It had been more than 20 years since Bi “Killer Bee” Nguyen set foot in Vietnam, but as soon as she arrived, it felt like home again.
This Friday, 6 September, the veteran martial artist will get the chance to compete in front of an adoring audience when she takes on Puja “The Cyclone” Tomar in a ONE Super Series women’s atomweight Muay Thai match-up at ONE: IMMORTAL TRIUMPH.
Though she has come thousands of miles across the Pacific Ocean from the United States Of America to Ho Chi Minh City, she does not feel like she is on foreign soil.
“It’s just crazy to not feel like I’m traveling,” she says about her return to the land of her birth.
“Because I speak the language, it’s my people. I feel at home.”
The upcoming battle in Vietnam will bring Nguyen back to her roots in more ways than one.
While she has spent the last few years focusing on mixed martial arts, the former star of reality TV show Survivor began her combat career in “the art of eight limbs,” and she is delighted at the opportunity to have her first contest under those rules on the global stage.
“I’m known for mixed martial arts – especially in ONE and the Asian circuit. I’m known for my grappling, but I love Muay Thai,” Nguyen says.
“I fell in love with martial arts [because of] the art and tradition of Muay Thai. To be able to do this super awesome creative Super Series with mixed martial arts gloves – especially for our size, I favor mixed martial arts gloves – I think it’s just the best of both worlds.
“I think ONE has done something really special with ONE Super Series by fusing the two. I’m excited. It’s going to be a lot of action.”
A major factor in Nguyen joining The Home Of Martial Arts was the opportunity to branch out and compete in multiple disciplines, so the chance to take on Tomar in Muay Thai in ONE’s first-ever Vietnam event was like a dream come true for her.
“From what I can gather from Chatri [Sityodtong], it’s his mission to share martial arts with the world,” she says.
“You cannot truly share martial arts if you just share mixed martial arts. I think it’s amazing he’s letting us athletes express ourselves at artists in all the ways that we love to.”
As she returns to Muay Thai competition for the first time in more than three years, Nguyen has polished her techniques to display the best of her striking against Tomar this weekend.
Her skills will need to be at her their sharpest against the Indian athlete because, although she is also a transplant from ONE’s mixed martial arts ranks, her stand-up experience is extensive.
The 25-year-old is a four-time national wushu champion with an outstanding 67-5 in the discipline, and she is convinced her skills can translate to Muay Thai competition.
However, Nguyen’s has tried not to focus on anything but herself during her preparation. She is confident her coach has shown her the way to leave the Phu Tho Indoor Stadium with the victory.
“For every opponent, I send all the videos to my coach, or he looks up the videos, and they train me accordingly,” she says.
“My assessment of my opponent is what my coaches have had me working on. I hear that she has a lot of power punches – power in her hooks and power in her overhands – so we’ve been training a lot of that. She has power lead leg kicks, also, so I’m preparing for that, also.
“If I do it correctly, my speed and my diversity in strikes in this fight will overwhelm her.”
Although Nguyen respects the dangers her opponent presents and has prepared for every possibility in this contest, she almost feels like she will be invincible in front of the Vietnamese people.
“Killer Bee” promises that Tomar’s best will still not be enough when they clash on Friday.
“You are not going to beat me in my home country,” she says.
“She’s going to have to come with it because I’m fighting with more grit and more tenacity than ever. I can’t even imagine the strength that I’m going to pull from the crowd come 6 September.”