Anybody who has seen the 1939 classic The Wizard of Oz or read the 1900 book by L. Frank Baum that it was based on remembers the first time they discovered the mighty wizard who ruled Oz.
To the naked eye he was an all-powerful being that ruled over Oz, but in reality he was just a normal man who found ways to do extraordinary things.
In a fighter’s world, sometimes just having the right people in your corner makes all the difference in getting the bout you want, getting the sponsorships you need, or finding the right place to train.
For David Martin, who manages many top fighters like Ryan Bader, Aaron Simpson, Gray Maynard, Martin Kampmann and Michael Chandler, his greatest pleasure comes from seeing his clients succeed and he does so from behind the curtain.
A graduate from the University of South Dakota, Martin was born and bred to be a lawyer, and did so at a very high level before he ever even considered getting into sports management. It did have something to do with a high level athlete however.
“One of the first cases I actually worked on, I was somewhat of a grunt if you will, was the Ray Lewis murder trial. Bruce (Harvey), my boss, represented the co-defendant Reginald Oakley, so it was really something that blew me away right out of law school to be able to work on that particular case. I was there day in and day out for the trial. It was just something special and we ended up getting him acquitted on all charges,” Martin told MMAWeekly.com.
While working with Harvey out of his Atlanta based law firm, Martin was also in touch with an old friend of his from the same South Dakota town they grew up in. Mike Miller, who at the time was at the University of Florida, was about to enter the NBA draft and needed some legal expertise and someone he could trust to be in his corner.
David Martin was that man.
Martin started managing Mike Miller as he entered the NBA in 2000, and from there he spawned a number of relationships including one with a former Pro Bowl quarterback.
“That’s how I got into sports was Mike Miller. Mike was living in Orlando and I was going back and forth again in a management capacity. He lived in the same subdivision as Daunte Culpepper. I ended up meeting Daunte and started managing him, and helping him in a lot of areas,” Martin revealed.
Martin acted as manager and legal council to both players, but eventually was pulled into the courtroom defending Culpepper during the infamous “Love Boat” case in which several Minnesota Vikings players were accused of “indecent, disorderly and lascivious conduct” while throwing an alleged sex party on a boat in Lake Minnetonka.
“Unfortunately, he ended up getting a pretty bad accusation on the whole Love Boat case, which was kind of an infamous case and I ended up defending Daunte in a criminal aspect in Minnesota. It was an absolute joke. I could not believe they were charging Daunte with anything, and the only reason they were charging him was because of his name. That was an eye opening experience as well,” Martin said.
In the end, Martin was able to get the entire case dismissed due to lack of probable cause.
From there Martin went on to work on several other high profile cases including defending current Cincinnati Bengals defensive back Adam “Pacman” Jones just after his college career at West Virginia University came to a close when he was accused of theft. That case was also dismissed of all charges.
Martin’s legal expertise was invaluable to his clients, but from there his journey into mixed martial arts management was different than most. Growing up in South Dakota, Martin along with his good friend Mike Miller, had both been huge boxing fans.
Going to fights whenever they could, Martin and Miller were just fans of combat sports, so it was only natural that they were also drawn to the world of MMA. That’s when Miller introduced his good friend David Martin to a former NCAA wrestler by the name of Tyler Jones.
Jones was a former NCAA All-American wrestler also from South Dakota that had shown interest in making the move into mixed martial arts. While he never ended up in the MMA cage, he had plenty of friends who did.
“Mike had a friend who was a four-time All-American wrestler named Tyler Jones who was interested in MMA. He didn’t end up fighting, but I kept working with him, and he eventually hooked me up with Ryan Bader, and the rest is history,” Martin said.
Bader along with close friends Aaron Simpson and C.B. Dollaway teamed up with Martin and from there the dominoes just started falling. Martin ended up representing more fighters from their circle of friends, while also adding more names like Gray Maynard, Martin Kampmann and others.
In 2010, Martin along with Miller helped the fighters living and training in Arizona find funding and built their own training facility now called Power MMA & Fitness. It wasn’t the normal story for a manager, whose typical duties revolve around bout agreements and sponsorship deals, to go as far as to help a group of fighters open a gym, but that’s what Martin did.
“I don’t know what other managers do, but I’m not going to just be there to do a guy’s bout agreement and get them sponsors. I try to help them out and build their brand, also a legal perspective, and business development. They approached me about opening a gym, and Mike Miller and I looked at it, and thought it was a great idea. Now they are doing a great thing with Power MMA & Fitness,” Martin stated.
The expansion has continued at the gym, adding new fighters to the roster. Martin and his staff now work with even more top flight competitors including Bellator lightweight champion Michael Chandler and UFC middleweight Chris Weidman.
While Martin continues to work with NFL players like Chad Greenway and of course his continued relationship with Miami Heat forward Mike Miller, he’s found a real passion for the sport of MMA.
“I love this sport, so being able to be around the sport so much is awesome. The best part of being involved in the industry is the relationships that I have developed. Randel Aleman has been a great addition to the management team and is a true friend. CB Dollaway, Aaron Simpson and Ryan Bader are not only clients and business partners, but they are now lifelong friends. Working for a guy like Gray Maynard isn’t work to me. It’s fun. I want to perform for these guys. All the guys that I represent,” Martin stated.
As he continues to develop relationships with new sponsors and work with his fighters, Martin is content to be the ninja of the MMA management world. He was even reluctant to do this very interview because he says his focus should only be on the job he does for his fighters, and not how many people know his name.
“Bottom line is it’s about the athlete,” said Martin. “That’s my approach on it, I’m not saying it’s the right way or wrong way, that’s how I handle it. I like I being behind the scenes, period.”