For the first time since 2017, Martin “The Situ-Asian” Nguyen is preparing to step into the Circle without World Championship gold on the line.
The former two-division ONE World Champion has plenty of reasons to stay focused for this featherweight mixed martial arts clash — and that includes ultimately reclaiming the divisional belt.
“It doesn’t feel different. The hunger is still there — the hunger to better myself every day and be the best I can be in the Circle,” Nguyen says.
“This is what I do. This is what I live and breathe, and [I’m going to do] anything possible to do the right things to get that title back.”
The Sydney native will need every ounce of get-up-and-go he can muster against Kim, who is a surging contender with concussive power. “The Fighting God” has already claimed two stunning finishes in ONE, and he’s eager to continue his climb up the featherweight ladder.
Plus, the South Korean has also been plenty eager to face Nguyen.
“Good on him. A lot of athletes like to get the easy fights before they get to the top,” Nguyen says.
“It makes sense, right? I [have been] the most dominant champion for the last three years. They see me as a stepping stone to get them to that fast track into the World Title shot, and I’ll welcome any challenge.
“He’s [doing] the right things, [trying to] take out a top-five contender. The most important thing I have to say to him is be careful what you wish for.”
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This matchup could feature fireworks, as both Nguyen and Kim are feared knockout artists with 16 KOs among their 24 combined victories.
And after losing his featherweight gold to Thanh Le via knockout, “The Situ-Asian” knows he must give Kim’s power the respect it deserves. At the same time, he believes that sticking to his own game plan will lead to positive results.
“From his last few bouts that I’ve seen, I see he is a pressure fighter. He likes to come forward. He likes to throw his punches and kicks,” Nguyen says.
“The main thing I want to focus on is to not get sloppy and not allow him to have any free shots. A lot of athletes who aren’t used to that style tend to fold and allow him to just tee off on their bodies or their head.
“I just have to stay on point, stay sharp, strong-minded. I’ve faced many athletes like him before, so it’s nothing new. It’s just another challenge ahead of me.”
Kim’s relentless offense could see him walk right into Nguyen’s trap. The latter is a masterful counterpuncher who’s dispatched many rivals that thought they could chase him down.
It’s a clash of styles that should lead to a thrilling battle, which is something “The Situ-Asian” is more than ready for.
“All I can say is, which one of my fights [has not been] exciting? For me, it’s just another day in the office,” the 32-year-old says.
“You know I’ll come, I’ll bring the fight. I put my heart on the line just as I do in the training room, but I’ve just got to fight smarter. That’s the main thing.
“I feel that I’m still in the peak of my career. I’m getting better and better. I’ve got the best team, I’ve got the best coach, and the best teammates around me that make me better every day [so I can] get that title back.”
Above all, Nguyen’s unwavering desire to return to the top of the featherweight mountain is pushing him forward.
He repeatedly states that he’ll get there by any means necessary – which includes taking out the next man who stands across from him in the Circle.
“Whether I take [Kim] down, whether I stand and strike with him, I will make sure that I’m always first. As I said, whatever it takes to get my hand raised.
“For me, I’d like to knock him out, but I will finish the fight wherever it may be possible.”