Martin Nguyen caused an upset winning the One Championship World Featherweight title. Fari Salievski shares behind the scenes insights training the world champion.
- The difference between martial arts training and becoming a professional fighter
- What it takes to become the One Championship World Featherweight Champion
- The martial arts success values that left clues for Martin Nguyen’s One FC World Featherweight Championship
- How did Martin Nguyen’s national and international exposure benefited KMA Champion Martial Arts
- Martin Nguyen’s sole inspiration for working hard in order to take home the belt
- And more
*Need help growing your martial arts school? Learn More Here.
GEORGE: Hey this is George Fourie and welcome to another Martial Arts Media Business podcast we’re on episode number 46. I have a repeat guest again for something a little different, Master Fari Salievski. How are you doing there Fari?
FARI: Always well, thank you.
GEORGE: Awesome. So today we’re going to talk about a bit of a different topic. One of Master Fari’s top students Martin Nguyen, he recently won the World Featherweight Championship in Asia and we’re going to talk about training a champion and how the whole journey evolved and what the next steps are. So let’s get started. So welcome Fari. I guess take us back to the beginning of all this, where Martin started training, etc.
FARI: Ok, first and foremost, I just like the fact that we’re a martial arts school, not a fight gym. So yes, we have fighter, we have a cage out the back. But at the front, we have little preschoolers and moms and dads and within all of that, we still manage to do a little bit of fighting. I look at that as fun, as a chance to test out our training. So it’s a martial arts school that has a martial arts culture. People bow on and off the mats and have the discipline of the martial arts. That's what Martin knew and joined for and he joined in doing our Brazilian jiu jitsu program and obviously, when he started, he did not plan to fight, but then we had some opportunities. To this day, I still run the ISKA, back then we used to have combat grappling, which is basically modified MMA. He got into that, liked it, and then some fight opportunities came up.
GEORGE: Ok, so how long has Martin then been training with you?
FARI: Look, that fight in the ISKA was in 2010. He was competing in some grappling tournaments back then, so it’s been at least 8 years. it’s been a long journey. 8 years flies, but here he is, The World Champion.
GEORGE: All right, cool. When did you actually or Martin realize that potential that there was a potential to reach this level?
FARI: Look, we went from the combat grappling in a tournament style to obviously going into the cage. His debuts were good, he had an undefeated record, but there was a one fight in Canberra that I put him up against an ace grappler from Melbourne that was just choking everyone out. And that fight really showed whether Martin was going to step up or not. In fact, even the promoter said, I remember his exact words, why would you want to put your boy to fight an ace Brazilian jiu jitsu guy, he's just going to get choked? And my answer to that was it’s not a Brazilian jiu jitsu fight; it’s MMA. And that was probably, I've got to say, one of the bloodiest fights you've ever seen.
You can go to a YouTube channel and check it out. I think his name was Ruderman. Anyway, check it out. He's beat, I still remember to this time. His feet were drenched in blood. It’s probably the worst kind of an MMA fight you want to see; you know? You know the fight that gives MMA a bad image? That was it. Because there was a lot of blood, but it showed that Martin Nguyen could step up. He's a natural competitor and he stepped up and that earned him basically another serious fight and he was only a fight away from the Australian title, which he ended up winning against the gym across the road, which is always satisfying let’s say. And he did in a very convincing fashion, it was probably one of his edgiest fights, just saying it like it is, no disrespect. But he won that and he also won as a result of winning the Australian title on brace, he got the opportunity to fight in Asia, he won a contract.
GEORGE: Ok, so with ONE championship, now, everybody knows UFC, Bellator, these are the more common names.
FARI: Yeah, absolutely!
GEORGE: So just to give people context, where does the ONE championship fit into the equation?
FARI: Well, they have a bit of laugh in Asia, they say, you know what: UFC has won the west, ONE FC won the east, right? Think about it: China alone has four billion people, a quarter of the world's’ population. If you take a quarter of that, it’s a billion people market. Just in China. In Vietnam, Martin Nguyen obviously has a Vietnamese heritage. You’ve got a market that's 95 million. The numbers are phenomenal!
