No athlete in ONE Championship had as much cage time against top-class opposition in 2018 as Martin “The Situ-Asian” Nguyen.
The ONE Featherweight World Champion battled for 15 rounds in 2018 – all in championship bouts across two divisions.
Though things did not work out quite how he had planned – he fell short in his sensational bid to win World Titles in three weight classes and vacated his lightweight belt due to injury – he is unquestionably still the top dog at featherweight after his successful defense against Christian Lee in May.
“The Situ-Asian’s” exploits were extremely testing, as he took on three World Title bouts across two divisions by the end of July. All of his hard work put an incredible strain on his body and mind.
However, all of his experiences this year will be invaluable for the KMA Top Team representative as he moves forward in his mixed martial arts career. Now, Nguyen has had the time to rest, recuperate, and reflect on the last 12 months while he prepares for a big return to the cage in 2019.
Here’s how “The Situ-Asian” views his year.
ONE Championship: Is your adventure at bantamweight over now?
I’m focused on defending my featherweight title, but never say never with the bantamweight division. It depends on how I feel.
ONE: How was the experience of changing weight classes for you?
MN: For the first bantamweight fight, I had roughly three months to train. Then, four-and-a-half weeks later, I competed at featherweight.
I was already on weight from before, but I had to readjust, and the training had to remain the same. It was basically the same camp straight through from the Bibiano [Fernandes] fight.
The last one was the hardest [preparation] I’ve had in my career. The way that I felt just turned me off that completely at the time.
ONE: You ended up spending the end of the year out with an injury. How do you feel now?
MN: The injury was the main thing that really turned me off my game completely [for the Belingon fight]. I’m injury-free now, and back to my natural weight class.
I feel better than ever. It’s like how I felt against Marat [Gafurov] and Eduard [Folayang] – so I’m coming back strong.
ONE: How did you feel after vacating the ONE Lightweight World Title and focusing on featherweight?
MN: I definitely feel more focused. I learned a lot about what my body can and can’t handle – it was a big and valuable lesson.
I feel better than ever, and I know for a fact that if I do compete again at bantamweight, then I’ll just give myself more time and preparation.
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Posted by ONE Championship on Tuesday, 18 September 2018
ONE: What are your reflections on your ONE Featherweight World Title defense against Christian Lee, and getting the win by split decision?
MN: I thought it was a clean unanimous [decision]. I know we don’t go round by round, but maybe he had the first one, and I won the four after that. I didn’t feel one bit in trouble.
I felt like I landed the cleaner shots, put the pressure on, defended takedowns, and I even landed a takedown. I tried to engage and take as much as was given to me, I thought it was a clean win.
ONE: Were you surprised at how it played out?
MN: I was pushing forward – always being in the pocket. I thought I’d done enough to make him want to engage, but it was clear he never wanted to.
How I see it, in a championship fight, to be the champion, you have to take out the champion decisively. Christian had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I didn’t feel that he wanted to do that.
He’s usually an exciting fighter, and I love watching him, but when he came into the bout with me, he didn’t engage. I’m sure he’ll work his way into another shot, and if I’m the guy he gets to face, then it will be different next time.
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Posted by ONE Championship on Monday, 10 December 2018
ONE: How do you feel about 2018 as a whole, with its ups and downs?
MN: I see 2018 as the challenging side of my career. Everything that has happened has been a massive challenge.
It was me gaining knowledge. Thinking back, 2018 obviously didn’t go my way with the three World Titles, but I challenged myself and learned a lot about what my body can handle.
Right now, I’m looking forward at the featherweight division. There’s a lot of contenders, and I’d be glad to fight them all one by one.