Sovannahry Em has had plenty of time to dwell on the first defeat of her MMA career. During lockdown in California the 28 year old is looking on the bright side as she reflects on the submission loss to Rayane Bastos at ONE: ‘Mark of Greatness’,

“Being quarantined I don’t have to drive anywhere (so) I’m just home studying and taking notes from my coach. I suffered my first loss and, as hard as that was, I feel like it was a very necessary lesson for me to go through,” she said.

Em is of Cambodian descent which is presumably what brought her to the attention of ONE Championship. She aced her maiden assignment, submitting Iryna Kyselova in under 90 seconds at ONE: ‘Destiny of Champions’.

That win improved the flyweight’s record to 3-0 and established her as an immediate contender in a division which has yet to crown a champion. She was brought down to earth with a bump by her defeat last November but maintains it was a valuable learning experience,

“I think most of all, it was a big shot to my ego. You only learn when you fail so I was able to really (see) all the holes in my game and focus on those things.”

Rayane Bastos and Sovannahry Em

Potential opponent

The women’s flyweight division doesn’t appear on the official ONE Championship rankings. But there is one opponent who Em already has her eye on.

Colbey Northcutt is coming off a successful promotional debut and the 28 year old confirmed that this is one matchup she would definitely be interested in,

“I like watching Colbey fight. She’s coming off a great win. She’s someone who I would like to work up to facing (but) if I could have at least one more fight before a potential fight with Colbey that would be ideal.”

ONE: ‘No Surrender’ is booked for Bangkok on July 31st. But while Thailand has the Covid-19 pandemic firmly under control cases continue to increase in the U.S. where Em is based.

Sovannahry Em ground and pound

American contingent

She’s not the only ONE Championship fighter in the country. Stars like Demetrious Johnson, Aung La Nsang and Garry Tonon are also in a similar situation and unlikely to be able to fight in Asia any time soon.

But Em is philosophical about the situation and circumstances she finds herself in,

“I never imagined I would be quarantined during my life. It’s pretty interesting. I’m just kind of taking it day-by-day,” she said.

She has continued to train as regularly as possible although it has been difficult to work with other people,

“Obviously my training volume has decreased dramatically but I am trying to do what I can. I’m still working with my coach. We were meeting two to three times per week for a little bit but there’s been a bit of a spike in Covid cases so we’ve kind of had to reel things back.”

There is no timeline for the American based fighters to return to competition. ONE Championship is unlikely to be flying in anyone for its upcoming schedule of ten events, the cards will consist exclusively of local fighters.

But Em continues to train and study tape on potential opponents. When the pandemic subsides and lockdown lifts she will be ready and waiting to bounce back from her first ever defeat.