Martin “The Situ-Asian” Nguyen has just started training camp for a historic third world title belt and this time, he is pulling out all the stops.
The 28-year-old, who currently holds the ONE Featherweight World Championship and the ONE Lightweight World Championship, will drop down in weight to challenge ONE Bantamweight World Champion Bibiano “The Flash” Fernandes for his title at ONE: IRON WILL in Bangkok, Thailand, on Saturday, 24 March.
In preparation for the historic bout, Nguyen has methodically followed a strict diet, and he has brought a dear friend — and one of Fernandes’ former adversaries — into his camp to help give some sound advice.
The Vietnamese-Australian talks all about his pre-camp, as well as the events leading to the clash with “The Flash,” in this exclusive interview.
ONE Championship: For the past two months, you have been preparing yourself for training camp. What has pre-camp been like?
Martin Nguyen: The whole pre-camp since the holiday has been tough. Everyone is sharing food, and you are sitting there with your salads or whatever your nutritionist sets out for you, so you cannot do much but watch everyone eat. It was more of a mental challenge, and that was the whole Christmas and New Year’s. But now, training camp starts. My weight is on track. Everything is on track.
ONE: How has your diet been going?
MN: The nutritionist I have, she is the best of the best. Before I used to semi-starve myself to get the weight down, and once I got the weight down, I could eat whatever I wanted. But I found with the start of this camp, throughout that holiday period, it was hard to drop past 70kg.
So my nutritionist jumped on board, and Muscle Meals Direct jumped on board, and it has made my life so much easier. I am eating much more, but I am losing so much weight. I eat three to four times a day, including a massive breakfast. I am full out throughout the day. When it comes to dinner time, I am the hungriest, but I have to go to sleep.
My nutritionist has my body going up and down on a calorie deficit diet, and the kilos have been dropping off the past couple of months. I have dropped from 72kg to 68kg.
ONE: Have you noticed a difference yet?
MN: I am much more shredded, and my speed and cardio has picked up. You have to lose a little bit of strength, though — you’ve got to give and take. But we are working on my strength at the moment so I do not lose too much. But as far as my speed and my timing goes, it is on point, and when I start peaking, everything will fall into place.
ONE: For the past several months, you have been very vocal about your desire to face Bibiano Fernandes. What has made you so obsessed with facing him?
MN: He is a legend. How I see it is he is at the top of the mountain. He is at the pinnacle of his career, and is one of the top bantamweight athletes in the world. I only want to test myself against the best.
When I was preparing for Gafurov, I was waking up some mornings at 68kg. I was training hard, yes, and I was in peak performance, yes. But in terms of dieting, I was already halfway down in the weight cut. Throughout that camp, we were like, “What is the next weight class down? Bibiano’s.” So we were already planning ahead. Once I beat Gafurov, we were going to call out Bibiano, because we wanted that second world title.
Although I faced Eduard and won the second world title, I have to face the best now. I see Bibiano at the top of the mountain, and I am the underdog, like in every match. I am the lone wolf, and it is the lone wolf who is always hungrier, so I want to get to the top of the mountain and take him out.
ONE: What makes Fernandes an intriguing match-up?
MN: He is an all-around martial artist, and he is a tough opponent. Not only do I want this match, but the fans want to see it. He has knockout power, he has slick jiu-jitsu, he has great cardio – he has it all. He is as complete of a martial artist you would want, and I am still learning. I am still young, but this will be the best Martin Nguyen you will ever see.
ONE: Quite a few guys have competed against Bibiano and lost. What can you do differently that these other guys have not been able to do?
MN: You are just going to have to wait and see. In short order, I am sure all the guys trained their hearts out, just as much as I will be doing. We are getting different types of athletes in to give me different looks. We even had Reece down here for a sparring session, and he has given me some tips on how he thinks Bibiano competes.
I am 100 percent confident in this win, and it is not a matter of how I am going to do it, but when I am going to do it. At the start of the match, I will have to weather the storm, but I will take him out from there.
ONE: How did you link up with Reece, and what was it like training with him?
MN: We usually speak in terms of upcoming matches and day-to-day lives. But this was coach’s idea [Fari Salievski]. He was like, “Bibiano has faced Reece before, and we thought Reece won. So let’s get him down here and get his opinion.” And it worked out in our favor.
He is quick, his nickname is “Lightning,” and it is for a good reason. He is very, very experienced. I personally thought he won the match against Bibiano [in December 2016], but other people saw it different. It is what is is. He has learned from that experience. It is always the one who comes back from a loss that is the hungriest, and having Reece — one of the top Aussie talents — to come down and help me during this camp is a blessing.
ONE: Will the family be coming to Bangkok to watch this event?
MN: Yeah, and we have holiday plans, too. The mother-in-law is going to be at home watching [my youngest daughter], but my other two children will be at the show.
ONE: Does knowing your kids will be in the crowd add any pressure?
MN: There is no pressure. I just want them to enjoy themselves at the event. They said they always wanted to come, so what better time to come than to see their dad win a third world title? It is not every day we have the kids there on event week or event day, so I want this one to be a special one.
Nguyen will challenge ONE Bantamweight World Champion Bibiano “The Flash” Fernandes for the ONE Bantamweight World Title at ONE: IRON WILL, live on Saturday, 24 March, in Bangkok, Thailand.