Bi Nguyen undeterred by Jenelyn Olsim loss: “The confidence hasn’t changed”

By Tom Taylor - September 15, 2021

At ONE: Battleground 3 in August, Bi Nguyen lost a competitive decision to rising Filipina talent Jenelyn Olsim. It was Nguyen’s fourth decision loss since joining the ONE Championship roster in early 2019, and like the three that preceded it, it wasn’t exactly cut-and-dry.

Bi Nguyen

“Story of my life,” Nguyen told looking back on her loss to Olsim. “I’m always going to be honest with you, and there’s a lot of factors that go into this fight. If this fight was graded round-by-round, I would win, no doubt. If it was judged in America, I would win, no doubt. But it’s not, and that’s the reality of it—and that’s part of the reason I won the Ritu [Phogat] fight, because it was graded overall.

“It is what it is. I’m trying to take it with a lot of grace,” she added. “It’s really frustrating. If you look at my career, I am progressing, but that makes it even more frustrating, because of how well I’ve been progressing, and it’s not showing up.”

Nguyen attributes several of her decision losses under the ONE banner to the promotion’s unique scoring system, which judges fights in their entirety rather than round-by-round. Yet in her fight with Olsim, who was dropping from ONE’s 125-pound strawweight division to its 115-pound atomweight division, Nguyen also feels that she was at a notable physical disadvantage.

“There’s one factor that I’ve always avoided talking about because I don’t like excuses, but it seemed significant in this fight,” she said. “She was coming down from strawweight, which is 125, for those that don’t know. I felt the size difference, for sure, in this fight. I think that, skill-wise, I’m better than her in a lot of aspects, but a couple of the reversals she had on me, it was a strange move and it was just straight power. It’s a little bit frustrating. I definitely felt smaller in this fight than I have before.”

Despite being slightly undersized for ONE’s 115-pound division, you won’t hear Nguyen campaigning for the introduction of a 105-pound flyweight division.

“I didn’t enjoy going to 105 [in the past] at all, and going to 105 hydrated would be almost impossible for me,” she said. “In life, not everything’s fair. My weight is where it needs to be for 115, it just so happens that taller, bigger girls are making the weight also.”

Nguyen’s recent decision losses are understandably a source of great personal frustration, but she concedes that there’s a silver lining: all of her decision setbacks have been immensely entertaining and competitive affairs, which has helped her develop a reputation as one of the most consistently exciting fighters on the ONE roster.

“It stings all the time to lose. Nobody likes to lose. I want to win, especially knowing how good I am,” she said. “But it softens the blow [to have exciting fights] because there’s nothing worse than losing a fight where you thought you could do more. That’s never going to happen to me. There’s never going to be regrets for me. I’m proud of that. The only thing that stings is my record, but I still keep fans, I still gain new fans, because when you watch my fights you know it’s going to be nothing but action.

“Losses suck. This one really sucked, but it’s not as bad as if I wasn’t giving it my all. I never have any regrets.”

Nguyen’s fight with Olsim would have been significant under any circumstances, but it had extra weight because the winner would be named an alternate for ONE’s ongoing Atomweight World Grand Prix.

Having come up short against Olsim, Nguyen isn’t officially a tournament understudy. However, she could still get a call to step in, depending how things unfurl. She will always hear the ONE matchmakers out when they call, but feels some time off is in order, particularly after some recent personal losses, including the passing of her close friend and training partner, Kyle Reyes. She also has a film project on the horizon, which will keep her busy while the ONE Atomweight World Grand Prix shakes out.

“I lost three friends in the last two weeks,” she said. “I have an issue with ego as a fighter. I’ll fight anybody, any time, anywhere. That hasn’t always been a good thing in my career. This is going to make me take some time off and get myself together.

“I’m doing a film project in November too, so I’m not sure how ready I’ll be for the Grand Prix,” she added. “But the Grand Prix is amazing, and I’m really excited how the girls performed [so far] and how they will perform.”

When Nguyen is ready to fight again—whether it’s a short-notice Grand Prix spot or an opportunity a little further down the road—she’ll have plenty of options in terms of opponents. In fact, she views several current Grand Prix competitors as possible dance partners for her next foray into the ONE Circle.

In particular, she’s interested in rematches with Stamp Fairtex, whom she lost a close decision to in 2019, and Ritu Phogat, whom she defeated by decision earlier this year. She’s also interested in a fight with unbeaten Japanese prospect Itsuki Hirata, who she’s been scheduled to fight three times previously to no avail.

The fan favorite atomweight is open to opportunities—particularly as her current contract with ONE nears its conclusion and the time for negotiation approaches.

“A lot depends on how this contract negotiation goes, because my contract’s almost up,” she said. “I’m trying to take everything one step at a time. I’ve been doing this so long and I’d like to be valued for the action that I bring and the entertainment and the star power that I bring. We’ll see where the negotiations go.”

One way or the other, Nguyen envisions some big wins in her future–including a long-awaited championship.

“I’ve always just been in love with the game,” she said. “The confidence hasn’t changed.”