It would seem Martin Nguyen has decided to end his quest to win a historic World Title in a third weight class – for now, at least.
Though an incredible piece of mixed martial arts history is no longer part of “The Situ-Asian’s” agenda, a focus on defending his other two belts may end up allowing him to have an even more impressive career.
Sure, three gold straps would have been great, but if he can dominate the two most talent-stacked divisions in ONE Championship, his career could go down as the greatest in the promotion’s history.
It is important to remember that Nguyen always planned on actively defending his belts against top contenders. He is definitely not someone to back down from a challenge.
As soon as he had the ONE Lightweight World Title wrapped around his waist at ONE: LEGENDS OF THE WORLD last November – when he knocked out Eduard “Landslide” Folayang – he cast his eye straight over to Shannon “OneShin” Wiratchai.
At the time, the Thai star boasted the most impressive winning streak in the weight class, but that was not enough for Nguyen. He also wanted to raise the stakes by competing in his rival’s homeland – at the Impact Arena in Bangkok.
Though he is yet to put that belt on the line since he captured it, the Vietnamese-Australian’s plan to defend against the best out there is the same.
After seeing Shinya “Tobikan Judan” Aoki stop two top-class opponents in a row, most men would balk at the idea of facing the Japanese legend. Not Nguyen. He believes the former ONE Lightweight World Champion has the best résumé out there, so he wants to test himself against him.
Timofey Nastyukhin and a rematch with Folayang are possibilities too, but they can wait for now, because he believes their form does not match those other two athletes’.
He is not trying to avoid anyone. If either of those men can add another win or two to their records, I have no doubt “The Situ-Asian” will be calling for a meeting with them.
The story is the same at featherweight – Nguyen’s ‘natural’ weight class, where he feels most comfortable.
His pursuits in other divisions allowed an undeniable number one contender to emerge by May of this year – after Christian “The Warrior” Lee racked up a phenomenal run of stoppage victories.
Even though the champion had decisively dealt with the Singaporean before, he did not hesitate to accept a bout with him. He had earned his shot.
However, Nguyen showed he was still a step ahead of the young phenom, as he turned in the most mature performance of his career – defending his strap for the first time after a five-round battle.
For his next featherweight match-up, Nguyen has no reservations about accepting bouts with the most dangerous men with the most impressive winning streaks.
A match-up with a legend like Narantungalag “Tungaa” Jadambaa – a former ONE Featherweight World Champion who returned to action in 2018 with two tremendous wins? Nguyen says, “bring it on.”
What about a rubber match with Marat “Cobra” Gafurov – the Russian grappler who is desperate for a shot at redemption and the chance to get a repeat result of their first meeting? It is a bout “that has to happen” when the former ONE Featherweight World Champion puts some victories together, according to Nguyen.
Keeping two World Title belts after entering the cage against any of these warriors would be an unprecedented feat.
Athletes in other sports and other organizations are all too willing to vacate their titles to move on and chase more gold, but the mark of a ‘true’ champion has always been the ability to defend their prizes.
Bibiano “The Flash” Fernandes has always stayed at bantamweight, but he is considered to be one of the greatest mixed martial artists in the world due to his nine World Title bout wins.
That is always what the 29-year-old Nguyen wanted to do more than anything, and he stuck to his guns when he was presented with the challenge to move to bantamweight – an opportunity any martial artist would have taken.
The fact he has already taken three bouts this year, with a fourth in the pipeline, shows he is willing to answer the call at the drop of a hat – an attitude that is befitting of a World Champion in his position.
With the demanding task of adjusting his weight to meet three different weight limits reduced, Nguyen should be ready to do whatever it takes, whenever he is asked, to take on all comers in two divisions.
With his attention now focused, and given what he has already done to become a two-division ONE World Champion, it would be difficult to bet against him defending his straps – and building a career that will be talked about for years to come.
Michael Owens is Deputy Editor of onefc.com. All opinions expressed are the writer’s own.