A Cambodian regional fight scene that turns into a life risk on multiple fronts.
In a world today dripping with controversy, from political leaders to sporting events worldwide, controversy doesn’t hide. That being said in a sport built off of respect and honor, MMA is not as squeaky clean as many may believe. From regional promotion leaders openly rooting for a title challenger from their home state to shaky hometown judging (I’m looking at you Brazil), this sport has its moments. None come close to the events told in detail by Ali Maclean depicting his trip to Cambodia in 2013.
Ali Maclean, a training partner to UFC star and middleweight contender Darren Till, believes it is time to share in overwhelming detail his story of a strange 48 hours in Cambodia. Ali Maclean (15-8-1) was just coming off of an Ultimate Fighter appearance in 2012 when he got a call from his management team to fight in Cambodia on the regional scene.
“I wanted to fight anywhere, didn’t matter to me, was a chance to see Cambodia and hopefully get another win on my record” Maclean told MyMMAnews. “I was coming off a tough loss in Ultimate Fighter so I was looking to fight anyone it didn’t matter to me, so I said yes, but I didn’t know what I was in for,” Maclean laughed.
Right from the beginning this trip was a sketchy scene, the weight cut involved sounds as though it would be life threatening for a lesser experienced fighter. Maclean was forced to cut weight in tough conditions.
“We didn’t arrive until Thursday which was shit. I gained a lot of weight on the plane” Maclean explained. “I had 12 hours to lose the rest of the weight, 24 hours wouldn’t be a problem but 12 was. We got there and there was no saunas we could use, no gym, nothing to help me lose any weight to end the weight cut.”
Maclean had around twelve pounds to cut in the last 12 hours upon arrival. In most cases fighters coming to a regional promotion as an “away” fighter would be given access to saunas or local gyms especially in finishing up dangerous weight cuts, this wasn’t the case for the Team Kaobon members. Maclean was forced to cut in a more dangerous way, “the bath” as he calls it “feels like your having a heart attack.”
“The next morning at weigh ins, we were waiting forever. Transport to the weigh ins was an hour late, unnecessarily late” Maclean told MyMMAnews. “We get there and I’m weighed in, they say I missed weight, let me tell you there was no chance I was off weight. I looked at Marc Goddard who was working the event and told him ‘Marc there is no way, these machines are wrong’ he said he’d figure it out.”
Luckily for Maclean and his team, Goddard did figure it out, as many fighters were weighing in “overweight” for their bouts. The Cambodian promoter had an unusual solution for the weight issues, had Goddard not stepped in, take a run in the humid Cambodian climate.
“I knew something was up, we are cutting weight, we are needing water badly and this promoter is telling us we missed weight and go for a run in the 110 degree weather to cut more, we’d die out there.”
It was becoming clear to Ali Maclean that this was not going to be the usual professional promotions he was use to, and he couldn’t have been more right. If not for some control from Marc Goddard, Maclean may have been forced into running in insane heat on no stamina, an inhumane attempt by a promoter to give his fighters the best chance at victory, while absolutely putting lives at risk before they even enter a cage.
Finally it was fight day, a day that Maclean had hoped would put everything odd about this trip behind him and just a be a day he had performed again and again, walk to a cage and fight. Although it would soon become apparent that like the rest of the trip, it wouldn’t be that simple.
“I figured the day would be fishy. I remember watching in my locker room and Dave Newbrook, he was winning the fight, his opponent had four points taken away during the fight by Marc Goddard and it went to decision, Newbrook lost. I knew I had to get a finish to win.”
For those of you who may be reading this, and not understand the insanity to lose FOUR points in a three round fight, yet still win the fight, that isn’t biased judges that is just complete corruption on the part of the promotion. It was clear to Maclean and I’m sure any opponent not from Cambodia, get a finish or it didn’t matter how easily you were winning the fight, you’d have an ‘L’ on your record when the decision came in.
“One of my teammates fought before me, knocked the guy clean out, I mean Zombie knocked out. I’ve never seen a crowd so hostile from a hometown guy getting knocked out.”
Maclean had hoped that fight day would not be as corrupt and irresponsible as the way the promotion handled the weight situation a day earlier, it was apparent that anything involving this promotion until he was on a plane back home would be corrupt and irresponsible. Even Maclean didn’t know what to expect during his walkout.
“When I walk to the cage, I’m in a zone” Ali Maclean told MyMMAnews. “I don’t pay attention to anything. I didn’t find out until after the fight, but the Cambodia army had stopped my coaches from coming to my corner, they ended up getting free and getting to the corner, but they were stopped and told they couldn’t go at first.”
