Sunday, 19/11/2023 07:34

Motor-taxi driver shows drive as MMA champion

Mixed martial arts

Phạm Văn Nam (right) in action during the LION Championship 8 where he wins by submission against tough rival Đinh Văn Hương to keep the 56kg belt. Photos of VMMAF

Thanh Hà

Phạm Văn Nam is exhausted after each practice session. He suffers pains and bruises every day. He wakes up freshly in the next morning, eager to begin a tough day.

The Vietnamese champion knows he must stay focused to become a better fighter in the large community of mixed martial arts (MMA).

Nam is on an intensive training course in Thailand to prepare for an important event in late November in HCM City, where he will fight for a belt in a new tournament that will help lift his name internationally.

"Many martial artists from different countries choose Bangtao to sharpen their skills. All of them are masters of striking, wrestling and grappling," said Nam at Bangtao Muay Thái & MMA Gym in Phuket.

Phạm Văn Nam (above) beats Đỗ Huy Hoàng to win the LION Championship 2022. — Photo of VMMAF

"There is a big gap between them and Vietnamese fighters. Practising here, I find that I am still a 'baby' compared to them, literally and figuratively. In addition to their technique, I can also learn their professional training attitude."

Motor-taxi driver

Nam began practising traditional martial arts in 2010 when he was 18, and it was just for fun at first. A tournament in 2013 marked Nam's first step into the fighting routine. A year later, he secured his first gold medal at the Quảng Ninh Province's Traditional Martial Arts competition.

Nam then moved to HCM City to work, and he switched to practising boxing and kickboxing and took part in many tournaments.

Back in Hà Nội in 2017, Nam added Brazilian jujitsu into his bag and was introduced to MMA.

During this time, Nam worked as a moto-taxi driver for a living while practising MMA, dreaming of being one of Việt Nam's first pro-MMA fighters.

His first medal came in 2018 when he finished third in an open tournament held by Saigon Sports Club (SSC), then Asia’s largest mixed martial arts and cross-training centre. 

Phạm Văn Nam (right) defends his belt at the LION Championship 8. He now looks to conquer new tournaments for more achievements.  Photo of VMMAF

He said that the medal was a strong push for him to practise hard. But the lure of the cage, where he could show off his ability, and huge bonuses for the winners were a huge motivation to practise harder.

MMA winner

Over five years, he has won titles in many prestigious competitions, such as a gold in the national championship in 2020, the national club championship from 2021 to 2023, and the National Sports Games in 2022.  

His latest and biggest achievement was the 56kg-category belt of the LION Championship, the national largest MMA series, in 2022 which he successfully defended in August.

“After the LION Championship win, my life has remarkably changed. Previously, I struggled to feed my family, now, I can totally focus on training and competing," Nam said.

"Many people recognise me in either social networks or real life. I receive strong support from them. This is also a huge encouragement, pushing me up in training and fighting."

Phạm Văn Nam poses with his belt of the LION Championship 8. — Photo of VMMAF

Nam is currently a member of the SSC where he can spar with the best national athletes such as WBC Muay Thai world champion Nguyễn Kế Nhơn and WBC Muay Thai international champion Trương Cao Minh Phát.

He is also under the well-known Filipino boxing coach Do Dong and Russian wrestling champion Georgi Stoianov.

Nam's one-month training in Phuket is expected to help him improve his ability, as his rival Roman Kokurkin of Russia at the upcoming Master of Fight Championship's (MFC) main card is exceptionally tough.

"Vietnamese athletes are hard-working, but I think that our MMA technique is not good enough. We need to perfect our skills as fast as possible so that we can fight fairly with international rivals," Nam said.

"I hope that the Thai training course will (partly) help me overcome challenges, including the MFC 60kg bout against Kokurkin, before I can reach further targets."

Phạm Văn Nam (left) and Roman Kokurkin face off during the press conference of the Master of Fight Championship which will be held on November 25 in HCM City.  Photo of MCV

Kokurkin has earned a number of impressive achievements in his career, and taken medals in several different martial art styles.

"He is an experienced athlete with sambo, wrestling, boxing and jujitsu techniques. I have been really confident with my wrestling and locking skills, but it seems that my rival is a strong master of these skills," Nam said.

"The match promises to bring new emotions to me as Kokurkin has been training hard for months in preparation for our meet."

The MFC's main card will be held on November 25 at the MCV Complex, District 7 in HCM City. VNS

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