Within the first three days of him winning the title and if you look at some of the previews of his last couple of fights, within a few days, it’s like 1.2, 1.3, 1.5 million previews of his fight highlights on the ONE FC Facebook page. I mean, the numbers are just phenomenal, that's the Asian market. it’s huge, it’s massive. And we obviously can't relate to that sort of population in Australia, bit if you ever try to catch a train in Tokyo, it’s a busy place. So the numbers are huge, the market is huge and you know what? Martial arts and fighting is in their heritage and they love to see a good fight. And ONE FC really rules that part of the world.
GEORGE: All right, so definitely a big deal for him.
GEORGE: Now, you being a martial arts school and you talked about this, the discipline and everything, how do you then make the adjustments? You've got this guy Martin Nguyen with all his potential and you know you want to take him to the top, but you don't really specialize in fighting, in training fighters to that level. So how do you then go and make the adjustments with the training?
FARI: First and foremost, we've always been a combative school. So our target is self-defense, not competition. So we always try to keep it real. So the aikido and even the Jiu Jitsu, our philosophy is, if I take my fighting habits to a tournament, I'm not going to be disadvantaged. But if I only train in tournament, and I take that philosophy to a fight, someone's going to get hurt. So we've always had one mentality. And there's no ego, if we need, for example, we've got some good striking coaches here and if we need for a particular fight, like in this particular case, we had a really good grappling partner that helped us prepare against the rear naked choke.
Why the rear naked choke? We’re fighting a guy that's got the world record in submitting his opponent's six in a row rear and choke, including one over us, when we had a title shot and that wasn't planned, it popped out of the blue, 24-hour notice. But I wasn't there, Martin took the fight. We didn't get the result, but we prepared. And you need not to have the ego to say, OK, I need this and you get your partners for a particular fight and you've got to do what you've got to do.
GEORGE: So the prep work is pretty much everything then, right? Because it’s pretty much understanding your opponent, what their strengths are and planning accordingly.
FARI: Absolutely. Look, in this case, I believed that he was very in, as in Martin. We spoke about it, he really only had one dimension to his fighting. His go-to was always, go to the back. So we knew if we take that weapon away, we knew that Martin is in much better condition and we knew that we can outstrike him. And to prove that, we even went up to the commentators and even all the ONE FC people before the fight to say he's going to get knocked out, just so no one thinks it was luck.
We knew what was going to happen and not to be cocky, but we couldn't see anything else. Anything can happen in a fight, but we really, really prepared and we boasted about it and we boasted about the result because no one believed it. In Singapore, we were given odds of 10 to 1, which I wish someone told me because I would've put some money on it. And the fact is, even the promoters that said to us after, that nobody wanted to fight this man, but we wanted to fight that man! And in fact, I've put up a video today, when you look at my KMA Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Top Team page, I put up a little video that's a little segment from the documentary cage to get a chance. Currently, it’s on SPS on demand. Watch it, and in that, the first fight after his loss. We’re there, and Martin has got his hand up and he's there saying, I'm coming. That was two years ago!
So this had been a two-year goal, it’s not something that was just an afterthought. We wanted not only to avenge that one loss. He gave us one loss in our career; we wanted to give him his first loss in his career. And here we are, we did that. A lot of preparation, a lot of work. But again, it comes back to the discipline of the martial arts. You can talk about it, but you need to back it up and you can only back it up with discipline and commitment and for me, you need to be a true martial artist to do that.
GEORGE: So in that process then – and this is a typical Conor McGregor thing. You'll always hear him do that, he’ll have this vision, that’s the goal he focuses on and he believes it to that extent that that's the way it plays out. Now, it sounds like you really took that same approach – that's the way it is going to play out. But do you have a backup plan? If plan A fails, is there plan B or C, and how would you balance actually, if there are different plans? And how would you balance the training?
FARI: Yeah, look, plan B is simple, really. You need to have your conditioning and that's always your plan B. You want to make sure you don't gas and you've seen it, you've went to some fights and you go, you know, he was a better fighter in the first round and then in the second round, he starts to fade and all of a sudden -! You can have plan C, D, all the way to Z, but if you gas, it isn’t going to work. So you need to be able to last, number one. Number two is, Martin can take a hit, and even in this fight, he took a hit! He actually got knocked down. He didn't get knocked out, but he got knocked down early in the fight.
