Ryan Martinez has been locked inside a cage before. But it’s a safe assumption he prefers Bellator’s version to what was previously in his life.
Martinez (8-2 MMA, 1-1 BFC) on Thursday fights Travis Wiuff (68-16 MMA, 4-1 BFC) in a heavyweight bout of Bellator 93's main card. He’ll do it with a clean slate after spending time battling drug addiction, as well as time behind bars.
Bellator 93 takes place at Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston, Maine. The main card, including Martinez vs. Wiuff, airs on Spike TV following prelims on Spike.com.
Once he got out of jail and started the next phase of his life, it was MMA that helped set him free.
“Over time, I’ve spent two years in jail, three and a half years in prison and two years on parole,” Martinez told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com). “I basically wasted the whole 20s of my life. It clicked with me when I was in the joint, because I was in there running and lifting every day, so I tried to carry on that mentality when I got out. I got a job as an iron worker and consumed all my time working there and working out. MMA got big in Colorado and a gym popped up where I was working out at, and the first night I went in to train, it ended up being a lifelong thing. I grew addicted to it.”
And Martinez knows something about addiction. He said he was addicted to methamphetamines while also selling – which is what got him locked up.
Martinez had a promising future in wrestling. But his trip down the wrong path started early.
“I had full-ride scholarships to anywhere I wanted to go for wrestling,” he said. “But after wrestling season, I started partying too much and that led to me not finishing high school. I was basically just running the streets and partying, and when I was locked up it gave me a chance to reflect on all the bulls—. I tried to reform myself and come out a better person rather than come out, f— up, and go back.”
After a move from Colorado to Las Vegas, Martinez is training with UFC heavyweight Roy Nelson and Bellator light heavyweight Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal at Jeff Mayweather’s gym. The chance to work with bigger fighters was one he couldn’t pass up on, and he believes that will help him turn the corner.
“I need heavyweights who can punch me so I can react to fighters of that weight,” Martinez said. “That’s why it was the best decision of my career to move down to Vegas. I’m working with some of the top guys in the weight class. Anyone who doesn’t think Roy Nelson is a top 10 heavyweight in the world is crazy, because the dude’s legit. ‘King Mo’ – his wrestling and his striking, despite what happened against Emanuel Newton, is f—ing legit, too. We’ve got a star heavyweight crew that’s always coming in, and I’m just going to use it to my benefit. My standup, my ground, everything. Wherever the fight goes, I’ll be ready.”
The one thing that stands out is Martinez’s experience – a little more than two years and 10 fights – compared to Wiuff’s experience: 13 years and more than 80 fights.
It’s a fact that isn’t lost on Martinez, who knows Wiuff can be dangerous, but also knows a win over him could put him on the map.
“I can’t just name three or four of his top skills – I can name like 10 or 12,” Martinez said. “The only thing I can say is that I hope I can put my hands on him more than he puts his hands on me, and I hope I can take him down more than he takes me down. If I can knock him out, I’m gonna try and knock him out. If I can submit him, I’m gonna try and submit him. But we’re preparing for war here. So whatever happens, happens, and I’m just going to give it 150 percent and get my hand raised at the end of the night.”
After that, he has even bigger plans – plans he probably couldn’t have easily foreseen while he was incarcerated.
“Where do I expect to be in a year or so? I’m going to be the Bellator heavyweight world champ,” Martinez said. “That’s all there is to it.”
For more on Bellator 93, stay tuned to the MMA Rumors section of the site.