Photo Credit: Martin Nguyen's Instagram

“It Was Frustrating Chasing Him Everywhere” – Martin Nguyen Talks About Christian Lee Fight

Martin Nguyen successfully defended his featherweight title at ONE Championship: Unstoppable Dreams as he won a split decision against up and coming prospect Christian Lee. Despite the win, Nguyen is not fully content about how the fight went.

“It was a frustrating fight. I was just chasing him everywhere and he just to the gameplan and there wasn’t much action as I wanted it to be.  We got what we came for so overall I’m happy.”

The fight was a rematch from just under two years ago where Nguyen won via submission in an action-packed fight. Unlike their first meeting, this fight played much more tactically with both men giving each other respect.

We Came, We Saw, We Conquered #ANDSTILL

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Much of the promotion during the build-up to the fight was focused on Christian Lee even though he was the challenger. This didn’t bother Nguyen, in fact, he was glad that the media spotlight was on his opponent instead of him.

“You’ve got to expect that, it’s the marketing, it’s to bring the crowd in. It didn’t really bother me. I was doing my own thing during fight week, it didn’t really affect me at all. It actually gave me more time to actually travel around Singapore and he had to do most of the marketing.”

Lee started the fight aggressively and got an early takedown and threatened with a submission in the resulting scramble. However, Nguyen stayed calm and defended well. In the following exchanges, Nguyen was able to keep the fight standing with his impressive takedown defence thus shutting down a large portion of Lee’s game.

“I was expecting that Christian Lee so after the first exchange I heard from his father in the corner ‘Stick to the gameplan! Stick to the gameplan!’ and I figured out his gameplan within the first minute after he took me down, he wanted to submit me. After that didn’t work, you can say he was double thinking everything.”

Lee’s safety first approach in the majority of the fight is something that bothered Nguyen. Especially after the Singaporean fighter was saying that he was going to go for the knockout before the fight. During the fight, both fighters were shown a yellow card for timidity. A yellow card means a 10% deduction in fight purse as well as potentially affecting the judges’ scorecards.

“It was frustrating chasing him everywhere. The crowd booing as well, it made me even more frustrated and getting yellow carded for being the aggressor that was even more frustrating. Everything about that fight was frustrating and it just didn’t play out the way I like it to play out but it is what is.”

Frustrated by the lack of action, the booing of the crowd and the yellow card the champion felt the need to take the fight to Lee – even if it meant getting reckless.

“End of the third when I initiated the takedown, I started to get very annoyed. Where I was just like ‘Fuck it. If I lose I fucking lose.’ so I didn’t really care. At that point, I just wanted to get it over and done with.”

At the end of the fight, Nguyen was confident that he would get the decision. However, the judges made his sweat as a split decision was announced.

“I thought I won rounds two to five, without a doubt. There was no point in that fight where I felt that I was in danger, I was landing the most significant strikes, I was landing the most damaging strikes.”

Under the current ONE Championship ruleset, fights are scored as a whole unlike in majority of organisations where the scoring is done round by round. The Australian believes that if the round by round scoring was in effect during his fight against Bibiano Fernandes then he would have walked away as a three-division champion.

“If it was round by round, I would’ve been a three-time divisional champion right now but judging it by the whole I guess it gives the chance for the guy that’s losing to actually come back in a matter of punch. (…) When it comes to these rules and the way we fight, it’s up to us as martial artists to adapt.”

‘The Situ-Asian’ is eager to run that fight back and get another chance to become a three-division champion. According to him, the rematch was agreed but had to be put on hold due to Fernandes still recovering from an injury. Unlike many other, Nguyen is not willing to sit out and wait for the title shot. Instead, he wants to solidify his claim as the number one contender in the bantamweight division.

“I’m ready to fight the number one contender for that bantamweight spot to guarantee my fight with Bibiano. I must redeem myself.”

“The bantamweight division, that is the division where I would like to ride out my career. It’s a new challenge for me and it’s like stepping into new waters. Featherweight is where I’m the most happiest and lightweight is just by chance.”

Should the bantamweight run be put on hold, the two-weight world champion has an idea against who he would like to fight next.

“I want to fight Shinya Aoki next, only because he is a legend and I love him watching and I’ve always been following him. Being able to share the martial arts journey in the cage with him is an honour.

He is also eager to complete the trilogy against Marat Gafurov but believes that will happen further down the road.

“The trilogy has to happen but at the moment it’s not going to happen to at least the end of the year. It’s Ramadan season now at the moment so he (Gafurov) is not training.”

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