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Martin “The Situ-Asian” Nguyen ascended to the peak of ONE Championship’s competitive 70.3-kilogram weight class after securing his win against a fierce Russian adversary, the previously unbeaten Marat “Cobra” Gafurov.
The 28-year-old Vietnamese-Australian knock out his opponent, claiming the featherweight title in the main event of ONE: QUEST FOR GREATNESS in Aug 2017.
However, the newly minted champion already has his sights set on something else.
Nguyen is moving up a weight class to challenge Filipino martial arts superstar Eduard “Landslide” Folayang in hopes of acquiring a second world title.
The two will battle for the ONE Lightweight World Championship in the main event of ONE: LEGENDS OF THE WORLD, which takes place at the 20,000-seater SM Mall of Asia Arena in Manila, Philippines.
For Nguyen, this is a chance he relishes — to become the first two-division world champion in ONE Championship history.
“I like Eduard [Folayang]. I said to myself I did not want to compete against someone I like and take away their glory, but opportunities like this do not come around too often.
“And, if I refused to do this, someone else was going to compete against him and take his glory.
“So it is strictly business.”
Nguyen says that he considers the clash with Folayang as a dream come true.
After signing the bout agreement for the cross-divisional clash with Folayang, Nguyen immediately headed back to training camp.
“Following my title win, I took a one-month vacation.
“But in my mind, I really wanted to compete.
“I was so eager to return to the cage once more before the conclusion of 2017.
“My wish came true in the form of this dream match against Eduard Folayang.”
Asked how he felt about Folayang, a world-class striker, Nguyen said that he has noticed a pattern in his opponent which he hopes to capitalise.
“Eduard’s striking is pretty legit.
“A bit wild, but it works for him.
“Everyone who gets tagged by Eduard, they walk into every single one of his strikes and put pressure on him.
“But Eduard is the counter striker, and everyone who comes forward gets hit with a spinning attack, a big right hand, or big kicks.
“You have to keep moving against someone like Eduard.
“If you do not move, then you are a standing punching bag.
“With my style, I am always moving.
“If I am going backwards, sideways, or forward, I want to make it hard for him to hit me, and I want to make every bit of my wrestling count.”
Another factor which Nguyen considers is being the lighter of the two.
Nguyen plans to use the weight difference to his advantage, believing his speed and dynamism will be his keys to victory in the five-round contest.
“My strength in this match is my pace and my cardio.
“Eduard has legitimate cardio, obviously, training in Baguio City, but going at the pace I go at, I think he is going to fatigue, and my grappling will get the best of him.
“He is a strong guy, but I will use his weight against him in this match.”
Nguyen knows that he has his work cut out for him but believes that he is up to the task and aims to take home the ONE Lightweight World Championship on Nov 10.
“It is so surreal, Last year, I set my goals.
“I said to myself, ‘This year, I want to rematch Marat [Gafurov], take the belt off of him, and become a two-division champion.’
“I am 75 percent of the way there.
“I beat Marat, and I got the featherweight belt.
“Now I am in a super bout for the first time ever in ONE Championship history to become a two-division champion.
“Everything is falling into place.
“It is appealing to know all hard work pays off.”
Going from a contender to a potential two-division world champion is no small feat, and a testament to Nguyen’s hard work and determination.
He hopes he will be a positive example for others.
“I want to inspire people. 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.”
Although Nguyen has only been to his homeland a few times in his life, he feels a bond to the Vietnamese community as he had been raised by one himself.
Nguyen is aware that winning another title could do wonders for those who live in Vietnam.
“I would love for ONE Championship to go to Vietnam, not only to motivate other Vietnamese athletes, but just the whole community.
“For someone coming from a large organization like ONE Championship, I somehow feel I can already serve as motivation to the Vietnamese people over there.”