International MMA vet Adriano Martins said he was taken aback when the UFC paired him with one of the promotion’s most recognizable names in Donald Cerrone, but he’s not complaining.
“I’ve been following Cerrone’s fights for some time,” the lightweight Brazilian Martins told MMAjunkie. “I really enjoy watching him. He always moves forward. It’s no wonder he has earned so many bonuses. He puts on a show. I enjoy his type of fight. I think we match up well. My style is the same as his: to move forward and to put on a show.”
The show kicks off tonight at UFC on FOX 10, where the lightweights meet on the FOX-televised main card following prelims on FOX Sports 1 and UFC Fight Pass. The event takes place at Chicago’s United Center.
Martins (25-6 MMA, 1-0 UFC), who had only one UFC fight before being offered Cerrone (21-6 MMA, 8-3 UFC), said he called out “Cowboy” in a recent interview with Brazilian media, but he didn’t expect to take such a leap in exposure.
If he were to win the bout, his career certainly would take a leap.
Betting lines for the bout aren’t that far apart, but Cerrone is a clear favorite heading into the event. The two-time WEC title challenger is far more experienced when it comes to facing top-tier competition.
Although Martins has fought his way around the world, serving stints in Jungle Fight, DREAM and Strikeforce, he doesn’t have the same names on his resume.
But, as Martins said, “now it’s happening for real. [Cerrone] is one of the top 10 in our weight class. But I’m also looking for my place in the sun. I’m going to put my life on the line inside the octagon to get this victory. My goal is to be one of the best, not an also-ran.”
Martins, 31, has won his past six inside the cage while Cerrone’s career has bobbed and weaved as he faced top contenders, title challengers and future champs.
Still, it’s bound to be a tough fight for Martins, who expects a standup clash when they meet.
“I can’t make an accurate prediction, but I expect us to mostly trade,” he said. “But any fighter who wishes to get to the top has to be ready for anything that happens on the ground. I’m working on my grappling so there are no surprises during the fight. But I still believe that the fight will be decided while standing.”
Martins, who most recently submitted standout striker Daron Cruickshank in his UFC debut, is probably happy just to be fighting consistently. He spent most of 2012 trying to get a contract with a high-profile promotion, and the UFC wasn’t exactly knocking on his door until Strikeforce began its downward decline.
“And as I was heading to America, the event in which I was booked was canceled,” said Martins, referring to Strikeforce’s ill-fated event in September 2012. “Later, I ended up fighting on their last card (against Jorge Gurgel) with an injured knee. After that I headed back to Manaus (Brazil), where a cruciate ligament tear was confirmed. I had to undergo surgery.
“Thankfully, I was able to return later and successfully debut in the UFC. So everything went according to plan. We always had faith that we’d end up in the big show.”
And less than a year after signing with the industry-leader, he’s in the fight of his life against the lanky Cerrone.
“A tall opponent doesn’t bother me,” Martins said. “And in Manaus, I have sparring partners who are equally tall. We’ve been putting a lot of emphasis on that, to simulate Cerrone’s strikes.”
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