So then with the commentators, “This is the beginning of the end!” Which makes for great viewing and the guy is taking his back, and then the guy is taking his back and Martin gets up – not from the punch, but he gets the guy off his back, once, twice, three times – again, great viewing, but what does that do to the mind games of our opponent? That's his trump card. He did it once, twice, three times, desperately tries the fourth time and just simply gets to the point where he puts his hand around his neck and pulls of. He’s starting to get tired. Watch the fight if you can, it’s a beauty. And some people call it an overhand right, but really, we caught the money maker and it was! Pretty cool.
GEORGE: That's awesome. Now, you guys get back home, how does that affect the moral of everything from all the other students at school?
FARI: Look, you know what, if they're not inspired now, they never will be. Believe it or not, it’s harder to come back from something like that than it is from a loss because there's a lot of hype. We had a group of 18 people, if you look at some of the highlights, we’re in the cage, and we had a huge entourage, absolutely fantastic. We prepared together, we toured together, we ate together and straight after the fight, I'm telling you, we celebrated together. Great atmosphere, everyone came into the cage, we just security didn’t want to let us in, but how can you lock out that many Aussies? I think the security just gave up, then everyone just stampeded the cage. But the reality is that our goal wasn't just to get there and win; the goal was to get there, win and build already for the next fight.
Immediately after the fight, we announced that we’re more than happy to fight for the title in the next division down, so whether that happens sooner or later, it’s going to happen, you know? Martin will make his mark in this division and he's always up for a challenge. Every fight that Martin’s ever had, the person’s had an undefeated record, people had a big run of wins, but Martin just stepped up each time and every time and he fought the best at their best and beat them all. Either in the first round or early in the second. The majority win the first round, so he's a finisher!
That's making a huge statement. You didn't get the judge’s decision, you didn't get lucky, they didn't toss a coin. it’s pretty hard to argue when you choke someone out and knock them out, or you split their head open and they can't fight anymore. I mean, argument over – the best man won.
GEORGE: Awesome. Now, what about venturing under the UFC, or anything like that? Is the ONE championship where Martin’s going to say?
FARI: Absolutely! Look, the ONE FC people it’s an amazing organization and people that know it and know the Asian market is really, you do well, that's the market we want to be. And saying that, I think the UFC is fantastic. We've got one of our other fighters, he's got a title shot at the end of the year, Theo Christakos. He wins that, don't be surprised if you see him in the UFC. So look, different fighters go different paths, but each to their strengths and every organization has I think pros and cons, but I think ONE FC is fantastic for Martin, it’s been fantastic for KMA and they've been great and we’re here to repay their gamble on us, if you wish, because we’re a gamble. We were the underdog on every single fight and here we are now, Martin’s the champ.
So people are going to talk to you differently when you're a champ and opportunities are going to come in and let’s face it: he has a Vietnamese background, look, he's a good looking kid, you know, he's got, I'm surprised Colgate hasn't signed him up already. He's got a million-dollar smile, but you know, he's likeable. Anyone that sees him, you want to cheer with him. And I'm not putting our opponent down, but I had no doubt in the world that the majority of people were cheering for Marty, even if they thought he couldn't win. They would've wanted him to win.
He's a marketing person's dream; you know? He's got a beautiful wife, a nice Aussie girl, he's got a couple of kids, he's got the mortgage, he works by day – he's just a hard working humble guy and from parents who came as refugees to Australia, that classic when you got to Australia to make a better life, Martin has repaid that risk that the family took for him, for his future and the rest of the kids in his family. They risked it all, they left – just to understand, back in the day, they came by, they were refugees. So they didn't come in with the silver spoon in their mouth. So it’s a pretty tough way to begin things and a tough background has made him obviously a competitor. But he's representing Australia and I have no doubt that the people of Vietnam would love someone to say, hey, he's our hero too!
