After being away from the ONE Championship stage for four years, Vietnamese star Nguyen Tran Duy Nhat will finally return on Friday, Dec. 8, at ONE Fight Night 17 on Prime Video against Denis Puric.
The global pandemic brought a brief halt to his career, and Duy Nhat found other avenues to occupy his time and competitive spirit during that period.
“COVID-19 suddenly shut the whole world down. I was supposed to fight, but it was canceled. The Vietnamese government had very strict policies when it came to healthcare, so [there were] no more fighting events,” Duy Nhat told ONE.
“Since I couldn’t really fight, I focused on coaching. I worked as a coach for the Vietnamese National Kun Khmer Team, which competed at SEA Games 2023. Caring for the athletes, setting up plans, being with them in the corners, sharing my experiences with them – all those memories will stay with me forever.”
Although he’ll return to his Muay Thai roots in Bangkok, Thailand, in just under a week, “No.1” has also expanded his horizons into mixed martial arts.
While away from ONE action, he found amateur and professional success in the all-encompassing sport. With that in his back pocket, Duy Nhat is keeping his options open now that he is back in the world’s largest martial arts organization.
“There were two reasons [why I took up MMA]. Firstly, martial arts – especially MMA – are on their way up in Vietnam. But everything related to MMA is still new. I believed if I could show up and let people see how exciting and incredible MMA is, then the sport would grow faster in my country,” he stated.
“Secondly, there are many great MMA and Muay Thai fighters in ONE Championship. Seeing them break out of their comfort zones and try a new sport gave me great inspiration. I thought, ‘What if I could do the same thing?’ And here we go.”
The Vietnamese superstar’s return won’t be an easy re-entry into the promotion. Puric has shown his skill and toughness in three competitive outings so far.
The Bosnian brawler’s technical skills have captured Duy Nhat’s attention ahead of their flyweight encounter, but he’ll try and take advantage of every gap he can find.
“Denis Puric is a good fighter with heavy punches, so I won’t take him lightly. All aspects of the game need to be calculated, especially how I would use my kicks and my movements,” he explained.
“I watched some of his fights. I noticed his hands, his strength, his guts, and how explosive he could be. I’m more about the technical side, so controlling the fight, keeping him at bay with kicks and movements, and wearing him down will be my top priorities. But of course, I don’t mind having a KO win, if there is a chance to do so.”
The 34-year-old striker is confident he’ll pick up the victory in his return to ONE. However, he knows it will take some time to reacclimate to competing on such a large stage.
Duy Nhat expects to have to use his veteran savvy before getting his arm raised inside Lumpinee Boxing Stadium.
“Anything is possible. I think we will probably spend the first round testing each other, then things will heat up in the later rounds of the match,” Duy Nhat said.
“I believe in my experience, my skills, and my soul as a Muay Thai fighter. I will try my best to achieve the win.”
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