There are plenty of cliches about a great fighter having a great coach and vice versa, but sometimes there are coaches who are part of a great team but don’t always get the love, attention and respect they deserve. Izzy Martinez, the wrestling coach at Jackson-Winkeljohn’s in Albuquerque, N.M., is already very respected, but maybe it’s what you don’t see that makes him so special to his team and back home in Illinois.
Recently, three of Martinez’s most well-known fighters scored victories. Holly Holm defeated Bethe Correia, Sergio Pettis topped Brandon Moreno, and, the big one, Jon Jones defeated Daniel Cormier to once again become the UFC light heavyweight champion. With each fighter, if there was a camera to follow Martinez — there was for the Jones fight — whether he’s cageside or elsewhere, you’d see a coach intensely locked in, focused as if it was his own son or daughter in the Octagon, and passionately screaming when the victory was captured.
With each of the aforementioned Jackson-Winkeljohn fighters climbing up a ladder of redemption or attention, Martinez’s coaching style should be recognized as a factor. While Holm is known for her boxing, she had control of Corriea throughout their fight in Singapore and landed a beautiful head kick and left hand to finish the fight. The victory was a turnaround for a fighter who was on a losing skid. If nothing else, it is the way Martinez believes in his fighters that certainly helped Holm find the win column.
Coming into his fight against the Olympic wrestler Cormier, Jones sang the praises of Martinez and “Izzy Style Wrestling,” giving Martinez several shoutouts when meeting with the media. Although the scorecards had Cormier up in the fight, Jones relied on what his coaches taught him, as well as his overall skill set, and was able to come out with a third-round knockout victory as he made his return from suspension. If Martinez or any of the other coaches down at Jackson-Winkeljohn turned their backs on Jones, would he have been able to redeem himself at UFC 214? Jones’ physical skills and talents speak for themselves, but it’s a telling sign when coaches stand by your side and celebrate passionately when you have captured redemption.
Most recently, Martinez worked with Sergio Pettis, the younger brother of former UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis. The Pettis brothers train at Roufusport in Milwaukee, and Martinez’s willingness to travel elsewhere and work with others shows his passion and respect for these athletes. Pettis, like Holm and Jones, was impressive in his win over Moreno, but he acknowledged he still has work to do before trying to compete for the flyweight title against current champion Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson.
While we look at the fighters and maybe their head coaches when the going is good, we can look at Martinez as a coach who has always been there no matter who the fighter was and no matter what situation they were in during their respective careers.
Then take a step further and realize, as many in the Northwest suburbs of Chicago do, that Martinez treats his team of wrestlers just like he treats his team of professional UFC fighters. Martinez doesn’t neglect any of his fighters or wrestlers. The same passion that might be heard or captured by a UFC camera/microphone is what you’ll hear in his gym or at any of his wrestling meets.
So, while we are always praising fighters or looking at their top coach, it’s time coaches like Izzy Martinez get some shine. It’s the things we don’t see in the gym or in private that may be the most important to each fighter or wrestler, professional or amateur.