Once his corner was able to finally get to their fighter, after being stopped in a regional event by army officials, Maclean described the fight as a “mauling” explaining that the Cambodian fighter had zero grappling skills, Maclean had his way with submission attempts on the ground.
“I didn’t want to risk anything with stand-up, I knew I could have my way with him on the ground so that was the plan” Maclean exclaimed. “I got him into an arm triangle, only a matter of time before he tapped, suddenly I felt a tap so I released and put my arms up I thought i’d won the fight, no it was a referee standing me up in the middle of a f*cking submission attempt, couldn’t believe it.”
To stand someone up during an arm triangle, in which he has his opponent in a dangerous, fight ending position, is absurd. It was now clear that this promotion just did not care for how blatant their attempts to give their home fighters any and all chances to win the fight. To stand someone up in a submission attempt is unheard of, if there were ten commandments for mixed martial arts that would be number one.
“I looked at my corner, and they just put their hands up and said ‘fuck if we know’ Maclean laughed looking back on the insanity.
“I knew I needed to either snap this guys arm off or get a knockout, next attempt I had the referee was again tapping my shoulder and I didn’t know if it was him calling the fight or trying to stand me up, I didn’t let go, I wanted no doubt that I won the fight, I got what I wanted he was out.”
Maclean said as soon as he got off the unconscious opponent, the crowd was hostile as he’d ever seen a crowd be. The Cambodian army was surrounding the cage but their eyes weren’t on the crowd to keep under control, their eyes were on him, as if to say “you weren’t supposed to do that.”
“We all knew going in about the genocides and politics of Cambodia, but we never expected anything like that” Maclean told MyMMAnews. “We went straight to the hotel room post fight and left the next morning while it was still pitch black out, I’ve fought all over the world, never experienced anything close to that as an opposing fighter, nothing close.”
Maclean emphasizes that he is sure Cambodia is a beautiful country, but you must understand, in this case he saw nothing beautiful about it. Stepping off a plane straight into a brutal weight cut, to a corrupt weigh in system then to a hostile crowd with biased judges, Maclean wanted nothing more than to survive and get back home, and he thanks Marc Goddard for getting him home.
“Marc Goddard was the referee that took the points away, he couldn’t stop the fight he’d of been shot, but he took the points to make it harder for that fighter to win” Maclean emphasized. “I firmly believe Marc Goddard is the reason we got out safe, we got out alive, if he wasn’t there who knows what other shady crap is pulled with all that hostility.”
Out of all of this craziness that was told in this story, one of the more baffling storylines is that this Cambodian promotion who clearly is doing anything and everything in their power to have their fighters win, are pulling a guy in Maclean who at the time was on the UFC’s radar to fight their fighters who lacked many skills. This promotion, has since been dismembered, but did hold an event or two after this happened back in 2013 with Ali Maclean. When asked for the name of this promotion, Maclean doesn’t recall, “don’t even think it had a name to be honest.”
“It’s funny to look back on now, but boy was it terrifying to live through it during it, couldn’t even understand what was happening in the moment.”
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📖May 2013 I traveled to Cambodia to fight. A group of us arrived late… We had no time to adjust to the time difference as we arrived Thursday night(midnight). . I weighed 78kg and weigh ins where in the morning.( Fight was at 70kg.) No workout room or sauna avaliable until the morning. . No time to sleep, just salt baths…all night… I hate cutting weight with other people so this meant crawling out of the bath, nearly blacking out and losing consciousness multiple times solo. . Constantly getting angry at myself for stopping and then picking myself up afterwards with a schizophrenic pep talk. . Finally after a night of baths and a morning of saunas I’m on weight, along with a few other lads. . At the weigh-ins the scales showed that I was 3KGs over (not possible.) The other forgeiners fighting? 3KGs over… “Run outside, you will lose the weight fast” said the promoter. . They rigged the scales so we would have to run in the heat to drop the extra 3KGs. . That’s when this picture comes in. . Luckily @marcgoddard_uk was an official. . I turned to mark and said “These are wrong! I’m on weight!” Luckily it got sorted. . The next day my corner weren’t allowed to corner me by orders of the Cambodian army. 😂 . AND I had to fight twice… Swipe ➡️➡️ . Good memories 😆😁
A Boston native, lover of sports (yes Boston Sports) and MMA. Covering the Northeast regional scene. A contributor with myMMAnews, Cageside Press and Fancied MMA