‘Invincible’ champion Marat Gafurov sees rematch against Martin Nguyen ending just like their first

‘Invincible’ champion Marat Gafurov sees rematch against Martin Nguyen ending just like their first
PHOTO: ‘Invincible’ champion Marat Gafurov sees rematch against Martin Nguyen ending just like their first

There is an aura of invincibility around ONE Featherweight World Champion Marat “Cobra” Gafurov (15-0).

Since his professional debut in 2010, the 32-year-old Dagestani has been unstoppable and relentless inside the cage. His masterful understanding of the martial arts has led him to a perfect unblemished record and the world championship title.

He realises how important that accomplishment truly is. “Being a champion,” he begins, “means you are number one, that you are invincible.”

As they say, with great power comes great responsibility. The biggest of those is proving over and over, against top competition, that the champion is still the best in the division. Gafurov will have his next opportunity to assert his dominance soon.

On Friday, 18 August, “Cobra” steps back into the cage to face a familiar face in Martin “The Situ-Asian” Nguyen, in the headlining bout of ONE: QUEST FOR GREATNESS. The night’s main event takes place at the Stadium Negara in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

This is a rematch that is two years in the making, but with one major difference: the challenger will be coming in with a full training camp. In 2015, Nguyen stepped in on a mere two days’ notice to face Gafurov. The battle was on for the interim ONE Featherweight World Championship.

The risky move proved not to pay off for “The Situ-Asian.” Following a brief feeling out process, he landed a single leg takedown, which led to the Russian reversing position and taking the his back. One signature rear-naked choke later, and Gafurov was exiting the cage with ONE gold. The entire affair lasted just 41 seconds.

“Martin Nguyen was a substitute, but he was ready. I did not make any specific adjustments for that bout. I wanted to strike with him, but he decided to grapple, and you all saw the result,” Gafurov says. “Maybe I was a little disappointed, because it was a very fast contest. I wanted to use more of my striking, but it did not work out that way.”

Since the first bout with Nguyen, Gafurov’s improved striking has not altered the outcome of any of his fights. For the Dagestani, he uses the rear-naked choke the same way a video game character uses a signature move to win a match.

First, there was the business of unifying the titles at ONE: DYNASTY OF CHAMPIONS just two months later. Former ONE Featherweight World Champion NarantungalagJadambaa was the first victim. Then, there was multi-division DEEP Champion Kazunori Yakota last May, followed by a rematch against Jadambaa in November 2016.

The most recent win over Jadambaa was Gafurov’s sixth straight by rear-naked choke, and the ninth of his undefeated career. “I do not try to look for the rear-naked choke in particular,” he says. “It is just the way it happens, and I always take advantage of that opportunity.”

Though “Cobra” has no shortage of ways to win, should the rear-naked choke present itself in this upcoming title bout against Nguyen, the “Cobra” will not hesitate to strike. In fact, if the 32-year-old has his way, the rematch at ONE: QUEST FOR GREATNESS in Kuala Lumpur will be a replay of their first meeting.

“He is a good athlete and has potential, but I do not think he is on my level. This bout is going to be exactly like the first one. It will end the same,” the champion states. “I am confident of my skills. My martial arts, my grappling, my conditioning – all of that makes me confident.”