And there's nothing wrong with that too. He's very proud of his Vietnamese history and he's obviously, his dad, unfortunately, is not with us anymore, but that's a way of saying, you know what? I want to repay my dad’s history and he's obviously got some relatives over there, how good is that? You've got two countries backing you and to be known and what a success story it is. And the success story is still ongoing, hasn’t finished yet, but I think now our goal is obviously to continue to win, but my wish for him is to really build a legacy and set some big word for us.
GEORGE: Yeah, for sure. So, young working guy like Martin, is there good financial payoff for fighting at this level for him?
FARI: Well, hopefully, there will be. Now he's a champ, look, things obviously will change. As more people see him, hopefully, more people will come to the forefront as sponsors, we’d love to be talking to look, he loves the Mercedes, so Mercedes dealers out there – you want an absolutely fantastic role model and an athlete? He'd love to drive your car! Let’s have a chat!
GEORGE: Is that for one Mercedes, or two? Because it sounds like there's double interest here!
FARI: No, you know what, I'm all about helping out fighters and helping out team. Look, I've been blessed in life and for me, it’s all about achieving something for the guys and I'm telling you, it’s very well deserved so I hope the word will get out more and more and even with this podcast you know. The brand of KMA, the brand of Martin, the situation, anyone that sees him loves to watch him fight. it’s not a five round boring fight, it’s going to finish. And the stats are there. So if you haven't seen his fight yet, I would watch a couple of his fights, and I'm telling you, I get the best seat in the house and I enjoy watching his fights.
GEORGE: That's awesome, yes, I will make sure that the fights are all posted within this episode, martialartsmedia.com/46.
FARI: I do have a link on all of the little highlights on my YouTube channel, you can click and it will do the series of videos.
GEORGE: A playlist, yep.
FARI: The playlist, so check it out. And with that too, I'll put out some of the pre fight little promos that we've had in Asia, saying how he likes team 47 seconds and you know, they really pump that up. This man's undefeated and which is good, because it makes the win all the more remarkable and all the more exciting, so it really was a Rocky story from the worst point of view, but from our end, it was a fight that we really prepared for.
GEORGE: Fantastic. So let’s talk about before we finish things up, let's talk about the marketing side of this quickly. Something that Hakan Manav also mentioned to me when they went through Australia's Got Talent and they got all that press, they really rode it as far as they could, because of this national exposure.
FARI: Absolutely! Look, look at that pace! That's the winner, that's the guy that we beat, I mean it’s everywhere! Have a look on my Facebook, have a look on the KMA Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Top Team. Look, I am not going to lie, absolutely. But it’s also a bit of pride and I want people to be inspired. And it is inspirational. Look: success leaves tracks, whether in business or in training. If you want to follow in that path, obviously, we didn't get lucky, we had to be doing something right. And there's a great team here, there's a great culture here. So if people want to get looked after, if people want to train, we're on Facebook. We own the building, for starters, we are not going to go nowhere!
So we're here to stay, I've been teaching for 35 years and I honestly believe within distance, obviously, I'm going to recommend coming here. And hopefully they will, and yes, we're going to pump it. But also I want to pump it because I want people to know Martin. And he is a great kid and he is a role model and sometimes the image of MMA is not always the best one. But look, he's got no criminal record, he's got kids, has a mortgage, works hard and anyone that's ever met him, they all say, what a wonderful human being. And he is, he is just your regular Aussie bloke, with a Vietnamese heritage, which is pretty cool.
GEORGE: Fantastic. Awesome, well Fari, thanks for meeting with me again and sharing the story. Really inspiring and for anyone listening, martialartsmedia.com/46. You'll get all the show notes and all the links to find out more about Master Fari and Martin and the KMA Martial Arts School. You can check out martialartsforlife.com.au. Cool.
FARI: Pleasure was all mine.
GEORGE: Awesome, thanks, Fari, I look forward to speaking to you again.
FARI: Have a great day.
GEORGE: All right cheers!
*Need help growing your martial arts school? Learn More Here.
Enjoyed the show? Get more martial arts business tips when you subscribe on iTunes for iPhone or Stitcher Radio for Android devices.