Ritu Phogat’s decision to accept two fights in the space of four weeks raised eyebrows. No-one was more surprised than Bi Nguyen who faces the Indian at ONE: ‘Dangal’.

That event is being broadcast this Saturday and Phogat will be back in action at ONE: ‘Empower’ on May 28th. The Indian is booked to compete in the atomweight Grand Prix and Nguyen, who didn’t get a spot in the tournament, has a point to prove,

“I have a chip on my shoulder because of the timing and because of the opponent. I think that having me as a warmup fight for her before the Grand Prix is an insult to me but I have to prove that.”

Under pressure

Nguyen is coming off three straight decision losses which might explain why she wasn’t invited to participate in the tournament. By contrast Phogat has won four ONE Championship fights out of four but the Vietnamese American atomweight says she has made some changes,

“The last couple of fights, I’ve just been going through the motions, camp after camp. It’s one of those lessons that you hate to learn, but I feel like all the greatest lessons are the ones you hate to learn because that last loss really hit me.”

The 31 year old feels that ONE Championship fans have not seen the best of her and is determined to turn her career around at ONE: ‘Dangal’,

“I definitely feel personal pressure (because) I know how good I am, my fans know how good I am. It’s time for me to prove it. It’s time for me to fight smarter and get the win. It’s not enough to just put on a show. It’s time to shut it down.”

Fighting smarter

Being cast in the role of ‘tune up’ opponent is also a source of motivation for Nguyen who certainly isn’t flying to Singapore to make up the numbers,

“I’ve had the best camp, the best conditioning, and I’m going into this fight with a huge chip on my shoulder, which I feel like that’s when I perform and function the best. So, it’s been great for me, honestly. It sucks to take a loss to revamp me, but this is where I am and I’m happy for it.”

Nine of her 11 fights have been the distance and four of them have been split decisions. Nguyen thinks she made some of these contests closer than they needed to be and says she has learned from those mistakes,

“I think I’ve let myself down a bunch of times (by) fighting harder and not smarter. Although that’s what made me popular, it’s what also gave me those close decision losses, that brawling and emotionally fighting. I think, right now, she’s meeting me at a great time for me, so it’s a bad time for her.”

It is fair to say Nguyen is not exactly embracing her status as the other side of a ‘tune up’ bout for Phogat before the Grand Prix. She feels overlooked but knows exactly what she wants to do about it,

“I’m nobody’s warmup fight, I’m nobody’s stepping stone. If you’re going to look for a warmup fight for somebody going into the Grand Prix it shouldn’t have been me and I’m going to prove that.”