Martin “The Situ-Asian” Nguyen is in a great place, both in his life and his career.
The 28-year-old Vietnamese-Australian has a beautiful wife, three adorable children, a four-month-old pup named Harley, and a dedicated martial arts team that are preparing him for the opportunity of a lifetime.
Just mere months after claiming the ONE Featherweight World Championship, he will get the chance to capture a second piece of gold, and become the first two-division world champion in ONE Championship history.
Nguyen spent his entire life trying to unlock his true greatness, and soon found that all it took was martial arts. Ever since walking through the door of KMA Top Team seven years ago to participate in his first class, his life has been enriched and elevated to new heights.
“The main thing martial arts has provided me with is discipline, and the values of life — not only through combat sports, but the family values of how people get together, meeting other people, learning their journeys, and experiencing your own,” the 28-year-old world champion states.
“It has helped me a lot through life, and with the support of my wife, this martial arts career has been phenomenal. It has been a great journey so far.”
Perhaps that journey began before he was even born.
It Takes A Village
The Nguyen family originally lived carefree in South Vietnam. But in the 1970s, as the Vietnam War was coming to a close, Nguyen’s parents and everyone in their neighborhood no longer felt safe in their once-happy home. They wanted to flee the country, and get a fresh start somewhere else.
The close-knit community escaped to Malaysia via boat, and then wound up in Indonesia, where they were taken into a refugee camp. Soon, they were flown to Australia, and the once-prosperous South Vietnamese community re-established itself in Liverpool, New South Wales.
“People of the local suburb and neighbors, who had escaped, all kept close. They stuck together as one big group, and created a community here,” Nguyen explains. “So basically, the people in the community are not blood uncles, blood aunties, and blood cousins. They are family friends, but I still relate to them as uncles, aunties, and cousins, because they all stuck by each other.”
Happily, every social gathering became a family affair, and above all, the good times were about to roll again. Everyone attended each other’s barbecues, shared good news, and of course, partied together, mostly with karaoke.
“When they are all together, it is a massive concert. It is like a mini-Vietnam Idol,” he says with a chuckle. “Man, we Asians cannot sing, but when they are tipsy and have a microphone, there is no stopping them.”
The community had left the only place they ever knew for a courageous and uncertain life in a new country. And, most importantly, they prospered.
Martin The Menace
While he may be called “The Situ-Asian” now, Nguyen was a self-confessed “menace” and “wild child” growing up. He often caused trouble in his household, and even though he was disciplined constantly, the young Nguyen continued getting involved in mischief.
At school, those antics were surprisingly less apparent, though no less serious. He was disinterested in classes, and although he was rarely ever bullied, he was felt he was constantly being picked on by the teachers. Now, however, the young man realizes they were just trying to bring out the best in him, and help him achieve his potential.
The mischievousness started to wane when Nguyen reached age 10, as he started to turn his attention to playing rugby. As a result, by the time he reached secondary school, he had shed most of his troublesome ways.
Nguyen became a promising talent who was part of a couple of worthwhile junior rugby clubs, including the West Magpies. But after being sidelined for two months in 2008, he lost motivation, and decided to quit the sport. As it turns out, rugby wasn’t really for him after all.
“The Situ-Asian” needed some sort of physical activity to bide his time, and to help shed some unwanted kilograms. That led him through the doors of KMA Top Team in 2010, where he took his first martial arts lesson. It was a day that would change his life forever, as he found his true passion in life.
“I started taking up BJJ classes after being a bit overweight, and the discipline through marital arts is on another level, compared to contact sports such as rugby league.”
Nguyen was hooked on the “gentle art” and it reignited his competitive spirit. He tried his hand at a grappling tournament and performed well, earning a third-place finish. In 2011, he entered his first amateur martial arts tournament, and won all four matches against bigger opposition.
Though some considered it a fluke, he competed again the following year, and experienced the same result. At that point, “The Situ-Asian” made a startling realization. “It was time for me to bring my skills to the cage, and see what I could do.”
The Road Home To Vietnam
Ever since making his professional debut in July 2012, Nguyen has proven to be a sensational talent. He has finished every single one of his nine opponents to date, but his most impressive achievement happened this past August at ONE: QUEST FOR GREATNESS.
The Vietnamese Australian challenged previously-undefeated ONE Featherweight World Champion Marat “Cobra” Gafurov for the coveted title, in a rematch from their clash nearly two years earlier.
Back then, the Dagestani grappler submitted him via rear-naked choke in 41 seconds. This time, however, Nguyen would get his redemption.
Although Gafurov constantly threatened with his patented rear-naked choke once the epic rematch began, “The Situ-Asian” masterfully defended the Dagestani’s attacks and returned to his feet. This would continue for much of the first round.
Finally, at the 1:27 mark of the second stanza, as Gafurov dropped his left arm to deliver a kick, the Vietnamese-Australian exploded with his signature overhand right, and instantly knocked “Cobra” out to claim the ONE Featherweight World Championship.
That victory has been the highlight of Nguyen’s career thus far, but what made the occasion even more special was having his faithful wife by his side.
“It is so surreal,” he recalls. “My wife was there for my match in my promotional debut, and she was in the cage when I got my hand raised after beating Gafurov. When I jumped off the cage, I saw my wife, and we had this moment again.”
Nguyen now has a chance to create the biggest moment of all on Friday, 10 November, as he challenges Folayang for the ONE Lightweight World Championship at ONE: LEGENDS OF THE WORLD. If he is successful, he will become the first two-division world champion in ONE Championship history.
Truly, this a remarkable development. Within a span of four months, Nguyen has gone from title contender to potential two-division world champion. All of that is a definitive testament to his hard work and dedication, and it is something he hopes that will be able to positively impact others.
“I want to inspire people,” he begins. “I want them to see the hard work I go through, and if I do end up winning this belt, it all starts from hard work and dedication. If you really want something in life, you have to work hard for it. You have to put your head down, set your goals and meet them, and that is what I want to push to the new generation.”
Nguyen is also fully aware that a another title win could do wonders for those who still live in Vietnam. ONE has been planning a foray into the Southeast Asian country, and “The Situ-Asian” could be at the forefront in bringing martial arts to that audience.
He has been to his homeland only a few times in his life, but he already feels a responsibility to the Vietnamese community, having been raised by one himself.
“I would love for ONE to go to Vietnam, not only to motivate other Vietnamese athletes, but just the whole community,” he begins. “For someone coming from a large organization like ONE, I somehow feel I can already serve as motivation to the Vietnamese people over there.”
Manila | 10 November | TV: Check local listings for global broadcast | PPV: Official Livestream at oneppv.com | Tickets: http://bit.ly/onelegends17