Looking back on his win this past April over Brandon Bailey at EFC 11, featherweight up and comer Steven Nguyen acknowledges that it was his most difficult bout to date.
Having previously gone three rounds in just one of his five previous fights, Nguyen was forced into the fourth round against Bailey, but was ultimately able to prevail and pick up a TKO victory.
“That fight was definitely one of my toughest fights,” Nguyen told MMAWeekly.com. “(Bailey) was a jiu-jitsu black belt. He tested me on the ground. He tested me on my feet. He was tough as hell. It took four rounds, but I got the finish.
“That fight taught me a lot about myself. I dug deep in that fight and I was still able to come out with the finish. It’s definitely one of my favorite fights to this day.”
Though he’s had nothing but success since turning pro in early 2016, Nguyen nonetheless made a change of camps, and feels that the move has already paid dividends.
“I’m already so much better than I was in my last fight, even though it was just a few months,” said Nguyen. “I’m never satisfied with where I’m at and I think that’s why I keep improving. I’m never complacent. There’s always things to work on.
“Of course you have to go out there, learn skills, and train with different people and things like that, but coaching is the main thing that’s different. Within a week of being at Fortis MMA, it changed my mentality. It always starts with the head. It’s not always physical. I’ve evolved a lot mentally and physically.”
On Tuesday in Las Vegas, Nguyen (6-0) will look to remain undefeated when he competes for a potential UFC contract at Dana White’s Contender Series 2019, Week 7 versus Aalon Cruz (7-2) in a main card featherweight bout.
“He’s a tough opponent,” Nguyen said of Cruz. “He’s tall, a southpaw, lanky guy, a jiu-jitsu black belt, so I’m thinking he’s most likely going to try to take me to the ground, but I’m going to be ready there. I know I have better stand-up. I’m going to go in there, put pressure on him and try to take him out.”
While he could punch his ticket to the UFC with an impressive win on July 30, Nguyen is approaching this opportunity like he would any other bout, and if anything, he feels the bigger stakes will bring out the best in him.
“I try to treat this fight like every other single fight,” said Nguyen. “I think it’s been working well for me. At the end of the day this is the biggest promotion in the world, but once it’s all said and done, I’m in there with one other guy.
“There’s pressure, but I’m used to it, I love it, and I’m always going to make the best of it. I’m going to do what I always do. I’m never going to let the pressure get to me. If anything the pressure makes me fight better.”