Many people have been suspicious about when exactly the coronavirus (COVID-19) arrived in the United States, sparking a mass of shutdowns and changes in laws regarding masks, restaurant capacities, and so on. Some felt that they had this very virus in the fall of 2019. There are countless anecdotes of people going to the doctor with a high fever and dry cough, but no other flu symptoms.

UFC strawweight Mallory Martin was one of the people who is certain she would’ve tested positive in the fall. After a trip to the East Coast with her boyfriend, fellow UFC fighter Deron Winn, in October, she got really sick. It almost affected her fight only two weeks later.

“Before my last Invicta fight, my boyfriend Deron fought in Boston three weeks before I fought,” Martin told Combat Press. “I flew out to Boston for his fight, and when I flew out, I got sick. Then, I came back to Colorado to finish off my camp. I was sick all the way until my fight for Invicta. Then, I felt a little bit better after my fight, but I still had this awful cough. Then, I took the UFC fight, and I was scared that the commission, or even the doctors, wouldn’t let me fight because I had this cough. I was taking DayQuil and NyQuil, but I tried to hide it. I did my best with it, and it was a learning experience.”


Advertisement

Martin made her UFC debut only a month after her last Invicta fight. She came in as a short-notice replacement for Livia Renata Souza against Virna Jandiroba on December 7 at UFC on ESPN 7. After scoring five wins in a row — three in Invicta, one in the Legacy Fighting Alliance, and one on Dana White’s Contender Series — she was ready for the big show, no matter how much notice she had. However, she was certainly still not competing at 100 percent.

“I’m pretty sure it was the COVID,” Martin admitted. “I was sick for three months, and I was sick for my last Invicta fight. I actually almost pulled out of that fight from being sick, but I actually ended up getting the call from the UFC.”

Martin’s Octagon debut did not go her way. She was submitted by Jandiroba in the second round. However, she was in the door and had gained some valuable experience.

“I learned a lot from that fight, and I think the main thing is [to not] overextend,” Martin said. “I overextended a lot with her, which made her able to get that takedown. Also, I need to work on my ground game, the back defense, and the takedown defense.

“After my UFC fight, I finally went to the doctor, and the test for the flu came back negative. They didn’t know what it was, so they gave me stuff for bronchitis, because I had this awful cough. I didn’t get better until February. I was supposed to fight in May, so I was looking forward to that. Then the pandemic hit, and all the fights got canceled.”

Martin’s jiu-jitsu gym, Zingano BJJ in Broomfield, Colo., was also shut down, as was her main training camp at Elevation Fight Team in Denver. However, once the UFC started putting shows on again and camps started to reopen, she was right back at it. She quickly found out about her next fight.

“I was actually supposed to fight last month, but it got pushed to the end of August, which is fine,” Martin said. “I’ve just had a long camp, and I’m more than ready now to go in there and get the job done.”

Six weeks ago, Martin thought her opponent would be Hannah Goldy, but Goldy pulled out with a shoulder injury. Instead, Martin will now fight Hanna Cifers on Saturday evening at UFC on ESPN+ 33.

“Stylistically, they’re about the same, and the game plan didn’t change,” Martin said. “They’re about the same height and whatever. By the time I fight, I will have been in camp about 16 weeks. It’s been a long camp, but I’ve gotten so much better, and I can’t wait to get in there and showcase all my skills and abilities.”

It’s no wonder Martin is feeling great about her skills right now. She already has a handful of finishes to accompany the decision wins on her record. Frankly, the deck was really stacked against her in her fight with Jandiroba. Between coming off a three-round war in Invicta, still sick with the virus, and facing a much more experienced opponent, it says a lot that she even accepted the challenge.

Now that Martin is training full-time with Elevation Fight Team, she is very confident in how she has progressed. She had been in camp with Shana Dobson, who just had a potentially career-saving win over Mariya Agapova last weekend, and her other training partners are gearing up for tough fights as well.

“Me, Shana, Montana De La Rosa — she came to our team, too, and she fights the week after me — we’ve all been in camp helping each other,” Martin explained. “It’s been really cool just to be in camp with these other high-level girls for the UFC, and we keep pushing each other to grow and get better.



“We have a stacked girls team. There are at least 10 to 12 girls at every single practice. In the pandemic, they split the practices in half. So, if you’re 170 [pounds] and below — the guys — you get one o’clock, and if you’re the guys, 185 or above, and the girls, we get two o’clock. It’s so awesome, because we get so much attention from the coaches. We have like eight or nine coaches, and they are at almost every practice. The girls and heavyweight practice, it’s maybe 20 people, so we get a lot of attention from our coaches. So, we are able to evolve and get better.”

Martin’s upcoming opponent, Cifers, is currently on a three-fight skid. She was finished in all three losses, too. Granted, those stoppages included submissions from the aforementioned Agapova and Mackenzie Dern.

“She’s a stand-up fighter,” Martin said. “She’s aggressive. She’s not very technical. She stands and swings, which is going to leave her open for my shots. She’s tough. She likes to swing and kind of brawl, but she’s very tense when she fights, and it shows a lot. I’m going to be able to pick her apart, and just play my game.”

Martin’s goal is to fight two more times this year, if she can. First, she needs a victory over Cifers. Then, she can start her ascent in the tough UFC women’s strawweight division.