Passion is contagious. There is a primal draw to such an outpouring of emotion.
Some of the most passionate people are professional fighters. It is hard to give up a steady paycheck and the comforts of a “normal life” to pursue a career in combat sports. There is so much hard work and dedication that goes into such an uncertain outcome. Without passion, it is hard to even come close to success as a fighter.
UFC strawweight Mallory Martin is very passionate about her fighting career. The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu brown belt made her pro debut just over four years ago. After a 1-1 start, she faced Maycee Barber at Legacy Fighting Alliance 22 in September 2017.
Martin worked her ass off and showed up on weight. Barber was seven and a half pounds heavy. Martin took the fight anyway. After dropping a decision, she stood by as Barber proceeded to talk trash. It pissed off Martin, as it would anyone in her shoes.
After LFA 22, Martin went on a five-fight winning streak. This included a win on Dana White’s Contender Series, where she topped Italy’s Micol di Segni. Martin made her UFC debut against Virna Jandiroba at UFC on ESPN 7 in late 2019, but she was submitted by the Brazilian in the second round.
Eight months later, she was back in the Octagon against Hannah Cifers. She got clipped in the first round, but she was able to come back and catch Cifers with a rear-naked choke in the second frame. The noise that left her lungs immediately after that tap was one that exuded a level of excitement, relief and joy that not many can replicate.
“I knew [that] as soon as I got it to the ground, it was just a matter of time,” Martin told Combat Press. “I didn’t expect [the first round] to go like that. It was cool to overcome the adversity and come back in the second round and put it on her for the finish. That was pretty awesome.
“I had such a long camp. I had, like, a 13-week camp, and I had a few injuries during that one. I had some other mental things going on, and to get dropped in that first round and overcome that, stay composed, and come back through that round and get the finish, I just had to let it out, you know? I’m one of those fighters that I just display my passion, and not a lot of people like it. If I scream, I’m just displaying my passion.
“It is what it is.”
In the eight months between her last two fights, a lot was going on in Martin’s world. Gyms were on lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. International travel had come to a screeching halt, too. Her second home at American Kickboxing Academy, where her boyfriend Deron Winn trains, was all but boarded up. It was hard to get anything going outside of her hometown of Denver. However, right after her win over Cifers, she found out some great news from her manager, Danny Rubenstein.
“[He told me I was] probably going to fight Polyana [Viana] now, and Emily [Whitmire] is going to fight Hannah Cifers,’” Martin explained. “I was actually supposed to fight Polyana in early 2020 before the COVID shutdown, so I knew she was going to be a future opponent. Then, she called me out after her win [over Whitmire]. She went on the press conference and called me out.”
Martin, always the passionate one, accepted the challenge. It’s now set for Saturday, Feb. 13, at UFC 258 at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas.
Martin has spent time training at many different gyms, including Zingano BJJ and the 303 Training Center in the Denver area and Tiger Muay Thai in Thailand. However, she has found her footing in Denver at one of the best camps in the country. It has a growing stable of top-shelf female fighters, plus the talented minds of striking coach Sean Madden and BJJ black belt Peter Straub.
“Team Elevation,” said Martin. “I’ve been training with Shana Dobson [and] Montana de la Rosa. J.J. Aldrich has been with us, and also Rose [Namajunas]. So, I’ve been getting lots of rounds with Rose, and it’s been super helpful. I get those high-level rounds, which are very important, and I’m sparring with a former champ and probably future champ. It’s really cool.”
Viana won just one of her first four fights in the Octagon before picking up the win over Whitmire. Prior to that, she held wins over mostly inexperienced fighters. However, she was able to hand fellow UFC strawweight Amanda Ribas her first professional loss by first-round knockout in Brazil’s Jungle Fight promotion in 2015. Martin, on the other hand, has encountered more experienced opponents in recent years.
“I would like to crack into that top 15,” said the Colorado native. “I would like to fight three times this year. Hopefully, by the end of 2021, I’ll be in the top 15 and having fights against ranked opponents.
“I don’t really know who’s in the top 15 right now. I’m not the type of person that calls out people. It’s just whatever Danny sends my way.”
Martin has come a long way in a short time. A win over Viana on Saturday will get her on the right side of .500 in the UFC. Her focus is on climbing the ladder until she reaches the top. Her passion will shine as she makes her walk into the cage at UFC 258.
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