Cambodia Offers Citizenship, Money to Banned Muay Thai Fighter

Cambodia Offers Citizenship, Money to Banned Muay Thai Fighter
The dispute between Thailand and Cambodia over the origins of Southeast Asian boxing continues as Cambodia has offered $20,000 and citizenship to a Brazilian fighter stripped of his muay Thai championship for representing Cambodia's kun Khmer boxing style.

Thiago Teixeira had originally trained in Thai boxing and even has a tattoo saying "muay Thai." But he recently switched to a Cambodian boxing camp and when he captured the World Muay Thai Organization's middleweight title on April 1 in Germany, draped himself in a Cambodian flag and made statements indicating muay Thai originated in Cambodia. The WMO, saying Teixeira brought muay Thai into disrepute, claimed his actions were politically motivated, stripped him of the title and banned him. The Khmer Boxing Federation had previously brought Teixeira to Cambodia and reportedly sponsored his trip to Germany.

Now Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has recommended Teixeira for Cambodian citizenship and said the country will pay him $20,000. It's also been reported that Teixeira said a Netflix documentary is being made about his life and the fighter may have intentionally courted the controversy with his support of Cambodia.

The two nations have been engaged in a row since Cambodia announced the kickboxing competition at the Southeast Asian Games, which they host next month, will be called kun Khmer, despite muay Thai being the only Southeast Asian boxing form recognized by the International Olympic Committee. In response, Thailand will not be sending fighters to the games.

Besides Thailand and Cambodia, neighboring Myanmar and Laos also have their own local boxing styles. While all have claimed to be the originators of kickboxing in Southeast Asia, there is no clear evidence where it originated, though Thailand was seemingly the first to modernize the sport by contesting it in a ring with boxing gloves.

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