For newly-crowned ONE Featherweight World Champion Martin Nguyen, family is never too far from his mind.
The Vietnamese-Australian star returns to action at ONE: LEGENDS OF THE WORLD, when he challenges Eduard Folayang for his ONE Lightweight World Title in Manila.
Despite the high stakes and the chance to make ONE Championship history, Nguyen will be thinking of his family first when he steps into the cage.
“My kids are my inspiration to make it somewhere in life, and set them up so they do not have to worry about a thing in their lives,” he explained. “And my wife Brooke is my other inspiration.
“For the amount of support she has shown me throughout my whole career, and how strong she is as an individual, it motivates me to become a better version of myself.”
Nguyen says his wife helped him settle down and become a responsible, well-adjusted adult after years as something of a wild child.
His family instilled strong family values into Nguyen, but he was still a mischievous youngster, who often found himself in trouble. But all that changed when he met his future wife Brooke just before his 17th birthday.
“I went shopping with my mates and we were going around the shopping centre, and there she was on her lunch break,” he recalls. “She was walking around with her friends when she saw me.
“They ended up chasing us down because they knew another one of the guys in our group. But she got my number through my mate because she was too shy to talk to me, and we kicked it off from there.”
Brooke’s influence gradually calmed down Nguyen’s wild ways, as she pushed him to bring the very best out of himself.
Then, the final piece of the jigsaw fell into place in May 2009, when Nguyen became a father for the first time with the birth of his son.
“It made me realise I had to step up as the man of the family,” he explained. “We stopped going out, and everything was about our child.
“At first, I was all about my mates and going out was the thing. We thought we were invincible. “But then she [Brooke] became the sole person I had to look after, and my son did as well. It made me become a man.”
The pair got married in April 2010, then added to their family with the arrival of two baby girls. During that time, Nguyen took up martial arts and started training at KMA Top Team.
Nguyen soon progressed his martial arts from a fitness workout to competitive training, and he embarked on an unplanned and unexpected martial arts journey that took him all the way to a world championship.
Nguyen had to play his cards close to his chest early on, keeping his competitive double-life secret from his disapproving wife.
“I had to trick her,” he smiled. “I told her I was going to a Brazilian jiu-jitsu competition. I said, ‘You can stay home if you want, I will grapple and I will have my coach with me.’”
Nguyen went on to win the cage tournament, leaving him little option but to confess and suffer the wrath of his wife. But she soon got used to her husband’s competitive journey, and even began attending tournaments and watching him succeed.
“We realised the next step was going professional, and she came around to it,” he said. “She came to watch my first bout, and has been supporting me ever since.”
Brooke has since become something of a lucky charm for Nguyen’s career. She’s been present at cageside for all of his bouts in ONE Championship, including his stunning knockout of Marat Gafurov at ONE: QUEST FOR GREATNESS in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, as he captured the ONE Featherweight World Championship in August.
Now, with his family offering both backing and inspiration, and with a world title belt already in his possession, he’s ready to step up and challenge Folayang for the lightweight belt.
If he’s successful, he’ll become the first two-weight world champion in ONE Championship history.
“If I can inspire my little ones in any way through martial arts, and they pick up martial arts, then it is going to make them disciplined and better people,” he said.
With a world champion as their father, that’s surely all the inspiration they need.