As we edge closer to the PFL 2021 play-offs, I had the pleasure of speaking to rising star Alex Martinez ahead of his semi-final contest against Loik Radzhabov. Martinez made the final four after grasping the last spot with three points in the regular season.
The pair conveniently faced each other at PFL 1, with Martinez edging the affair via split decision. The Paraguayan showed he was worthy of being in the competition, by putting his all into the battle with Radzhabov. The fight could’ve gone either way with the two involved in some heavy grappling, whilst working their way up on several occasions to scrap it out on the feet.
Another close encounter with two-time PFL lightweight champion Natan Schulte saw Martinez lose the bout via split decision. Martinez outstruck Schulte, looking seriously impressive on the feet. The nine takedowns to one were the difference to see the Brazilian to victory. At the end of the regular season, Martinez edged Schulte in the standings to eliminate him from the tournament and de-throne him for the first time.
The 27-year-old is the youngest competitor left in the division, as he looks to reach the final two on his debut season in the PFL. He boasted an undefeated record until his defeat to Schulte, impressing in promotions like Brave CF and iKon before signing up for the 2021 season.
Martinez’s striking game is improving every time we see him step foot into the cage. His last fight may have ended in defeat, but it’s a stepping stone to his success. He’s grappled his way to four submissions in his career, with his most recent and quickest finish ever against Christopher Ramirez at iKon Fighting Federation 4, only one minute and 40 seconds into the bout.
On Friday night, Martinez makes the 10th walk of his professional career. I’m safely saying now, it would be a disaster to miss this re-match, with the biggest contest of Martinez’s career on the horizon. Radzhabov is looking for redemption on his loss in the final of the 2019 season against Schulte.
Interview with PFL’s Alex Martinez
So, Alex, you are in the PFL semi-finals at the first time of asking! How does that feel?
Alex Martinez – “This is an opportunity that doesn’t come around often and I am going to do my best to capitalize on it. A lot had to happen in order for me to be standing here today.”
You lost your undefeated record in your last bout against two-time PFL champion Natan Schulte. Were you disheartened to lose the zero on your record and what were your thoughts on the judges making it a split decision?
Alex Martinez – “It hurt losing my zero, but I wasn’t married to the zero. I knew that if I took risks like I did throughout my career I’ll eventually face some tough challenges. The fight against Natan I thought I won, fight was very close, I landed the most damage and was never in danger but Natan controlled me more on the grappling exchanges. It all depends on who the judges are if they were grappling biased then of course the fight would of went to Natan. To a champion, you gotta dominate not defeat them in a close fight.”
You’ve previously beaten your semi-final opponent Loik Radzhabov, does that make you more confident for the fight, or do you expect him to work harder to change his game for the fight?
Alex Martinez – “My confidence comes from my faith, Jesus Christ. Having experienced firsthand what Loik brings to the table helps me be better prepared for the fight. Every fight can go in many different scenarios and I am sure he has worked very hard for this fight and so have I. As long as I keep the focus I believe it’ll go my way.”
How did the move to PFL come along? You were performing well in Brave, what happened there? You then moved to iKon for one bout before signing for PFL?
Alex Martinez – “I loved fighting for Brave their treatment was one of a kind. Reasons, why I left, had to do more with my pursue for getting into the UFC. I fought for IKON which is an amazing promotion to stay busy and keep the fire burning then PFL came through with an offer I couldn’t refuse. Now my eyes are set on PFL. In order for me to be fighting in PFL today a lot of things had to be lined up. I was roaming around the Vancouver area with my wife in an RV that we borrowed from my family scouting a place for my next training camp. I was training on and off while adventuring with my wife when 1 week before the bubble my manager and coach told me about the alternate spot that PFL had. We decided to take it, I rushed back to my hometown in Alberta, Canada, which is about 17 hours driving. Had about a week to get all my medicals and papers to cross the border. 2 days before I had to leave to Ottawa to get a stamp on my passport in order to cross the border, my coach Bill Mahood calls me telling me that I now am part of PFL 2021.”
A million-dollar cheque will be waiting for the winner of the tournament, is this more a motive for you, or is your mind simply on fighting?
Alex Martinez – “My #1 goal is to represent my family and my people the best way I can. Everything else is secondary. Of course, this is a lot of money and it’s hard to keep a blind eye on it but in the end, it’s my passion for the sport the reason why I’m here today and I’ll keep doing that till my goals change. As long as I am healthy and I have food to feed my family I don’t worry about money. Money will eventually come.”
Do you feel you’ve already proved yourself enough to be in line for the 2022 season and will Pettis be a matchup you’re looking to make?
Alex Martinez – “I believe I’ll be part of the 22 season, and if Pettis is a matchup that must happen so be it. Fights aren’t personal for me all I want is that belt.”
How impressed were you with your first performance against Radzhabov?
Alex Martinez – “I was disappointed with my first fight for PFL I had a lot more to give and offer that I didn’t showcase in the fight. It was my first fight for them and I wasn’t psychologically ready to fight, but it was something that had to happen I had to learn what it felt to not leave it all in the line to not commit the same mistake again. But none the less today I am proud that I took the risks because I have learned from that experience.”
Finally, what are the goals and dreams for Alex Martinez within MMA?
Alex Martinez – “I want to provide for family without the worry of needing in the future. Build a legacy for my people and represent them well. Whatever that looks like only God knows till then ill keep on working hard and stay humble.”
Catch Alex Martinez take on Loik Radzhabov on the PFL 7 main card this Friday. The main card begins at 9 PM (EST) on ESPN 2.
Featured Image Credits To PFL MMA