Among the non-Filipino fighters who were featured on the ONE: Roots of Honor card in Manila last April 12th, it was reigning ONE Featherweight World Champion Martin “The Situ-Asian” Nguyen who got the most love from the Filipino fans.
Even during the pre-fight press conference, Nguyen was already getting the loudest cheers, and when he knocked out Mongolian former champion Narantungalag Jadambaa in the main event of Friday’s card, the largely-Filipino crowd at the Mall of Asia Arena was on their feet, cheering for the defending champion.
“I’m an adopted Filipino, didn’t you know?” Nguyen said jokingly during the post-event press conference.
As it turns out, Nguyen’s connection to the Philippines isn’t just because he's fought here four times already, or because one of his coaches is Filipino.
“The Philippines man, it’s special in the heart. My brother-in-law, shout out to Roger, he’s Filipino, my older sister’s married into a Filipino family, and as most of you all know, family is number one for me, and whenever we gather around at my sister’s house with his family, it’s a Filipino vibe,” he explained. “Every single time I come to the Philippines, I get the same vibe and I feel love, regardless of fighting a Filipino or not fighting a Filipino.
“You are so passionate and you all show love, regardless,” Nguyen continued.
Back in 2017, Nguyen could have easily become one of the biggest villains in Manila after he knocked out Filipino mixed martial arts icon Eduard Folayang to become the new ONE Lightweight World Champion.
Instead of boasting and celebrating his handiwork however, Nguyen rushed to Folayang’s side to make sure that he was alright, and this likely helped get him over with the Pinoy fans.
Now, Nguyen is nothing but appreciative of the love and the respect that he gets everytime he has the chance to compete in the Philippines.
“As I said, the Filipino crowd, regardless of me fighting a Filipino or not fighting a Filipino, they come for the actual show, they come for the actual martial arts, and they’re compassionate, and regardless of being a hometown hero or not a hometown hero, you’re always there to support.”
“I’m sure I can speak on every single Filipino and I can speak for everyone around the world that when it comes to a Philippines event, a Manila event, it’s crazy,” he added.
Nguyen has had some major career moments in Manila, from becoming a two-division champion, to fighting Kevin Belingon for the interim bantamweight title, to successfully defending his featherweight title in spectacular fashion.
With ONE Championship heading back to Manila this August, “The Situ-Asian” is looking to once again add another career career milestone in the Philippines.
“This was Thrilla in Manila Part 4 for me, and I know that ONE Championship is coming out [back here] again in August, and I’ll be looking to get on that card,” he shared.