Bi “Killer Bee” Nguyen never shies away from talking about one of the darkest periods of her life to help other people survive through the same thing.
As the 29-year-old Vietnamese-American prepares for her upcoming bout with Bozhena “Toto” Antoniyar at ONE: MASTERS OF DESTINY this Friday, 12 July, she is also working on a book that will tell her incredible life story of survival over adversity.
Her memoir includes details about four years of domestic abuse at the hands of her ex-boyfriend.
When Nguyen was just 15, she left her family in California and relocated with a friend to Houston, Texas where she learned to fend for herself.
Unfortunately, she also fell into a relationship with a man who systematically tore her apart – both physically and mentally – and isolated her from everyone she had ever known and loved.
“If you can just imagine taking verbal and physical abuse, it means having to hold in everything you want to say and holding back on everything I wanted to do physically,” Nguyen reveals.
“Everything that I wanted to do, I had to hold in. I was non-existent. I had no friends, I had no family, I was just a shell of myself.”
Four years of abuse finally ended when her ex-boyfriend was arrested and sent to jail for his crimes. If it was not for the intervention of police and the United States legal system, Nguyen cannot be sure she would have ever escaped him.
In the aftermath of that horrendous situation, Nguyen was forced to once again fend for herself while trying to recover from the physical and emotional torture she suffered for so many years.
“When he went away [to prison], and I was alone, it was a long emotional journey back, a long mental journey back, a long financial journey back – physically, as well,” she says.
Salvation came in the form of martial arts when she stepped into a gym to take a Muay Thai class for the first time.
It provided Nguyen with a much-needed outlet to take the power back from her abuser after she had felt helpless for so long.
“I took a Muay Thai class sort of for self-defense, but also for empowerment – trying to find my way,” Nguyen says.
“Hitting the bags, physically, is incomparable. It’s what the doctor ordered for sure. It was just perfect – exactly what I was looking for at the time, and it still is.”
Her training sessions were cathartic and therapeutic experiences that then transformed into a passionate pursuit.
Practice led to her first bouts in the ring, and then mixed martial arts, which has given Nguyen a career and the chance to compete on the global stage in front of an international audience of millions, and be a role model to people across the world.
The 29-year-old was reborn through the transformative powers of martial arts, but she is hesitant to prescribe it to everyone who has suffered through hardship. Instead, she hopes people can find something, anything that can help them as much as her training did.
“Martial arts has been a big part of [my recovery], but it’s been a long journey. It definitely helped give me the building blocks and the confidence that made me who I am today,” Nguyen says.
“It’s not a piece of paper with directions. It’s, ‘Hey, do something you’re scared of, do something that you think you couldn’t do.’ I went straight for mixed martial arts, which 4-foot-11 Asian women were not supposed to do.
“My message is to do something that others think you can’t do or something you think you can’t do. It’s not necessarily to follow in my footsteps, but take my energy.”
Now several years removed from her nightmare situation, Nguyen constantly speaks out on issues like domestic abuse because she wants to serve as an example to other women who may be living in fear like she did for such a long time.
As painful as it was to live through it, Nguyen is happy to share her story because in doing so she believes somebody else will realize that they are not alone and will hopefully find an escape like she did.
“It’s pretty incredible, and it never gets old for me to talk about,” Nguyen says.
“I’m never worried or insecure speaking about my domestic abuse experiences because now I own it. Now I’ve turned my pain into power. I want other women to be able to do it as well.
“Sometimes I look at my life, and I can’t deny this was the path I was meant to be put on. This is the way that I’m supposed to use my platform.
“I am a woman that used to get beat physically – day in and day out – and now I am a powerful mixed martial artist in the biggest promotion in the world, and fearlessly speaking out about it. It’s pretty incredible.”