Thought by some to be a longshot to make it to this point, Martinez has done so in strong fashion, beating increasingly difficult opponents on his way to the Dec. 7 tournament championship at Caesers in Atlantic City, N.J.
“I just have one fight left and it’s go big or go home,” said Martinez. “I’ve got to leave it all out there because I know after this fight I can have a little break and take some time away, so now it’s gung-ho and go for the victory and try to win the tournament.”
While he’s excited to have made the finals, Martinez told MMAWeekly.com that he wouldn’t feel a true sense of accomplishment until he gets the win at Bellator 83.
“Especially coming this far, now would be the worst time to lose; getting so close you can taste it,” he said. “I’m happy that I won the first two fights, but there’s no sense of accomplishment yet until I complete the task that I set out to do, which is win the tournament.”
To take the tournament title, Martinez will have to get past his toughest date to yet in world class striker Shahbulat Shamhalaev.
“Obviously, he’s very tough on his feet being a world champion kickboxer,” said Martinez of Shamhalaev. “He hits hard and gets quick knockouts, and even though my hands have improved dramatically of late, I feel my best chance to win is utilize my wrestling and see how he is on the ground.
“He’s had two quick knockouts in the first round, so I’d like to drag it to the later rounds and see if I can impose my will on him and tire him out and grind him out for a victory.”
And if grinding out a victory is what Martinez has to do, he’ll do it, because he knows that getting away from what he does best, no matter how far he’s grown as a fighter, is not the best strategy against Shamhalaev.
“Now is not the time to try to get fancy or try to get crazy,” said Martinez. “Now it’s time to try to win the fight. If I’m down two rounds to none, then maybe it’s time to try something different, but (otherwise) I’m not going to do anything different. Just winning is all I am focused on.”
Regardless if he wins or loses on Dec. 7, this year has been a breakout for Martinez, both personally and professionally. Still, taking the Bellator featherweight tournament and earning a shot at the individual championship next year could make for an even more spectacular 2013.
“Joining with Bellator and picking up a couple good sponsors and putting on a winning streak, it’s been a pretty good year,” said Martinez. “At the same time, if I win this tournament, next year could shape up to be equally as good, if not better for me and my family.”