Martin “The Situ-Asian” Nguyen remains determined to become the first mixed martial artist to hold World Titles in three different weight classes.
The Vietnamese-Australian star already has the ONE Featherweight and Lightweight World Titles in his possession, thanks to a pair of highlight-reel knockouts over Marat Gafurov and Eduard Folayang.
And he remains single-minded in his determination to add the ONE Bantamweight World Title to his list of achievements.
His next bout will offer the opportunity of a third belt, as he gets set to face off against dangerous bantamweight contender Kevin “The Silencer” Belingon at ONE: REIGN OF KINGS.
The ONE Interim Bantamweight World Championship will be on the line and, fresh from a successful title defence against rising star Christian Lee, Nguyen says he’s ready to enter the fray once again.
“At the end of the day, regardless of how we fought, we got what we went for, which was the win,” he says.
“We’re happy, none of us were injured, and I could go back to the gym to work on what I needed to get back in there in the cage.”
As you’d expect of a man who holds world titles in two of the most talent-stacked weight classes in ONE Championship, Nguyen had options galore following his decision win over Lee.
His first-choice option was to face reigning ONE Bantamweight Champion Bibiano “The Flash” Fernandes in a World Title rematch, but with the Brazilian currently out of action through injury, that option was a non-starter.
Instead, ONE came to him with an alternative route to a third belt – a bout with Belingon for interim gold.
“My ultimate goal after that featherweight title defence was to defend my lightweight title,” he explains.
“We also wanted that rematch with Bibiano, but Kevin is the true number one contender, and I don’t think he would want to wait for Bibiano, either.
“This gets both of us back to the cage as soon as possible.”
It is a fascinating clash between two of the very best bantamweights on the planet, and one that will offer a fresh, new, dangerous, test of Nguyen’s skills.
Belingon is on a tear, and has looked outstanding in his most recent performance – finishing Andrew Leone in spectacular fashion at ONE: HEROES OF HONOR in April.
To make matters tougher for Nguyen, the 29-year-old will have to compete in Belingon’s home country, in Manila.
While he has not faced Belingon before, he has experience facing other members of Team Lakay. He first overcame Edward Kelly, and took the lightweight title from one of the Baguio City outfit’s very best, “Landslide” Folayang.
That stunning knockout win, plus his experience in the highest level of competition in ONE, has given Nguyen all the confidence he needs heading into the contest with Belingon.
“I feel my advantages, to be blunt, have to be my championship round experience and my gas tank,” he says.
“I’ve got the utmost respect for Team Lakay. Mark [Sangiao, head coach] is out there doing a really good job at keeping the fighters humble and hungry. To be honest, I like to watch Team Lakay fight. They’re powerful strikers with devastating kicks, as well as takedown defence.
“Kevin is a complete mixed martial artist. Yes, he’s known for his striking, but he’s proved to the world he can also wrestle.
“In general, they all fight the same way. This is my third fight with a guy from Team Lakay, so the way I prepared for that first one is how I’ll be preparing for every other fight.”
If he can win on 27 July, Fernandes remains Nguyen’s target, and he will solidify his position as the clear top contender for “The Flash” when he returns.
Fernandes is expected to be cageside in Manila to watch the clash in person, and it is likely he will step into the cage to face off with the winner at the bout’s conclusion.
Nguyen says he would relish such a moment and, while he promises to keep it classy, he says he will be sure to make Fernandes’ life as tough as possible if they meet in a World Title rematch further down the line.
“At the end of the day, we’re going to dance again, and I’m here to be the hardest fight for anyone I face, and I believe I was the hardest fight of his whole career,” he said.
“If he’s there, I’ll be respectful. The guy is an absolute legend and I look up to him as well, so there’ll be a good chat,” he laughs.
First, of course, Nguyen has to deal with the significant test posed by the in-form Belingon and claim the ONE Interim Bantamweight World Title in Manila.
But, in true “Situ-Asian” style, the Vietnamese-Australian star is as confident in his finishing ability as ever.
His message to the fans? “Don’t blink.”