Danny Martinez had one opportunity at the big show.
For his WEC debut, he squared off against Joseph Benavidez, a man who would go on to earn a WEC 135 pound title shot and is currently the top contender for the UFC's inaugural flyweight title.
Martinez would lose to Benavidez, but he would survive the full 15 minutes against him. Despite not getting finished, he would fail to receive an invite back to World Extreme Cagefighting.
Now with a chip on his shoulder, the Alliance MMA fighter made the cut to 125 pounds in 2010 and has quietly gone on a nice three fight win streak including two first round technical knockouts (TKOs) this year already.
Martinez spoke with MMAmania.com about his dreams of getting into the UFC as a flyweight, potentially getting revenge against Benavidez someday and the family atmosphere at Alliance MMA in this exclusive interview.
Check it out:
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): So tell me, how do you feel ever since dropping down to 125 pounds?
Danny Martinez: I feel better than I've ever been and I feel like I'm improving more than I ever have. I also feel quicker with my movement now that I have the weight down. My grappling is better and my jiu-jitsu is better. I feel like I'm getting closer, but being there in the big show, that's not up to me.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): How long was it until you actually dropped down to flyweight because I know you spent a majority of your career at bantamweight and even above that at times?
Danny Martinez: Yeah, I've been up to 145 and 155 at the beginning of my career. I've fought at 125 though for the last two years. It was pretty much ever since my stint in the WEC.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You were a part of the WEC, you fought Joseph Benavidez, one of the top guys in that promotion. Granted, it was his debut and all, but you never got another chance to redeem yourself after that. They just kind of let you go.
Danny Martinez: Yeah, it was disappointing that I didn't get a second shot to show my skills. It made me feel a little hurt that they brought me in there for Joseph and not for my career. They never called me back and it's not like I went out there and got KO'd. I went to a decision against a guy they were planning on coming in and taking Miguel Torres' title at the time. It did kind of hurt that they didn't call me back, didn't want to see me and they put all this work into Joseph and he went on to lose the title shot to Dominick Cruz. I want back and I'll make him pay any way I can.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Do you kind of have a chip on your shoulder after all that. Is that your fuel that motivates you?
Danny Martinez: Yeah, actually just like how Dominick Cruz had the chip on his shoulder with Urijah Faber. It's the same thing for me. I missed my opportunity against Joseph the first time and he'll have the title if the cards play out right and maybe someday I'll get an opportunity to fight him for the title and get my revenge. It'll be bigger than it was before.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): None of your four career losses have ever been stoppages. They've been decisions. Do you feel that it proves your toughness, especially considering you've been in there against some really solid opposition?
Danny Martinez: Yeah, I'm mentally tough and I won't quit or tap out. Being mentally tough and ready for everything is how I've trained since I was little when I was wrestling and working with older competitors my whole life. Now I've got the technique and coaching to compliment my skills and I feel like I can get back in there and compete with the best.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You train at Alliance MMA and they've just got this incredible family atmosphere. What do you think is one of the key factors to that. Why are you guys so much closer than these other teams?
Danny Martinez: A lot of us are from out of town and came here just for this one thing, which is training MMA together alongside Dominick and coach Eric Del Fierro. A lot of us came out here by ourselves, don't have an outside group to hang out with, our old friends from our old neighborhoods taking us out or anything so we're all sticking together and it keeps us out of trouble. We're all goal-oriented. That's more of a reason than anything. We're all out here by ourselves.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Yeah, because you normally wouldn't picture heavyweights and light heavyweights hanging out with bantamweights and flyweights, but you guys make it work.
Danny Martinez: It's more of like a college or high school wrestling team than anything.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Dominick has victories over all the three finalists in that UFC flyweight tournament. Do you feel like if you ever get to the UFC and move up the ladder, that could be a huge benefit for you?
Danny Martinez: That's been on my mind for the past year now. We've got video on all three of those guys, Demetrious Johnson, Ian McCall and Joseph. Every fight they ever fought in the WEC or UFC and of course, I've been looking at those videos for the past 6-7 months, knowing I'll get my chance to fight these guys. That's what keeps me fired up, not being invited to the party, knowing the fact that I train with Dominick and I've fought Joseph before to a decision. Why didn't they ask me? We were ready for this moment and we're ready to fight those guys and we're still ready to fight those guys.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Are you surprised the UFC hasn't hired more flyweights? So far, almost all the 125-ers on the roster are just bantamweights already signed who dropped down a weight class.
Danny Martinez: Yeah, exactly. I'm just waiting for that call. I'm sure Sean Shelby and those guys have a plan going on right now about how they're going to incorporate the flyweight division going forward.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): What's your goal for the end of the year?
Danny Martinez: I'm hoping by fall, I'll be in the UFC. That's been my goal every year for the past three years. Now that they have 125-ers, I think it could be a reality. If it's not the UFC, then I could just take a fight every month. I just have to make sure to make weight because you never know who could be watching. I just want to keep improving my record, prove that I'm a good athlete and a good performer.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Any last thoughts?
Danny Martinez: Getting back to the top is very important to me. Being a training partner to a UFC champion is great, but getting to the UFC is my top priority. This year is my year. This is the year that 125-ers will break out in the UFC and I want to get my shot and show everyone what I can do.
Danny would like to thank everyone at Alliance Training Center including all the athletes and fighters. You can follow him on Twitter @DannyMMA125.
So what do you think, Maniacs?
Will Martinez accomplish his goal of getting into the UFC this year? Or does he have his sights set too high?