After a stunning year that saw him win two world titles, two-division ONE World Champion Martin “The Situ-Asian” Nguyen’s task now turns to defending them.
The Vietnamese-Australian star, who captured the ONE Featherweight and Lightweight World Titles with spectacular knockouts in 2017, will make the first defence of his ONE Featherweight Title on Friday, 18 May, when he faces young contender Christian Lee at ONE: UNSTOPPABLE DREAMS in Singapore.
The bout is a rematch between two of the most exciting featherweights in the world, with Lee surging into title contention on a streak of victories to face the only man to defeat him, Nguyen.
“I am looking forward to defending my legacy,” Nguyen told ONE Championship.
“I want to stay as active as possible, and I am excited for this fight.”
If the bout is as exciting as their first encounter, fans should be in for a treat. The pair engaged in a breathless one-round battle in their first meeting, with Nguyen’s more polished skills the difference maker.
He rocked the teenage star with a big left hook, before locking up a guillotine choke to finish the bout with time running out in the first round.
Since Nguyen handed Lee his one – and only – defeat, the young contender has gone back to the drawing board and further sharpened his skills at Evolve MMA, leading to a four-bout win streak that has propelled him back into title contention, and a rematch with “The Situ-Asian”.
Nguyen has watched his rival’s progression and is suitably impressed.
“I believe he has evolved into a new fighter,” he said.
“Sometimes it takes a loss to realise our true potential, and he has worked his way back up the ranks. Personally, I thought he did it the easy way instead of fighting the true number one contender, who is Marat [Gafurov], but it only makes sense to have the rematch now.”
While Lee was battling back into title contention, Nguyen’s career soared into the stratosphere.
He finished Marat Gafurov with a huge overhand right to capture the ONE Featherweight World Title. He then repeated the feat with a perfectly-timed counter right that knocked out Eduard Folayang, as he claimed the ONE Lightweight World Title in his very next match.
A tilt at a third world title fell agonisingly short when he lost a close split decision to ONE Bantamweight World Champion Bibiano Fernandes, but Nguyen remains determined to stay active, and remain a two-division world champion. He accepted the rematch with Lee immediately.
“I was not hurt from the fight [with Bibiano] — just a few bruises here and there from the kicks and punches,” he said.
“I was not injured, I did not have any broken bones. I was fine, so I said yeah. I was fresh, and ready to go.”
Nguyen has been training at his usual base of KMA Top Team under longtime coach Fari Salievski, then he switched things up by heading down to Synergy BJJ MMA Academy to work with Rickson Gracie BJJ black belt Niko Han in Bali, Indonesia.
“His (Han’s) knowledge, and the way he explains every situation we work on, is amazing,” Nguyen enthused.
“It was great training with him, because he is the perfect size for my opponent, Christian. [Between] his body type, his limbs, and working out of different positions, I got to strengthen my game.”
Nguyen will return to Sydney, Australia, to wrap up his training, before heading over to Singapore on the week of the event, as he looks to make the first successful ONE Championship title defence of his career.
And knowing that Lee will be driven by a host of factors – home crowd, the desire to avenge his only defeat, and the chance to win his first world title – Nguyen says he’s ready to show his dominance in the cage to ensure he keeps hold of the title.
“In my last fight [against Bibiano], I showed too much respect, and held back on some situations that I could have taken advantage of. I kick myself for it,” Nguyen said.
“Coming into this fight with Christian, I am not leaving any situation behind. The way I am, I adapt to every situation. Whether he comes out strong, or whether he comes out slow, I will adjust to every situation, and make sure I win every exchange.
“Anything he brings, I will be ready for. There will be no excuses from my end. It is either him finishing me, or me finishing him. That is how it is going to go.”