When the most inspirational heroes get knocked down, they get back up again.
Some of The Home Of Martial Arts’most popular and successful World Champions fell when they first challenged for the gold, but they never gave up on their dreams.
Through hard work and determination, they earned a second shot at glory, and they refused to waste their second chance at making history.
These are ONE Championship’s greatest stories of redemption.
#1 Martin Nguyen Vs. Marat Gafurov
By his own admission, Martin “The Situ-Asian” Nguyen was not ready for the highest level when he faced Marat “Cobra” Gafurov.
He was plugged in at the last minute to a ONE Interim Featherweight World Title contest in September 2015, and then embarrassed with a rear-naked choke in just 41 seconds. The Vietnamese-Australian was crestfallen, but not broken.
Defeat only strengthened Nguyen’s resolve to be better. He constantly improved as he beat every other leading contender at featherweight to earn a rematch with his Russian rival.
Two years later, he succeeded where he had failed before. Not only did he fend off Gafurov’s submission attempts this time, he stopped him with a spectacular knockout to become ONE Featherweight World Champion.
#2 Joshua Pacio Vs. Yoshitaka Naito
In another example of a young warrior falling short against a more experienced opponent, Joshua “The Passion” Pacio was outclassed in his first shot at the ONE Strawweight World Title in October 2016.
Yoshitaka “Nobita” Naito’s jiu-jitsu skills were just too crafty, and the Japanese star forced the tap when slapped on a rear-naked choke the Filipino wushu specialist did not see coming.
Pacio’s heartbreak was clear for all to see in the Circle, but as soon as he got back to Team Lakay in Baguio City, he redoubled his efforts to become a complete mixed martial artist.
He was a different animal when he challenged Naito again two years later – one that was better in every phase of mixed martial arts. “Nobita” had no answer for the non-stop offense from “The Passion,” whose hand was raised in triumph this time via unanimous decision.
#3 Aung La N Sang Vs. Vitaly Bigdash
Myanmar martial arts hero Aung La “The Burmese Python” N Sang did not shed any tears when he lost a unanimous decision to Vitaly Bigdash.
His face wore the scars of battle after he spent most of the five rounds on the receiving end of the Russian’s attacks, but as he saw the then-ONE Middleweight World Champion wear the belt, he had already vowed to succeed where he had failed, and he did not have to wait long.
Fewer than six months later, he got his chance, and he was a whole new animal. Aung La N Sang came out hard and put his opponent down with powerful punches early. However, Bigdash recovered to reply with the kind of offense that won him the first match, but every time he came on strong, he was pegged back again.
After 25 minutes, “The Burmese Python” earned the decision from the judges to win the gold in front of his fans in Yangon. This time there were tears, but only of joy.