Right now, life is perfect for Martin “The Situ-Asian” Nguyen (10-1).
The 29-year-old has a beautiful wife, three adorable children, and a dedicated martial arts team that helped him capture the ONE Featherweight and Lightweight World Championships last year. This weekend, he could add a third world title to his collection.
On Saturday, 24 March, the Vietnamese-Australian will challenge ONE Bantamweight World Champion Bibiano “The Flash” Fernandes (21-3) for his coveted title at ONE: IRON WILL, which emanates from Bangkok, Thailand.
Nguyen could make history as the first, and only, three-division world champion in the cage. The only thing that would make that accomplishment even greater is he has to do it by defeating Fernandes, a man considered to be the greatest bantamweight of all-time.
“He is a legend,” Nguyen says. “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.”
Throughout the past year, it appears as if “The Situ-Asian” has been finally unleashing his true greatness, and he could realize his full potential with a record-setting performance in a matter of days.
However, it took a tremendous amount of hard work to navigate through his winding lifelong journey in order to even reach this potentially groundbreaking milestone.
Truth be told, the journey began even before the two-division ONE World Champion was born.
The Nguyen family originally lived carefree in South Vietnam. But in the 1970s, as the Vietnam War was coming to a close, Nguyen’s parents and everyone in their neighborhood felt they needed to move, and seek a fresh start somewhere else.
The close-knit community travelled to Malaysia via boat, and then wound up in Indonesia, where they were taken into a relocation camp. Soon, they were flown to Australia, and the once-prosperous Vietnamese community re-established itself in Liverpool, New South Wales.
“People of the local suburb and neighbors who had moved all kept close. They stuck together as one big group, and created a community here,” Nguyen explains.
“So basically, the people in the community are not blood uncles, blood aunties, and blood cousins. They are family friends, but I still relate to them as uncles, aunties, and cousins, because they all stuck by each other.”
Every social gathering became a family affair, and above all, the good times were about to roll again. Everyone attended each other’s barbecues, shared good news, and of course, partied together, mostly with karaoke.
“When they are all together, it is a massive concert. It is like a mini-Vietnam Idol,” he says with a chuckle. “Man, when they are tipsy and have a microphone, there is no stopping them.”
The community had left the only place they ever knew for a courageous and uncertain life in a new country. And, most importantly, they prospered.
The Cure For Mischief
Nguyen may have been a self-confessed menace who often caused trouble in his household and in the classroom, but that mischievousness was initially curbed when he took up rugby at age 10. He was quite successful, even playing for worthwhile junior rugby clubs, including the West Magpies.
The remaining flames of mischief were stomped out in his late teenage years. Just before his 17th birthday, he met his future wife Brooke, and life changed forever. Three years later, in May 2009, the couple had their first child.
That completely transformed “The Situ-Asian.”
“[Having a son] made me realize I had to step up as the man of the family. We stopped going out, and everything was about our child,” Nguyen explains.
“At first, I was all about my mates and going out was the thing. We thought we were invincible. But then she [Brooke] became the sole person I had to look after, and my son did as well. It made me become a man.”
Evidently, that was not the only change in his life.
Following some rugby injuries, he lost motivation, and quit the sport. That led to inactivity, and subsequently acquiring some unwanted kilograms. Nguyen desperately wanted to shed the excess weight, and sought a physical activity to help him in his mission.
He found the perfect activity when he stepped through the doors of KMA Top Team in 2010. “I started taking up BJJ classes after being a bit overweight,” he says. “The discipline through marital arts is on another level, compared to contact sports such as rugby league.”
Nguyen was hooked on the “gentle art,” and it re-ignited his competitive spirit. He tried his hand at a grappling tournament and performed well, earning a third-place finish. In 2011, he entered his first amateur martial arts tournament, and won all four matches against larger opposition.
Though some considered it a fluke, he competed again the following year, and experienced the same result. At that point, “The Situ-Asian” made a startling realization.
“It was time for me to bring my skills to the cage, and see what I could do.”
Making Martial Arts History
Ever since making his professional debut in July 2012, Nguyen has proven to be a sensational talent, and has finished every opponent inside the cage.
In fact, he only has one blemish on his otherwise spotless record — a loss to Marat “Cobra” Gafurov in September 2015 for the interim featherweight world title, which he accepted on two days’ short notice.
“The Situ-Asian” redeemed himself in August 2017, however. He masterfully defended the Dagestani’s submissions, and, at the 1:27 mark of the second stanza, the Vietnamese-Australian landed his signature overhand right to instantly knock Gafurov out, and claim the ONE Featherweight World Championship.
That victory was one of Nguyen’s career highlights, and was made extra special by having his faithful wife by his side.
“It is so surreal,” he recalls. “My wife was there for my match in my promotional debut, and she was in the cage when I got my hand raised after beating Gafurov. When I jumped off the cage, I saw my wife, and we had this moment again.”
Nguyen followed that up with another career-defining performance three months later. The Aussie underdog stepped up in weight to challenge ONE Lightweight World Champion Eduard “Landslide” Folayang for his coveted title.
This feat may have been even more amazing. As the Filipino whipped around for one of his famous wushu kicks, Nguyen connected with his trademark overhand right to Folayang’s chin while his opponent was in mid-spin. It knocked out the “Landslide” immediately, and “The Situ-Asian” claimed his second world title.
Aside from knocking out Folayang, Nguyen also silenced his critics, and proved that anything is possible with hard work and dedication.
“I want to inspire people,” the Vietnamese-Australian begins. “If you really want something in life, you have to work hard for it. You have to put your head down, set your goals and meet them, and that is what I want to push to the new generation.”
Nguyen can make that point absolutely crystal clear this coming weekend if he can defeat Fernandes for the ONE Bantamweight World Championship, and became a historic three-division martial arts world champion.
“The Situ-Asian” is confident in making his happen, and this time, he is bringing the whole family to Thailand to witness this marquee life moment.
After all, martial arts has changed his life.
“The main thing martial arts has provided me with is discipline, and the values of life — not only through combat sports, but the family values of how people get together, meeting other people, learning their journeys, and experiencing your own,” the 28-year-old world champion states.
“It has helped me a lot through life, and with the support of my wife, this martial arts career has been phenomenal. It has been a great journey so far.”
Bangkok | 24 March | TV: Check local listings for global broadcast | Tickets: http://bit.ly/onewill18