The fresh faces stared back at him. It was a good mixture of all belt levels, but nothing like he had experienced before.

Rolling with contracted UFC fighters, some of the best training partners and fighters in the world—that’s what a session is supposed to feel like. This. This is something else. As he paced back and forth along the mats, something dawned on him.

It could be said that a test in one’s ability to adapt or a complete change in a strict routine is what can really separate those who are serious about their passion and those who are just hanging around to enjoy the ride. Nitro bantamweight title contender Ben Nguyen has taken his passion and his life as a mixed martial artist to a whole new level, with his transition from fighter to coach now being in full swing.

Nguyen signed on as the head MMA coach at Fightcross MMA Cleveland right before a fight that could see his career take the turn that he has been waiting for. But, in his eyes, leading by example is one of the best ways to teach a new team.

“[Becoming a coach] was a bit scary at first,” Nguyen revealed in an exclusive interview with The MMA Corner. “The thing was trying to find time for myself and to get my own training in. It’s very hard to develop your own skills when you are training with people who are a lesser skill level than what you are used to. You have to make it work, and it’s beginning to get easier. I love being able to coach and help people become better at all aspects of martial arts. That’s the most exciting part of what I am doing now.”

Nguyen (Jeff Sherwood/Sherdog)

Nguyen (Jeff Sherwood/Sherdog)

In the lead-up to defending his Nitro bantamweight title for the first time on March 8, Julian “Julz the Jackal” Rabaud has been vocal about his plans on how his bout with Nguyen is going to unfold. It’s not something that Nguyen has taken to heart, though, and whilst it’s been heavily insinuated that Rabaud will be too strong, Nguyen has his own ideas on how the fight will play out.

“He may have power,” Nguyen admitted. “But if there’s no accuracy or if the target is too fast, it doesn’t matter. There’s no point if he can’t hit me. I’m gonna be going in there at 100 miles an hour. He’s not going to be able to catch me. The more he talks, the better for me when I am the one that defeats him.”

It has become a familiar tale in the career of Nguyen for him to make the move up from his natural weight class of flyweight. He’ll do so again to take on Rabaud. Rabaud, on the other hand, makes a large cut to meet the bantamweight limit.

“It’s a bit hard to find matches at my weight,” Nguyen explained. “I’m not too worried, though. I am still pretty strong at bantamweight. When I am sparring with people who are training with me for the first time, they are always asking me how much I weigh, and when I tell them that I walk around at 63 to 64 kilos, they are always like, ‘Holy crap,’ and are surprised at my strength. I’m not gonna be giving up too much at the weight, and I think it’s going to go fine for me.”

Now that the South Dakota native calls Brisbane home, he gets his chance to have a hometown fight for the first time in what would naturally feel like years. Although he spent his camp in the familiar territory of Tiger Muay Thai, Nguyen is beginning to settle into life in Brisbane and is quickly building up a network of support in the process.

“There’s so many people that are wanting to see me fight,” Nguyen said. “I am happy to have that support over here. It makes me feel welcome, and I am excited to be able to showcase my skills in front of everyone.

“Just to be able to show I am the best in Australia means a lot to me. With Nitro being one of the main stages in the country, it would definitely make some noise if I became a title holder. Being able to train and fight full-time, that’s my goal. And winning this fight, I think puts me a step closer to getting there. I have put all of my mental strength into this fight, and there is no way that I am not walking out the winner.”

With a four-fight winning-streak intact and a slew of new supporters to go along with it, Nguyen has everything that he needs going into his March 8 bout. His new team at Fightcross MMA Cleveland, along with his training partners from Thailand, will all be out to support him and see him win what could turn out to be the biggest fight he has competed in over the past 12 months. His first foray into coaching may have seemed overwhelming, but that feeling will dissolve with time. There would be no better way of showing his new team the path to success than by walking it himself. That’s exactly what Nguyen has in mind when the opening bell rings against Rabaud.

He may have a team of fresh faces to mold outside of the cage. Inside of the cage, however, it’s a different story. In that cage, Nguyen knows exactly how to teach a lesson, and he plans to make it one that Rabaud will never forget.

Ben would like to thank his sponsors, Advanced Fight Gear and Australian Sports Nutrition Chermside. He would also like to thank Tiger Muay Thai and Fightcross MMA. Follow Nguyen on Twitter: @Ben10Nguyen

About The Author

Staff Writer, Australia

Located in Queanbeyan, New South Wales, Neil Rooke has been writing about the sport of MMA since 2011. In the past, Neil has written for Cage Junkies and has written for Fight! Magazine as well as Fist! Fight Magazine. Neil is also a regular contributor to Fight! Magazine Australia and Yahoo! Sports Singapore.

  • Neville

    Everyone sees the Jackal as the “local” but they forget Ben lives here too. Everyone thinks the Jackal will walk through him but when you weigh it up yes Rabaud is bigger and more powerful but Ben is faster, has better striking, better wrestling and better ground game. It maybe the Jackal’s toughest fight but Ben has trained with far better guys for years. Going to be a cracker of a fight.