When Roque Martinez (15-6-2) made his Ultimate Fighting Championship debut last month against the undefeated Alexandr “King Kong” Romanov (12-0-0), he entered the octagon on three days notice and he wasn’t prepared for the heavyweight showdown in Las Vegas, Nevada.
With five weeks to prepare for his next fight, also in Las Vegas, Martinez will take on Don’Tale “King Kong” Mayes (7-4-0) on Nov. 14 in UFC Fight Night 183.
Having advance notice “definitely gives me more time to work on what I know I can do and better my chances for winning the fight,” said Martinez, adding that “it’s definitely a big difference from a three-day notice. … It’s a huge difference for me.”
While the 6-foot-6 Mayes - who has lost his last two bouts - will most likely be looking to unload his judo strikes, Martinez is on a mission to secure his first win in the UFC, his 16th overall.
“I think this is a really good matchup for me,” Martinez said. ... "I think his striking is pretty good, … but it’s nothing I haven’t seen. I think my striking matches up pretty well with his."
“I think if I go in there and mix it up pretty well and apply all the skills I have, I’m confident that I can take him out and get the win.”
A challenging opponent and challenging times
As the coronavirus pandemic continues to rage, nearing eight months on Guam and nearly 10 months worldwide, Martinez’s landing in the major leagues of professional fighting has come at one of the most unique and challenging times.
For Martinez, before COVID-19, he fought hard and trained even harder, and life as a fighter was business as usual. Fast forward to present day, his journey to the big time has been anything but usual. Facing closed gyms, empty airports and arenas, and government-imposed lockdowns, Martinez’s quest for greatness has been spectacular.
“As far as gyms not being open and stuff like that, it makes it a little difficult to adjust training to that,” Martinez said. “But these obstacles are like blessings in disguise because you find ways to overcome them and it’s like a small victory here and there.
“We’ve got to work with what we have and just get better either way.”
Martinez, since his last fight, has worked hard on overcoming the hurdles and feels back on track.
“Training has been pretty good,” he said. … "I feel good. I’m in better shape. I’d say, in the last one, I wasn’t in shape to fight.”
“I also dropped some weight since my last fight as well,” he added. “I started eating cleaner again and picked up the intensity of training a little more.”
Not a creature was stirring
Last month, when Martinez boarded his first of three flights to Las Vegas, he described the airport in Tokyo as a ghost town. About 12 hours later, when he touched down at Los Angeles International Airport, it was just as desolate.
"When I went through Japan, it was really dead. There was no one really in the airport, When I transferred in L.A., it was definitely not as crowded as it used to be," he said.
After completing the 7,000-mile trek, Martinez landed in Vegas and the jet-lagged prize fighter was whisked away to his first of three medical appointments. Then, after a quick photo shoot, the whirlwind adventure placed him in his hotel room, waiting for someone to bring him a toothbrush, which, in his haste to catch his first flight, he had forgotten on his bathroom sink.
With barely enough time to stretch out, acclimate, and prepare for the fight, it was go-time.
As Martinez left the dressing room and walked toward the cage and heard the door slam shut, the severity of the moment hardly sank in and he was taken aback by the lack of energy in the vacant arena.
The feeling of just walking in there to an empty arena and not performing in front of a lot of people was a little bit eerie, Martinez said.
“It’s different to me,” he added.
Martinez said that he is one of those fighters who picks up when the crowd gets excited.
When the UFC calls, you go
Although Martinez wasn't in top form during his second-round loss to Romanov, advancing to the UFC is a dream come true, and this time he feels more prepared to start making a name for himself in the UFC.
“Other than the loss, I really enjoyed the experience,” Martinez said. “I’m pretty proud to get into the UFC but, … I’m not happy with just being there. I want to show that I belong with some of the best heavyweights in the world. I didn’t do that on my last one, but I’m glad I get the opportunity on this next one.
“I don’t just want to be that fighter that’s happy to be in the UFC,” he said. “I want to be a good UFC fighter.”
From one fight to another
Even though he had just finished his fight, upon returning to Guam, another one was about to begin. After touching down on the island, all he wanted to do was see his fiancee and daughter, but the Department of Public Health and Social Services had a different plan and placed him and his mother, Odessa Martinez, in a government quarantine facility. After a few days of lockdown, the mother-son due felt punchy and petitioned the Superior Court of Guam for their freedom.
Roque Martinez said he wasn’t too happy with the mandatory quarantine. He and his mother petitioned the court to finish the 14-day quarantine at home, which was granted by Judge Elyze Iriarte.
“I had provided a negative test. … It kind of sucked having to deal with that," Roque Martinez said.
If Martinez is to start making a name for himself in the UFC, he is going to have to drop “King Kong,” a fighter with the same nickname as his previous opponent.
Martinez, without an official nickname, is known on Guam as “Champ,” a moniker he holds dear but has never added to his fight profile.
"I never had a nickname. I’m pretty happy with just my name," he said.
Nickname or no nickname, empty or full airports and stadiums, quarantine restrictions or not, Martinez is proud to represent Guam and thankful for the love and support.
“It’s been a wild ride, a pretty long, wild ride with me,” he added. “I’ve had my ups and downs.
“For everyone to stick with me on the journey and still support me, it means a lot to me. Again, I’d like to thank them so much. It helps motivate me and keeps me fired up to keep going and represent.”