial arts career has started in a hugely positive fashion. Her first bout saw her claim a knockout victory in a mere 18 seconds, while her second saw her stop her opponent via TKO after just 79 seconds.

The California-based athlete would love nothing more than a third quick-fire victory, but she is stepping up in class to face Kyselova, who is a seasoned veteran of 13 professional contests with 10 wins and nine finishes to her name.

“My coaches are so good at studying her videos, seeing her habits and what she likes to do,” she explains.

“When we get together on the weekends, that’s what we are focusing on — working on a strategy to go against Iryna.”

Em has been training under the tutelage of head coach Justen Hamilton at Fight Science MMA in Los Angeles, and says she has benefited from working with him.

“We connect very well, and the good thing about him is that he doesn’t have another female fighter, so he’s able to focus on me and my skills,” she explains.

“I’ve grown so much in just this past month or two. This is a big opportunity, not for just me, but also for him. We’re both super excited.”

There is another big reason for Em to be excited about her debut, as it also offers her an opportunity to get closer to her Cambodian roots.

Em was born in Long Beach, California, but her heritage lies in the Southeast Asian country.

“I grew up around Cambodian culture, Buddhist traditions, going to the temples, and celebrating Cambodian New Year,” she recalls.

“I even spoke Khmer when I was a child, but after a while, I kind of grew apart from it.”

The opportunity to join ONE Championship has given Em the chance to not only compete professionally on the global stage, but it has also allowed her to reconnect with her heritage.

It has vindicated her decision to pursue a career in Asia, rather than the United States.

“My boyfriend is Italian, so I’ve gotten a lot into Italian culture,” she explains.

“That kind of gave me my curiosity to go back to my Cambodian culture, to be curious, and learn about that again.

“Eventually, I would love for ONE to hold a show out in Cambodia so I can fight out there. I look forward to seeing how far we can go with ONE.”

To compete on Cambodian soil would be a dream come true for Em, but she knows she has to establish herself on the ONE Championship roster first, starting on 7 December at ONE: DESTINY OF CHAMPIONS, where she will make her debut against Kyselova in Malaysia.

And after a confidence-building training camp and an inspiring visit to Cambodia, Em will head into the Axiata Arena more motivated than ever.

“I feel so ready. I can’t wait to get out there,” she adds.

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