“The Python” Chan Heng wants to change his life for the better.
On Saturday Night, 14 January, the Cambodian kun khmer specialist will get an opportunity to inch closer to his goal and advance his career. Chan faces “The Terminator” Sunoto in a highly-contested bantamweight bout at ONE: QUEST FOR POWER, live from the Jakarta Convention Center in Indonesia.
“I am so excited for this upcoming fight versus Sunoto,” the 34-year-old says. “All of my past fights were just to get me to ONE Championship. The door is in front of me and it is time for me to open it. I need to change my family’s life.
“It is either him or me that will be finished. I can tell you that it will not go to the judges because Sunoto is tough, but so am I. I always look to finish.”
“The Python” has done a commendable job finishing fights. He holds a respectable 8-3 professional record, including six wins by submission and one by way of knockout. Though the Cambodian is a dangerous striker, he is also an outstanding grappler capable of ending fights in a variety of ways, as evidenced by his list of stoppage victories.
Chan has had a great deal of overall success in MMA, but he has lost both his ONE matches. Some of that lack of success can be chalked up to tough luck.
When he made his promotional debut against Meas Meu at ONE: RISE OF THE KINGDOM in September 2014, he suffered an injury in the lead-up to the contest. He would be submitted in the first round.
“My first ONE fight, I had a leg injury three days before the fight,” the bantamweight recalls. “I could not walk much on it. I remember I had a triangle choke locked in really tight, but the more pressure I put, the more pain I felt. I could not take it, so I let go and then my face became a punching bag.”
A year later, he fought Mario Satya Wirawan at ONE: KINGDOM OF KHMER, and was on the receiving end of a six-second knockout.
Though he was not able to display his skills the last time around, he plans to showcase them against Sunoto, and with him getting older, he wants to make a late run for the divisional title.
“Coming into this fight, I want to really show my skills and show that I have a lot to offer for an old guy,” he says.
In a way, Chan feels his livelihood depends on it. The struggle has always been real for him his whole life. He endured a challenging childhood as a kid growing up in the Kampong Cham province of Cambodia, and those daily hardships carried over into adulthood when he looked for job opportunities in the capital city of Phnom Penh.
Motivated to provide for his wife and two daughters, he started out as a coolie carrying cement bags up buildings for construction, before becoming a handyman who could fix anything. He has also worked as an electrician, a plumber, a construction worker, and even behind the wheel as a taxi driver.
But once he discovered martial arts four years ago, The Python was quick to test his newfound skills soon after his introduction to the sport.
“I only started Kun Khmer in 2012, but had my first fight just two weeks later as a means to make extra cash to feed my family,” he says. “To me, it was a way to put my daughter through school.”
However, Cambodian Top Team’s head coach Chan Reach soon introduced the sport of mixed martial arts to him, and that stoked the fire and passion seen in his fighting style today.
“I started training Kun Khmer just to fight and make money,” Heng admits. “I was never really that good at it. But when Coach Chan introduced me to MMA, I quickly fell in love with the sport and I trained all the time.”
Heng found a permanent home with Cambodian Top Team, the first professional martial arts team in the country, and the support of his coaches and teammates is something he holds near and dear to his heart.
“I feel proud to be a part of CTT,” he states. “My coach is someone I respect a lot. I love him, as he was my savior because he was there for me when no one believed in me. He helped me out of the worst situations I have been in.
“My training partners at CTT are some of the best fighters in Cambodia. We have many champions and some legends on our team. If you were to add up everyone’s fights at CTT, it would probably be around 4000 fights total. There is a lot of experience.”
At 34 years of age, “The Python” realizes his time in the sport is beginning to wane. He needs to get on a winning streak to keep active and stay relevant in the division. That clear fact has changed his mentality and game plan leading up to his Jakarta encounter with Sunoto.
“My mindset is different this time around,” Heng explains. “My body is not the same anymore. I am aging and I feel it, so I will give everything I have got to put up a good run and we will see where it takes me.”