Updated: Mar 15, 2019
Check out our girl, Bi, featured in the most recent article in the Chron.
Houston MMA fighter Bi Nguyen overcomes adversity, teaches women how to challenge themselves
Bi Nguyen is small, but she packs a punch, both literally and figuratively in her life. In-between her own professional fights, the 29-year-old Vietnamese-born mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter is also a trainer at Savarese Fight Fit in West University Place.
Nguyen’s personal story is one of adversity, and overcoming challenges. Her family immigrated from Vietnam to the California Bay Area in 1995 when she was a young child. She learned English by listening to music and watching movies such as Curly Sue.
Nguyen believes that everything in her life prepared her for her career. She notes that she was “a young runaway, a troubled teen.” She ended up in Houston when she was just 15 years old.
“I ran through a lot of life lessons early on,” Nguyen said.
Nguyen noted that she used to ask herself, “why me” but then she got older and realized it made her stronger.
“In finding MMA and now teaching, and all of the public speaking I do, and advocating for women, everything I went though, was for this,” Nguyen.
Nguyen was in an abusive relationship for four years, and after he went to jail, Nguyen decided to take a self defense Muay Thai (Tai boxing) class.
“It was more so to gain more control in my life again,” Nguyen said. “It’s not about the physical aspect of it, but I felt like I was a disappearing hologram.”
The more she took the classes, she said she felt like a real person again.
Nguyen’s coach asked her if she had thought about fighting. At first her answer was no, but then she started training, and had her first fight shortly after.
She first started out with Muay Thai, but Nguyen noted that, while popular in Thailand, it was not yet big in the United States. She was spending all of her time training, with little to show for it.
“It wasn’t lucrative,” Nguyen said.
She heard about MMA, so she decided to make the transition.
Her first fight was at the Houston Arena. During the fight, the crowd was chanting, “Kill her Bi,” which evolved into her nickname “Killer Bee.”
“I didn’t even know people knew about me, but they were chanting. It stuck and then it transformed. ‘Kill Her’ is kind of violent,” Nguyen said with a laugh.
Nguyen started out as a true underdog, with no fights under her belt, and her opponent was a veteran.
“She was technical. I was throwing questionable punches and kicks, but they got the job done because I did it with heart,” Nguyen said.
'At the time, the coach told her that she had headlined the fight because she was pretty. She ignored it at first, but she noted that as she got older, she realized the weight of the statement.
“I was an underdog in general because they just saw a pretty face. That has always been my battle,” Nguyen said.
Her current record is 5-3. She recently lost the world title, because she realized had not been taking breaks.
She took a long break, and in the meantime, she appeared on the reality television show Survivor, season 37 David vs. Goliath, but opted to leave the game on day 10 due to a knee injury.
Nguyen has since then signed a deal with One Championship, based in Asia, and her debut fight is on April 12 in Manila, Philippines.
She left for Thailand last week for a month long training camp to prepare for the upcoming fight. Her training consists of running, and then three arts: kickboxing, wrestling and jujitsu.
“These are hard workouts. I am running five miles a day and then doing three sessions each day,” Nguyen said.
Nguyen said that she never expected to become a trainer herself. She thought that she did not have time to focus on something other than her own training.
“I realized that I can make a lot of impact in my community… It’s my favorite time of the day now,” Nguyen said.
Nguyen continued, “These people are all challenging me. It goes to show what people are capable of when you encourage them.”
When she comes back from her fight in the Philippines, she will help create a self defense program at Savarese Fight Fit.
“I think everyone deserves to feel like a badass. I think that taking the classes will empower you,” Nguyen said.
“I never thought of my life as a big picture. I was always in survivor mode. Now that I am here, I realized that you can never predict life. I realized that every day that I was predicting, I was creating this. I ask myself, ‘Girl, how did you get here?’ But I did this,” Nguyen said.