ONE Featherweight and Lightweight World Champion Martin “The Situ-Asian” Nguyen came incredibly close to making history yet again.
Last Saturday, 24 March, the Vietnamese-Australian valiantly challenged ONE Bantamweight World Champion Bibiano “The Flash” Fernandes for his coveted title in the main event of ONE: IRON WILL in Bangkok, Thailand.
The 29-year-old was attempting to become the only three-division martial arts world champion in the history of the cage, and nearly pulled off the feat. However, after 25 minutes of action, he fell on the wrong side of a razor-thin split decision.
Now, just days removed from the event, Nguyen speaks. In this exclusive interview, “The Situ-Asian” recaps the match from his perspective, what he could have done better, and what his immediate plans are for the next few months.
ONE Championship: You lost to Bibiano Fernandes via split decision at ONE: IRON WILL. How did the match go down from your perspective?
Martin Nguyen: I thought I had the upper hand, to be honest. His punch [at the end] changed the whole game apparently, and got him over the finish line. It is what it is.
If I had mixed it up, thrown more takedowns, and had a bit more aggression in that last round, I would have won, for sure. It was more about the aggression in the last round. I was listening to my cornermen.
Before that final round, they said: “Play it safe, and ride it out. Obviously, this guy is going to play it safe, they know your right hand is there, he is going to do whatever he can to protect himself from that right hand.” So I was told to play it safe, keep him at bay, and ride it out.
I was fresh, man. I could have gone another ten rounds. But yeah, bantamweight is my new division. I feel so much better at that division, and I pushed someone with more than 20 matches and 14 years of experience to the breaking point. I think I will be the next bantamweight king, sooner or later.
ONE: You still have your ONE Featherweight and Lightweight World Titles. Do you still plan to defend those?
MN: Yeah, definitely. I am still going to defend my honor and my legacy. Featherweight, I am going to do whatever I can to keep that one, and I will also move down to bantamweight.
So the next step for me is to take out the next featherweight contender. I will compete at lightweight at the end of the year, and then back down to bantamweight.
ONE: You walked to the cage with your son, Kai. How special was that moment for you?
MN: Very special. As I said in those videos, he is my number one fan, and I told Chatri [Sityodtong, CEO and Chairman of ONE Championship], I wanted him to walk down to the cage with me. He is going to be with me, so I want him to walk down with me. I wanted both my girl [Nguyen’s daughter, Tiarna] and boy, but she fell asleep on my wife’s lap.
ONE: What did Kai think of everything?
MN: Man, he thought I won too! It was all mixed emotions. Obviously, they were happy to see me not injured at all, but the result is what it is.
ONE: Speaking of your son, you are currently vacationing with the family in Thailand right now. How is that going?
MN: It is good. I’ve just got swollen ankles and legs, but I am getting all the massages I can from the Thai masseuses here, and enjoying the time.
The family and I are going to go island hopping. We are going to go visit Chang Island, and all the bays there, and maybe Phi Phi Island. We are just going to enjoy the weather here before we go back to Sydney.
ONE: Let’s talk about the future. Christian Lee has called for a rematch, this time for the featherweight world title. What do you envision next?
MN: If ONE Championship offers that match, I will take it in a heartbeat. I think there are a lot of contenders, and a lot of people who want to compete for the belt. Personally, I want to see a trilogy [match with Marat Gafurov], but I think Marat should be working his way back up.
I think everyone wants to see a trilogy match, and I think everyone wants to see a rematch with Christian, so there are always going to be entertaining matches that are going to be there. It is just a matter of time.
As soon as I am back in training, as soon as I am fit and healthy again, I will tell ONE Championship, “Let’s do it.” I plan on competing another three times this year. I am hoping to be back by May, or June, at the latest.
ONE: What are your future goals moving forward?
MN: Moving forward, I just want to defend my titles against the next contenders. I have been getting a lot of social media posters out there saying I should be defending the titles. I want to defend these titles, and then I will have the ball in my court again, and I will start calling the shots.
I am just happy with the journey, man. I am happy with my performance, and I am happy with the way life is at the moment, so we will see what ONE Championship offers, and we will reevaluate from there.