Martin “The Situ-Asian” Nguyen has a record of 10-1, and currently holds both the ONE Lightweight and Featherweight World Titles. But, he still says he’s the man with everything to prove heading into his champion-versus-champion bout with Bibiano “The Flash” Fernandes at ONE: IRON WILL.
The two world champions will go up against one another in Bangkok, Thailand, on Saturday, 24 March, with Fernandes’ ONE Bantamweight World Title on the line, giving Nguyen the opportunity to become an unprecedented three-division world champion in the cage.
Despite the stunning run of form that catapulted him to stardom in ONE Championship, Nguyen accepts he’s the underdog against Fernandes, who has a well-earned reputation as the most dominant force in the organisation.
“In terms of experience, I am definitely the underdog. I am happy to be the underdog, and I am happy to test myself against the best,” the 29-year-old Aussie told ONE Championship.
“At the moment, he is the very best, and it is the perfect time right now to face someone like Bibiano, who is riding a huge winning steak. It will draw the crowd in — not only in Asia, but around the world.”
Fernandes, 37, has held the ONE Bantamweight World Title since 2013 and is riding a promotional record 13-bout active win streak. The bout with Nguyen will represent his eighth title defence – also a ONE Championship record.
Nguyen is determined to ensure that Fernandes’ eighth title defence will also be his last, and says he’s confident he has the game to dethrone the long-standing ONE Bantamweight World Champion.
“I think he is the most vulnerable in the championship rounds,” said Nguyen, raising question marks over the champion’s stamina.
“He has been to the championship rounds before. He has had a few TKOs and knockouts, but in terms of his credentials and his winning rate, it is all by decision or submission.
“If you watch him compete, he tends to gas out pretty quick. He wants to finish everything in the first or second round, and if he does not get his way, he slows down dramatically. You can see his mouth open, and he is breathing heavily. I think with my youth, athleticism, and cardio, this will got to the later rounds, and that is when I will start to play my game.”
Nguyen’s confidence has helped propel him to underdog victories over both Marat Gafurov and Eduard Folayang, with his stunning one-punch knockout power proving the crucial difference-maker as he finished both world champions in spectacular fashion.
In fact, Nguyen’s run of KO finishes actually goes back further than that. He’s currently riding a three-bout KO streak, with a finish of Kazunori Yokota kicking off his run to double title glory as he turned in a stellar 2017.
Now, after seeing his success last year, he plans on raising it to even higher heights in 2018, starting with victory over Fernandes.
It’s taken a complete overhaul of his preparations, with Nguyen adapting his diet and training to get down to bantamweight in order to complete healthily and with the same strength and power that he had at lightweight and featherweight.
It’s been a challenge, and one that he says has gone well.
“My clothes do not fit anymore,” he joked.
“I feel much healthier, I feel much faster, and I feel great at this weight. It is my natural walk-around weight. My body has adapted to its own strength, my cardio is crazier than ever, and my speed has picked up.”
It’s that endurance, as well as his prodigious punch power, that he believes will see his hand raised in victory on 24 March in Bangkok.
He’s even flying his family over to Thailand to watch his bid for history live and in person, with his wife, Brooke, being joined by his three children and his mother-in-law to watch him go for glory at the Impact Arena.
Some may see the presence of their family as added pressure, but Nguyen, in typically laid-back fashion, shrugged off that suggestion.
“There is no pressure. I just want them to enjoy themselves at the event,” he said.
“[My kids] said they always wanted to come, so what better time to come than to see their dad win a third world title?
“It is not every day we have the kids there on event week or event day, so I want this one to be a special one.”
Victory against a legend like Fernandes and a third world title would certainly be very special indeed.