pretty good read.
By Thomas Gerbasi
As an up and coming mixed martial artist, Terry Martin – all 5 foot 9 of him – thought that a light heavyweight title was a foregone conclusion once he got his shot at the big time.
And who could blame him as he came up on the local circuit, beating opponent after opponent, with only one fight going the distance? Martin, who wrestled at 184 pounds at Northern Illinois University yet competed at 205 pounds in MMA, was intoxicated by his success. His father, a former fighter himself, knew better though.
“I always walked around at around 205 pounds, but what happened was, I wrestled at 184 pounds in college, and my father, right before he passed away, he was always telling me, drop down to 185 pounds, they’re too big,” remembered Martin. “At the time, I was winning big fights against some real tough opponents, so I thought there was no need.”
Then Martin would get his call to the UFC, and he wound up getting knocked out by a single knee from James Irvin and then overpowered by Jason Lambert en route to a second round TKO loss. Something had to be done, or Martin’s UFC tenure was going to be a short one. So he looked around and decided to finally follow his father’s advice.
“I was like, ‘forget this, these guys are too big,’” said Martin. “When you see these guys - Tito Ortiz, Forrest Griffin, and these other big 205 pounders - walking around, you’re like ‘Maaaan, oh no.’ (Laughs) These guys cut from 230, 240, and I walk around at 205. So I just cut out my ice cream and cookies and just dropped the weight.”
The change in fortunes has been dramatic. Since dropping to the middleweight division, Martin has fought a total of two minutes and 18 seconds, knocking out Jorge Rivera in 14 seconds at UFC 67, and taking out Ivan Salaverry in 2:04 at UFC 71 in May. That’s as drastic a 2-2 Octagon record (18-2 overall) as you’ll ever see.
“It feels good,” he said of his 2007 campaign. “I still feel that I haven’t made my presence known yet, but I think after this fight here, I’ll really send a big message.”
His next fight, this Wednesday on Spike TV, may be his biggest to date, as he will perform in front of a national television audience when he takes on Chris Leben. For the fans, it’s a war waiting to happen, as neither fighter is adverse to standing and swinging for the fences. Among fight pundits though, many are scratching their heads, wondering why Leben would pass up on a main event bout against old rival Mike Swick to fight someone like Martin in an undercard contest. Martin is one of those head scratchers.
“I think his only way of survival in this fight is to run,” said Martin of Leben. “I don’t know what was on his mind when he took this fight. I guess he thought it was gonna be a classic matchup between Optimus Prime and Megatron. I’m serious, I can’t explain it to you. Maybe he thinks he’s gonna sit there and bang with me.”
If he does, he will be facing a striker with solid technique and fight ending power. If not, he will be facing a former Division I wrestler who has not had much opportunity to show his prowess on the mat.
“I think everybody’s overlooking my grappling,” said Martin. “People don’t know that I lost to (former heavyweight title challenger) Jeff Monson, who’s known all over the world for his grappling, and I lost to him by one point at heavyweight. A lot of people don’t pay attention to the big tattoo I got branded on my back, the NIU wrestling tattoo. That’s a good thing though, because it’s all a trap.”
The cat may be out of the bag soon when it comes to Martin though, as he has not only shown an ability to finish entertaining fights, but he has a great story (he’s currently working on his Doctorate at the Adler School of Professional Psychology) and isn’t shy about telling it.
“A lot of people look at the fight stuff and see just a fighter,” he said. “They’ve got to realize that outside of fighting I’m a graduate student. I volunteer and help people out and there’s another side of me along with the fighting stuff. A lot of people see us fighters and think that we’re the guys walking around with chips on our shoulders, when there’s another side.”
Martin also has a personality and a sense of humor. Want proof? Look no further than his fight with Salaverry, where he called the veteran ‘Billie Jean’ due to his style in the Octagon, and then came into the Octagon at UFC 71 with the Michael Jackson hit blaring through the speakers.
“I got a lot of strange reactions, but not one negative remark,” said Martin. “It was different. You look at the UFC, and the fighters either come out to rock or rap. You got a Matt Hughes, who comes out to country, but I wanted to come out to something different, something that old people liked, young people liked, black people liked, white people liked, everybody liked. And I wanted to send a message, thinking that would motivate Salaverry.”
It turned into one of the most memorable UFC entrances in recent memory, and the result was also pleasing to Martin. Plus, it was all done in fun, as the Chicago native is quick in his praise of Salaverry.
“He was a good opponent, I’m not disrespecting him in no kinda way,” said Martin. “He’s tough and I wish the best for him.”
That’s after the fight though. Before and during it, Martin is all business, and he knows that a win over Leben this week will put him even closer to a shot at UFC middleweight boss Anderson Silva. It’s a fight he can’t wait for.
“Me and my camp, we just can’t wait for that matchup, and the sooner it happens, the better,” said Martin of a fight with Silva. “Give me this match and another fight against Patrick Cote, Evan Tanner, or somebody like that, a guy who’s made a name for himself, and then I’ll shoot up for the title. And Anderson Silva, I’m not worried about him. These fighters fight him the wrong way. He’s like 6-2 and you look at his fights and they’re letting this guy fight them on the inside. They’re going to his strength side instead of going outside of his lead leg. They’re giving these fights to him. I wonder if they’re studying his tapes and his weaknesses or just studying his wins and his knockouts? It’s crazy.”
So, Terry Martin, we’ll put you on the spot. Do you have the plan to beat the man?
“I got the perfect plan,” said Martin. “I’m gonna embarrass him.”
UFC® : Ultimate Fighting Championship®
I'm startin to like Terry Martin.
I hope he wins against Leben.