Martin “The Situ-Asian” Nguyen feels he has the perfect match-up in front of him.
The ONE Featherweight & Lightweight World Champion’s bout with Kevin “The Silencer” Belingon gives him the opportunity to win a World Title in an unprecedented third weight class on 27 July.
He also sees an opponent that will help him put on an incredible show for the fans at ONE: REIGN OF KINGS, at the Mall Of Asia Arena in Manila, the Philippines.
Before the 29-year-old steps into the cage, discover how this bout became a reality, how he has prepared for the tough challenge, and the men he wants to defend his other belts against next.
ONE Championship: how excited are you to have another shot at winning your third World Title?
Martin Nguyen: No one ever gets opportunities like this. When someone loses a title shot, they have to go on a five-fight winning streak, or wait a year and a half to two years before they get another shot.
There are other people waiting to step up, and you’ve got to take a step back.
I feel blessed. I get a second chance to earn history-making credentials, and add to my legacy against the number one contender. I’ve just got to be thankful for the position I’m in, and the opportunities that come.
I’m so thankful Chatri (Sityodtong, ONE CEO) gave me the opportunity to fight Belingon. I thought I was going to fight at lightweight. I want to snatch it, and never let it go.
ONE: Do you think you were afforded the opportunity because he knows you will step up to defend your other belts whenever you are asked?
MN: I’m on a mission now to build my legacy – anybody they put in front of me. I want the big fights.
Big fights have nothing to do with money. This is purely me on a mission to build on my legacy. I want people to look back and say, ‘Martin Nguyen? Oh yeah! he fought [Shinya] Aoki, he fought Marat [Gafurov] when he was undefeated, he fought Christian [Lee] when he was on a tear.’
I want people to talk about me as the first double World Champion who defended all his World Titles. I’ve never turned down a fight – ever. They’ll say, ‘Martin we have this for you,’ and I’ll sign the paper. Eight weeks later, we’re in the cage.
ONE: Are you excited to face a guy like you who always comes forward?
MN: I’m very excited about this match-up. We both have something to lose now. It’s always up to the challenger to bring it to the champion, and make him show why he deserves to be the champion.
We’re both the challenger. We both want this, and we both really want to unify the title against Bibiano (Fernandes), who has beaten both of us. This is all or nothing. That should be the headline of the event.
ONE: Can you prepare for this bout in a similar way to when you faced other members of Team Lakay?
MN: You always have to adjust, because every fight is different. I have to adjust from Christian Lee, who likes to grind, back to an Eduard [Folayang] type of fighter, where it’s explosive striking, and you can get hurt or put away.
Don’t get me wrong – when I said Team Lakay fight the same, they do strike the same, but they are forever evolving. They could come up with a fighting style no one has ever seen. They’re devastating strikers and they like to put their opponents away with devastating strikes.
ONE: Do they have an advantage because it is the team’s third time planning to face you?
MN: They can come back completely different after the first two times. The first time, against Edward Kelly, my game plan was to take him down.
It was unfortunate for him that they had to stop it, because who knows how that fight could have gone? That was a fight that really deserves a rematch – but we can talk about that later.
When it came to the Eduard Folayang fight, I just had to go with the flow. He is someone I look up to. He’s humble and a good role model, and I don’t like to hurt anyone like that – but I had to shut everything off and fight my type of fight. Luckily, that paid off.
For this third fight, I’m pretty sure Mark Sangiao will come up with a perfect game plan to try and put me out, but we’ll have to see what happens. It’s up to me to adjust and figure my opponent out.
ONE: Is it difficult to face those guys – who are always humble, respectful, and are friendly with you?
MN: It does, but like Folayang said, we’re martial artists, and we’re here to compete. We compete for a company that loves to put top-ranked fighters together, so one day, our paths are going to cross – whether you like it or not.
Kevin and I know each other. We don’t talk on a regular basis, but we still talk when we see each other, and we have the utmost respect for each other.
This fight is going to be warrior versus warrior. We can continue the friendship, but at the end of the day, we have to think about our legacies. This is our mission, and this is what we have to work on at the moment.
ONE: What do you think about the lightweights and featherweights who have called you out in the last few events?
MN: I counted – the last four events I got called out four times.
I laugh. They have to make a name for themselves to get a shot by mentioning my name.
Don’t think it goes in one ear and out the other. I see what they’re trying to do and I see their game, but I don’t worry. I’ve already beaten them before they step in the cage.
They didn’t see the hard work I did after losing to Marat. I took out five guys in devastating style, first-round finishes, knockout after knockout, submission after submission. I put on bout-of-the-night performances to get a rematch.
I work hard for my rematches, and I believe in ONE Championship’s decisions. In terms of hard work and work ethic, I’m sure ONE will choose the right person to fight me.
ONE: Are you interested in facing any of them next?
MN: In my head, straight up, the person at lightweight I think deserves it is Ev Ting. He’s worked his way back and taken out devastating guys. He would be a guy I’d like to fight in the future.
There’s Shinya Aoki and Shannon Wiratchai, and a lot of other guys, but Ev Ting has been more vocal – and his actions speak louder than his words, so that’s one guy I’d love to fight.
In the featherweight division, I always say the trilogy with Gafurov has to happen, but I’d like to see him win a couple more fights. But man, (Narantungalag) Jadambaa is the guy I’m looking at. He’s another legacy-builder. It’ll be an honor to share the cage with him.