Bi “Killer Bee” Nguyen became the first woman to topple Ritu “The Indian Tigress” Phogat, and now the Vietnamese-American is looking to roll with that momentum against a top-ranked strawweight contender to prove she is among the atomweight division’s finest.
“Killer Bee” has moved to Las Vegas, Nevada, to further her development as a well-rounded mixed martial artist, and has already displayed the progress she has made in 2021. Now, she meets another rising star in Olsim, and the winner will face Grace “Thai Kitten” Cleveland in a ONE Women’s Atomweight World Grand Prix alternate bout at the historic ONE: EMPOWER on 3 September.
In a sit-down interview with ONE, Nguyen talks about her biggest victory to date, changes she has made to her training camp, and why she believes she will defeat Olsim en route to atomweight contendership.
ONE Championship: You have had some close bouts not go your way on the scorecards. What was the feeling like to finally get the nod from the judges in a razor-thin matchup?
Bi Nguyen: It was a lot of mixed emotions. But for me, honestly, in my career, I’ve had some weird things happen, some decisions not go my way. So I was just relieved, honestly, and excited, because I thought I won.
ONE: Ritu Phogat believes she won that match at ONE: DANGAL in May. How do you assess your performance, and where do you think you edged her out?
BN: I think it’s valid that she feels that way, and I understand it only because she’s a wrestler and she’s new. Mind you, Ritu’s a baby in MMA. She’s brand new to MMA. You have to take into account where you fight.
Part of being an athlete is knowing where you’re competing and what the criteria are. ONE always favors damage. It was really close. It was basically her doing her game versus me doing my game, but my game just did way more damage. She was almost out in the third.
You should always feel like you won, especially since she’s young to the game. She’s a wrestler, so of course, in her head, the wrestling is over the striking that I did. And it did take up more time than mine, but I just did more damage.
It is what it is. It was a close decision, but I think by ONE criteria, I definitely won. She didn’t do any damage on the ground.
ONE: Ritu said about the match, “I had dominated my opponent for two rounds. I completely respect the judges’ decision. But I do believe that I had won the match.” Do you have any response to that?
BN: I mean, she’s a fighter. She should think she won. But like I said, she’ll start understanding.
I really hope that Ritu does look back at the fight, understand where she fights, and understand what she can do better. You just have to learn from each fight, and it’s fine that you thought you won, but I hope that she sees what she can do better, because I have, even though I won.
ONE: You have an upcoming match against Jenelyn Olsim at ONE: BATTLEGROUND III. How do you think the two of you match up?
BN: I used to say I was a striker, but as I evolve as an athlete, I realize that I was just assuming the identity of what people wanted me to be because I’m such an exciting striker that people just labeled me as a striker. But my grappling is really good, my MMA’s good, and the cage work is good.
So going into this fight, I want to rephrase that I am the MMA fighter in this fight. I think her weakness is that she doesn’t have as much MMA experience as me. She’s such a strong striker that a lot of her fights haven’t gone to the ground at all. She has a really strong right hand.
She’s also massive for this weight class. She’s coming down from strawweight. She’s big. She has heavy hands and heavy kicks. I’m just faster and have more ways to win.
ONE: Olsim showed more of her overall game in her last match by getting the submission. After seeing that, does it make you more cautious of her?
BN: Yeah, but I have watched it, and she did get a submission win, but it’s really her power and her damage that gets her it. So yeah, I definitely am wary of her ground [game] getting better. I’m not sleeping on her ground [game]. I just think I’m much better on the ground, and I think her strength is her heavy hands.
ONE: Do you feel you’ll be able to match her on the feet with her power?
BN: The thing is, there are so many ways to hurt people, and power is just one part of striking. There’s speed. There’s elusiveness. I also have power.
I’ll be faster than her. I’ll strike smarter than her. And if I clip her in the right place, she’ll go down, so it’ll be a fun exchange. It’ll definitely be strength versus speed.
ONE Championship: You have made some changes to your training camp in the past year. What were the motivations behind those decisions?
Bi Nguyen: Well, the past couple of years have been crazy.
I trained at Tiger Muay Thai. Obviously, the pandemic brought me back to the ‘States. I’ve always lived in Houston and trained in Houston. That’s where my base was. And so I tried Xtreme Couture for the last three camps, and I loved it.
So this is just where I am right now, at Xtreme Couture. It may look like I change camps a lot, but it’s really a lot of things that have happened over the years, like the pandemic and also fighting overseas, and being in America is not easy to navigate.
As of now, I am at Xtreme Couture, and I’m very happy with all the bodies. It’s great. It’s going well, and I really do think this is my prime, and I only think I’m getting better.
ONE: Why has Xtreme Couture been the right move to bring your game to the next level?
BN: For me, it’s the MMA and grappling.
I have done a lot of striking. I’m always working, I’m always trying to work on my weaknesses, and the grappling at 10th Planet, here in Vegas, is phenomenal. Their MMA is phenomenal. And at this type of level, you need bodies.
You need people at your level to test with and to show you exactly what you’re made of and what you need to work on every day. So I just have an immense amount of bodies here. And even a ONE fighter, Maira [Mazar].
She fought Jenelyn in the last fight. She’s my main training partner for this fight, so it’s nice to have somebody who’s fought Jenelyn in my camp.
ONE: What’s the importance of having Maira in your camp for this bout after she just competed against Jenelyn?
BN: Oh, it’s everything. It’s like having the playbook because people can game plan and people can tell you what they’re going to do in these interviews, but their tendencies, how they feel, and how they move is going to stay the same for a while.
It’s hard to change those tendencies, so having Maira tell me what it feels like, how she moves, and what her tendencies are is priceless.