Martin “The Situ-Asian” Nguyen (10-1) may be a two-division ONE World Champion, but he still views himself as the underdog in his upcoming bout.
The Vietnamese-Australian holds both the ONE Featherweight and Lightweight World Championships, a pair of titles he won with his signature overhand right last year against two incredible warriors.
Now, after pulling off a pair of upsets in 2017, he expects to complete the hat trick in just a few weeks.
On Saturday, 24 March, Nguyen will challenge ONE Bantamweight World Champion Bibiano “The Flash” Fernandes (21-3) for his coveted world title in the main event of ONE: IRON WILL. The card will be staged at the Impact Arena in Bangkok, Thailand.
“In terms of experience, I am definitely the underdog. I am happy to be the underdog, and I am happy to test myself against the best,” the 29-year-old says.
“At the moment, he is the very best, and it is the perfect time right now to face someone like Bibiano, who is riding a huge winning steak. It will draw the crowd in — not only in Asia, but around the world.”
Fernandes, a BJJ black belt with knockout power, is the most accomplished martial artist in ONE Championship, and quite considered the greatest bantamweight martial artist of all-time.
The 37-year-old Brazilian has held the ONE Bantamweight World Title since 2013, is on an incredible 13-bout win streak, and will be making his eighth title defense on 24 March. Both are current promotional records.
Nguyen, who has long admired “The Flash,” claims to have noticed a glaring hole in the bantamweight king’s skill set, most notably when it pertains to his endurance and stamina.
“I think he is the most vulnerable in the championship rounds,” Nguyen says.
“He has been to the championship rounds before. He has had a few TKOs and knockouts, but in terms of his credentials and his winning rate, it is all by decision or submission.
“If you watch him compete, he tends to gas out pretty quick. He wants to finish everything in the first or second round, and if he does not get his way, he slows down dramatically. You can see his mouth open, and he is breathing heavily. I think with my youth, athleticism, and cardio, this will go to the later rounds, and that is when I will start to play my game.”
“The Situ-Asian” undoubtedly posesses a well-rounded game. He is a fearless competitor, proficient in both Brazilian jiu-jitsu and wrestling, and is capable of remaining calm under duress. But most importantly, he has become revered for his dynamic striking.
Nguyen is on a three-bout win streak, all thanks to his signature overhand right. He used that weapon to knock out Kazunori Yokota in January 2017, previously-unbeaten titleholder Marat Gafurov for the featherweight world title in August, and Filipino hero Eduard Folayang for the lightweight world title later that November.
For his upcoming world title challenge against Fernandes, he moves all the way down to bantamweight. Although some critics assumed it would be a difficult cut, he is already on weight, and has noticed many changes.
“My clothes do not fit anymore,” he begins, with a slight chuckle.
“I feel much healthier, I feel much faster, and I feel great at this weight. It is my natural walk-around weight. My body has adapted to its own strength, my cardio is crazier than ever, and my speed has picked up.”
Nguyen expects to enter the ONE cage on 24 March as the best version of himself possible, and believes whole heartedly he will make history by capturing the ONE Bantamweight World Championship and become an unprecedented three-division world champion in the cage.
With that in mind, he wants to share that historic moment with the people he cares about the most. His wife, Brooke, typically flies out to be by her husband’s side, but this time, the Vietnamese-Australian hero is also bringing his three kids and mother-in-law to Thailand for the all-important occasion.
It will be the first time his whole family will see him compete live. While that give an athlete some extra stress, it is putting “The Situ-Asian” is at ease.
“There is no pressure. I just want them to enjoy themselves at the event,” he says.
“[My kids] 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.”