Two-division ONE World Champion Martin “The Situ-Asian” Nguyen has had to make some difficult choices.
First, he dropped a split decision to ONE Bantamweight World Champion Bibiano Fernandes at ONE: IRON WILL. Then, he came up short in his bout with Kevin “The Silencer” Belingon for the ONE Interim Bantamweight World Championship at ONE: REIGN OF KINGS.
As a result, the 29-year-old has decided to redirect his efforts elsewhere for the moment, suspending his quest to become history’s first three-division World Champion.
The Vietnamese-Australian simply feels more effective in heavier weight classes, and now he is focused on defending both his ONE Featherweight and Lightweight World Titles against the top contenders.
In this exclusive interview, Nguyen speaks about why he is turning his attention away from the bantamweight division, the contenders he wants to defend his belts against, and much more.
ONE Championship: How do you feel after falling short against Kevin Belingon?
Martin Nguyen: It is what it is. Physically, the only thing I hurt is my toe. Other than that, I am still pretty. Not a scratch on my face (laughs).
Usually, I feel sore the next day from the punches, but the only thing was I dislocated my toe in the first round. I pushed on, and that pain was excruciating, but it is just another adversity I had to overcome.
ONE: How did the drop to bantamweight affect your trademark power?
MN: I used to lift weights and do explosive workouts for my featherweight and lightweight journey. For bantamweight, all I was doing was straight cardio. I was losing weight and burning muscle. Throughout this whole camp, I did not do any weightlifting. Everything was all body weight.
I felt good, but obviously, in the fight, it was a different story. I had no power at all, and Kevin is a natural bantamweight. Every time I shot, it felt like Kevin was picking me up with two fingers, and with my dislocated toe, I had absolutely no technique in my punches.
When it came to shooting, it was excruciating. I was in a lot of pain. Kevin is very explosive, and credit to him for the victory.
ONE: Is your campaign at bantamweight over?
MN: Yeah. We only get eight weeks notice to prepare for our opponents. Sometimes, it is six weeks, five, or four, so I do not think it is healthy for my body to be staying down at that weight.
I was naive. I thought the weight cut was not going to be an issue, but it played out in the fight. I did not feel tired – I could have gone another five rounds, but with my toe, it just came to a point where my reactions were off, and Kevin’s speed was impeccable. I could not adjust, and everything just came into play.
It was a good learning curve, and a good experience overall, but I will stick to my roots where my body feels stronger and more comfortable.
ONE: Chatri Sityodtong, ONE Chairman and CEO, asked fans on Facebook who they think should be the next contender for the lightweight belt. Which name interests you the most?
MN: I would say Shinya Aoki. He is a legend, and he has taken out his last two opponents devastatingly with first-round finishes. He is not riding decisions like Eduard [Folayang] and Ev [Ting]. Yeah, they put up good fights, and they have fought good opponents, but Shinya has fought good opponents, too, and he put them away in the first round.
To me, first-round finishes are decisive, and when it comes to athletes who earn decisive victories, I am all for them jumping straight to a title shot. I want people who are on a roll with decisive finishes. That is how I see it, but everyone sees it differently.
Ev beat three of the top guys, but he has been riding decision finishes lately. He did not finish those guys.
Eduard has taken on athletes who had 10-0 and 20-0 records, and they are Combat Sambo specialists, but they were decisions. Good for Eduard to overcome adversity – he has been in striker versus grappler match-ups and he dominated them – but he won by decision. I just do not think wins are very decisive unless they are finishes.
As far as Timofey Nastyukhin goes, he is not as busy as I would expect for someone who wants to get a title shot, and Amir Khan is fighting Honorio Banario in Shanghai, so we will see if he jumps ahead if he wins.
ONE: If you were to defend the featherweight title next, who would you want to face?
MN: If that is the next one for me, then I want [Narantungalag] Jadambaa. He is the ex-king, he is a legend, and he has been in this sport forever.
Anyone who has fought Jadambaa knows how tough the guy is, and to be able to test myself against a guy like Jadambaa is an honor. He is in the same boat as Shinya. Jadambaa is on a good win streak as well, and he is tough as nails, so I want to test myself against him.
ONE: What do you think about a rematch with Marat Gafurov or Li Kai Wen?
MN: Yeah, Li is on fire, but if they really want to test the waters with him to see if he is compatible for the featherweight title, then put him against Marat.
As for Marat, I had to wait two years and finish four guys consecutively to get my rematch with him, and he has only had one fight since the loss, and that is against Emilio [Urrutia]. He beat him in the first round, so good on him. It was a good finish, but I would like to see him fight two more times, at least.
I know the rematch is going to happen eventually, so we will see what happens.
ONE: Finally, what do you want your legacy to be?
MN: When people talk about me, I want them to say: “That guy has had the toughest fights his whole career, he has beaten guys in their prime, and he has warrior spirit.” That is why, when a bout comes up, I put my heart and soul into it.