In the Aussie MMA documentary Caged (streaming now on SBS On Demand), fighter Marty Nguyen got choked out by Marat "Cobra" Gafurov in a match that lasted 42 seconds.
Since then, the Western Sydney-based mechanic has beaten Gafurov, winning a championship belt in the process - and is about to fight for a second one in a heavier division on 11 November in Manilla.
In the midst of this striking career turnaround, we talked to Nguyen about how his life has changed since filming Caged.
[This interview does contain spoilers for the documentary, so be sure to watch that first.]
G’day, Marty, and congrats on the win against Gafurov! You must feel like a totally different guy to the Marty we met in Caged...
I’m still the same guy. I’m still a guy chasing his dreams. Even after winning this world championship title, I’m still a regular guy. I go straight to work like nothing happened.
Were you nervous climbing into the cage with Gafurov after what happened last time?
Look, to be honest, I had eight weeks to prepare for this fight compared to the last time, when I had a day-and-a-half’s notice. I had a lot of mental prep throughout the whole eight weeks. So in terms of [being] mentally prepared, I was more than mentally prepared, I was ready to go. And yes, even physically as well. Eight weeks is a long time, man. You put your body through a whole training camp and do everything properly with no stones unturned. I couldn’t be any happier.
What’s it like being in the cage? Do you have time to think or is it all instinct?
When you are in the cage, everything happens so fast. You don’t have time to reflect on what just happened; everything is in the moment. ‘What’s he going to do next? How am I going to counter this? I know what his game plan is. Is he tired?’ All that goes through your mind and that’s in-the-moment type of stuff. But in terms of what just happened or what is going to happen... you never know. You don’t focus on what just happened. You focus on what’s going to happen next.
Not to dwell on your loss at the end of Caged, especially since you’ve just had this big victory, but what’s been your journey since then?
Aw man, since losing that fight I’ve used it as motivation to get back into the winning column and get back into championship contention again. That loss threw me back down the ladder and it just motivated me to better myself. Also, I learned so much about myself emotionally after that loss as well, so... I won four fights in a row and more recently my last fight before this title fight was the one that secured me the rematch after knocking out a highly touted veteran.
It must have been hard, going through those emotions with cameras on you.
I don’t know, it was... because it was such a big fight, and filming the documentary and everything... I was kind of embarrassed. But I did it as a favour for the promotion. Also, I wanted to test myself to see where my skill level was at and that was perfect timing to test myself. Even though I came out a loser or I lost that battle, I still won. In the lead-up – and in that day-and-a-half after everything – I learned how fast everything can change. I count that learning as a win.
Moving back to the present, what does this recent victory mean for you?
This win has put me at the top of the food chain. Now I’ve got fighters who are like myself previously, who want to fight the champion. I’ve got a title on my back; everyone wants to fight me for the belt now. I’m the go-to guy in terms of where everyone else wants to be. They’re just gonna train twice as hard, and it’s going to motivate me to train twice as hard to maintain this belt and keep it on Australian soil.
Do you think they’ll make a Caged sequel, now you’re a conqueror?
[laughs] I wouldn’t mind, eh! Nah, life has just become much busier with work and everything now, so I don’t think there’ll be enough time to be filming anything else at the moment. Who knows, if time management comes into play, we might film another one.
Watch Caged on SBS On Demand: