UFC lightweight Tony Martin spoke to Bloody Elbow regarding his UFC Pittsburgh bout with Olivier Aubin-Mercier, touched on a bizarre in-fight cup failure, and divulged his future plans for the top of the division.
Surging UFC lightweight Tony Martin is on the hunt for his 4th consecutive win, as he is set to face the 9-2 Tristar product, Olivier Aubin-Mercier, at UFC Fight Night 116, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on September 16, 2017. Despite the 5 weeks notice fight, Martin feels as though the matchup was just too favorable for him to pass up. Before squaring off with his Canadian counterpart, Martin caught up with Bloody Elbow to discuss how OAM is the perfect foe for him, plans to crack the Top-15, and details a bizarre wardrobe malfunction involving his cup.
- You are in search of your 4th consecutive win as you head into your next match. What’s the #1 contributing factor to your recent success?
“It’s mostly time in the sport. I was very young in the sport itself when I came into the UFC, with only 3 years of training. So, I was very new, and now my skillset is coming along. I’ve always had the athletic ability, and I’ve worked a lot on my striking game since I’ve been in Boston. Mostly, it’s just been a process of becoming a more well rounded fighter.”
- When you faced Felipe Oliveiri at UFC on FOX 18, you picked up a 3rd round technical submission via RNC. A win’s a win, but is it extra sweet when you put someone to sleep?
“It was weird, because I didn’t even know he was going to sleep because the ref jumped in so fast. It was pretty cool; it’s a pretty cool feeling.”
- Neck surgery forced you to pull out of your fight with Michel Prazeres?
“I had neck surgery; I ended up rupturing a disk in my neck, my C6/C7. It was tough, about 2 weeks out of the fight, and I still wanted to fight. It was one of those tough ones where the doctors are like, ‘you know, you’re really risking getting paralyzed.’ So that was the final straw of me pulling out. I was like, ‘we’ll live to die again.’ So, right away, I had the surgery about a week later, got that all cleared up, and it’s been a blessing. I haven’t had any neck trouble since then. I used to always deal with neck pain through every single camp, so it was kind of a lingering thing that just wouldn’t go away. Finally, I had enough and went fully, so I’m just glad we got it behind me.”
- Wardrobe malfunction involving your cup en route to a dominant win over Alex White at UFC Fight Night: Rodriguez vs. Penn:
“What happened actually, is that I was wearing a Muay Thai cup, and the string broke.”
- Those are the steel cups, right?
“The steel cup, yeah. So, the cup didn’t break, it was the string that broke, so the cup dropped about 3 inches. It was weird, and I didn’t know what to do because it was just hanging there. Obviously, we stopped, and my corner cut the string off, and we just put it right back into my boxers. It kind of threw me off in the fight a little bit, where it was moving around the whole entire fight because it had no stability. The strings are what stabilize it. I learned my lesson, though, so I always buy new strings now before the fights.”
- Did your striking skillset have a coming out party against Johnny Case at UFC Fight Night: Chiesa vs. Lee?
“It was definitely a fight where I felt he didn’t have the power to put me away, so I really wanted to emphasize staying on my feet and getting comfortable striking inside of the Octagon. It was just one of those perfect fights where I thought that I could catch him on the feet. Obviously, I wanted the finish, and I hurt him multiple times, I felt like, in the 2nd and 3rd round. He was a tough guy to put away because he moves so much. His movement was on par, and he was moving a lot, so it was hard to catch him clean.”
- Accepting a 5 weeks notice fight with Olivier Aubin-Mercier at UFC Pittsburgh on September 16, 2017:
“I only took the fight for one reason. Five weeks out, normally I don’t want to take fights on a 5 week notice because I’m a pretty big guy, so to get down to weight isn’t the easiest, but the matchup, I felt like, was heavily in my favor. I think it’s a great matchup where on the feet, I can let go of everything. I can throw heavy shots, I can kind of just do myself on the feet, and then in the grappling department, I’m fully confident in my grappling.”
“Stylistically, it’s a perfect fight for me, mostly at this time, too. He’s got a good name. I think he’s 5-1 at lightweight, so it’s a big fight. They’re going to come in with a good gameplan, so it’s going to be my job to go out there and shut it down right away.”
- Where are you training at for OAM?
“I’m at Sityodtong. I’m there about 3 days a week, and I do a lot of my grappling at PMA in New Hampshire, under Professor Tim Barchard, the START BJJ banner. I’ve been trying to do as much grappling, for this fight, as possible. I got my boxing coach Eddie Alvarez [not this Eddie Alvarez], where we hit everyday. We either go to the track and do some footwork, head movement drills, and then every night we’re padding up. I have a great group surrounding me, and everyone truly believes in my ability.”
- Tony Martin’s grappling vs. OAM’s grappling:
“Ever since I started, all I’ve done is grapple, so it’s one of those things where it’s going to be nice to face a guy where he’s trying to take me down. I think that he’s had a lot of advantages in the grappling department in fights because everyone’s trying to counter grapple or avoid his grappling. I’m more of the guy where, I’ll embrace the grapple. Like, if you want to grapple, let’s grapple. So, I’m going to be shooting submissions, right away. He’s going to shoot in, and my best submissions are off people shooting in on me. I fully expect to win in the striking department, and I also believe in my grappling enough where I think I can grapple with anyone.”
- OAM has scored 7 of his 8 submission wins by way of Rear-Naked Choke; have you done anything extra special to prepare for those types of situations?
“Yeah, we’ve done a lot of back defense. Me and the team got together; Brock Larson just came in this week; he’s a southpaw grappler. He’s been my grappling coach from the beginning, so we’re doing a lot of back defenses. Mostly, if he’s on my back, I’ve already missed a few steps.”
- This will be your 3rd fight of 2017; will we see Tony Martin in the Octagon for a 4th time before 2018?
“I’m hoping that it’s a quick fight, and obviously I’m prepared for 3 rounds, but I’m going to try and finish right away, and hope to get on a card before the end of the year would be the ideal situation. If not, I’ll probably wait until February, or something like that. It looks like we might be moving down to Florida, and I got a baby on the way, so I don’t want to fight too close to when the baby’s coming; I’d be stressing out the wife and everything. Ideally, I’d like to fight to fight 1 more time, absolutely. The right fight at the right time is very important. I don’t want to jump into stupid fights, and ideally I’d like to get a 8/9 week camp; it was just too good of an opportunity, in this fight, to pass up.”
- Do you have anyone in particular that you might call out after the OAM fight?
“No one on the tip of the tongue. Honestly, I just want a big fight. If I put him [OAM] away on the 16th, I think it really puts me in the Top-15 category of, ‘okay, this guy is the real deal, and he deserves a big fight.’ I think that not too many people know about me. I’m leading into my 8th UFC fight. I’ve shown my growth in Mixed Martial Arts. I think after this fight, I’ve earned a right to put my name at the Top-15, and have a big fight like that.”
Watch Tony Martin wage war with Olivier Aubin-Mercier, at UFC Fight Night: Rockhold vs. Branch from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on September 16, 2017. Stay tuned to Bloody Elbow for all of your UFC event coverage including interviews, play-by-play, highlights, and more!