Martin Nguyen (ONE Championship)

ONE Fight Night 7’s Martin Nguyen: ‘The Type of Guy I Love to Fight’

An age-old adage says, “luck is when preparation meets opportunity.” In a nutshell, this means that if someone is always preparing, when their opportunity arises, they are ready to go. Most successful people in this world are prepared when the right situation comes their way, while many unsuccessful people were either ill-prepared, and opportunity never came their way, or, sometimes, both.

In combat sports preparation can be a tricky business. Some fighters are constantly fine-tuning their own skills, some only focus on their next opponent, and some carry a fairly even balance in their training. Part of growing and improving as a combat sports athlete is knowing what works best for that individual fighter.

Last October, former ONE Championship two-division champion Martin Nguyen was back in the win column after suffering back-to-back losses. Looking to string together two wins in a row, he was set to face Russia’s Ilya Freymanov in a bid to climb back into title contention. However, about three-and-a-half minutes in the first round, Freymanov stopped Nguyen with a series of knees. It wasn’t his first stoppage loss, but it was a fight he didn’t feel he trained properly for, and that one stung.


“What was on my mind [after that fight] was a lot of anxiety, a lot of stress, a lot of things that I thought I could have done better, but I take the loss as a man,” Nguyen told Combat Press. “We come back, prepare well and get back at it.

“The main thing I took back is I’ve got to prepare, right? I can’t just do everything my way. I’ve got to prepare for the things that can happen in a fight and just go from there. I just felt like my preparation was a bit lazy, and the way I approached the fight was a bit lazy. I just needed that kick in the butt to come back stronger.”

Nguyen, who grew up and currently resides in Australia with his wife and kids, trains for his fight camps at Kill Cliff FC in Deerfield Beach, Fla. under the tutelage of Henry Hooft. After his fight with Freymanov, he had to take a short time off to get his bearings straight, as he looked toward his next move.

“I gave myself two weeks to, you know, eat my donuts and cry myself to sleep,” Nguyen said. “But, I came back, and I was asked by the ONE officials when I was planning to come back. I just wanted to train and see where I went from there. Then, I came back with an answer and said, ‘I’ll be ready January or February.’ I made the decision to come back to Florida and prepare.”

On Feb. 24, Nguyen will be back in action when he takes on another rising Russian star in undefeated Shamil Gasanov at ONE Fight Night 7 at the Lumpinee Stadium in Bangkok, Thailand. While he made his way back to Florida to prepare, his wife and kids stayed back in Australia, as the kids are enjoying some time off from school

“I’ve been here in Florida, away from my family, missing all the good times – the fun times [like] Christmas and New Year’s and this coming Chinese New Year – missing all of that to be well prepared for this next bout,” said Nguyen. “I haven’t been gaming, which is what I’ve been used to. I haven’t been doing anything, other than making sure my wife is okay with the kids, and I get the right amount of sleep, and, you know, recovery steps along the way. I just eat, sleep and train twice a day. That’s what I’ve been doing – just focus.

“It’s summer there. My wife took them down to see their great grandma. They had a holiday out there. They got away for a whole week. They’re on some summer vacation right now, so they’re all at home driving my wife mad.”

Nguyen, who is also a qualified trade mechanic, might be in Florida, away from his family, but his wife Brooke and their three kids are the main reason why he does what he does. He understands that to be successful, he has to make those sacrifices, and that is a big part of the preparation. Kill Cliff is full of some of the highest-level combat athletes in the world, and that is where he needs to be for his upcoming battle.

Gasanov may be new onto the ONE scene, having only fought once for the promotion in Oct. 2022, but he has never lost a fight and finished all but two of his previous opponents. His ONE debut showcased his crazy ground skills, as he choked out Kim Jae Woong only two minutes into their fight.

“For me, as a fighter, whoever ONE Championship offers, I just sign the contract, and I send it back to them,” Nguyen explained. “In terms of Shamil himself, I believe he’s a great fighter. I believe he’s a good fighter. I mean, he’s 13-0. You can’t fight 13 bums, and what he did to Kim Jae Woong his last fight was pretty impressive. He cracked the top five as soon as that win happened. Then, he instantly became a target. Whoever is in that top five – or in this whole featherweight division – they’ve got a target on their back.”

The 27-year-old Gasanov is by no means a flash in the pan. He clearly has a solid base and a ton of experience, although not at the level of Nguyen’s experience. Be that as it may, Nguyen is by no means looking past his opponent’s skills.

“That was my problem my last fight,” admitted Nguyen. “I just trained just for the sake of training, and, then, going into a fight feeling that I was ready. Obviously, I wasn’t, judging off that result. For this fight itself, I’m specifically training for Shamil. We know he’s a grappler, and, for the majority of his fights, he’s been dominating through wrestling and grappling itself. We know he’s a high-level jiu-jitsu guy. He’s got good chokes. I’ve been working with a lot of pressure-style type of fighters, and jiu-jitsu guys as well. As you know, you can never count out what happens on the feet, so we’ve been working with high-level strikers and just working on fine-tuning my striking and going from there.“

Gasanov wastes no time when he enters the cage. He immediately moves forward, and is relentless in his pace. This is something Nguyen is aware of, and he feels it plays into his strengths.

“I feel that, if you watch his fights, he loves to put the pressure on his opponents – whether it be through wrestling or just him being very aggressive stalking his opponents,” Nguyen said. “That’s the type of guy I love to fight – you know, guys that walk into my shots. Because, once you get hit by one of my shots, lights are going to turn out. So, I feel that that’s his type of style, and it kind of it works in my favor, whether I throw a knee down the center or hit him with my hands.”

Obviously, Nguyen’s big goal is to string together a couple wins, so he can get back in the title hunt. He’s still only 33 years old, and has a lot of runway ahead of him. The next step is beating Gasanov in late Feb. However, his name did pop up recently when Garry Tonon said he would like to fight him at the ONE Fight Night 10 card on MAy, which will be the promotion’s first event on U.S. soil, when it lands in Broomfield, Colo.

He called me out, and that would be the next fight, providing I beat Shamil,” said Nguyen. “He called me out to fight on that card. So I’m assuming that, provided I win against Shamil, that ONE Championship will probably put us on that card.”

In three weeks, Nguyen will be ready to show the world, and especially ONE Championship, that he is going to be better prepared when the opportunity comes his way to fight a top-five opponent. Gasanov will be a tough test, but the same can be said for Nguyen. He is a former champion with a lot to fight for, and he is been putting in a ton of work to get back in the title hunt.

“I’m going step into the ONE Championship Circle, have that platform to expose my brand, and I’ll go from there,” Nguyen said. “I’m very excited personally, but, for the fans, it’s obviously a great fight – mixed martial artist versus a wrestler-grappler.”

ONE Fight Night 7: Lineker vs. Andrade II airs live and free on Friday, Feb. 24. The action begins at 8 p.m. ET on Prime Video, free to all U.S. and Canadian Amazon Prime subscribers.