At 12, UFC 271’s Mana Martinez Told Dana He’d Be Fighting for Him

UFC Vegas 35 Mana Martinez
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - AUGUST 28: (L-R) Mana Martinez punches Guido Cannetti of Argentina in a bantamweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on August 28, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

At just four-years old, Mana Martinez’s parents signed him up for karate. He immediately loved martial arts and it became one of his two loves in life (alongside of baseball). However, the youngster never considered making it a career until a chance meeting with a future boss of his.

While he was still training at that same karate studio his parents had brought him too as a young child, Dana White stopped by. In that moment, Martinez could feel that something had changed in him and he somehow knew, this is what he’d be doing for a living one day.

“I think it finally hit me when I met Dana [White] – I was probably about twelve years old,” Martinez explained. “He came to our karate school. That’s where I originally started off in martial arts at four-years old.”

It wasn’t even anything the UFC president had said to him or anyone else there. It was simply the presence of something that felt right that led Martinez down the path to where he is today.

“I saw him live, in-person and I said this guy is going to be my future boss one day,” he recalled. “It kind of kicked me up to train a little bit harder and motivated me.”

While it wasn’t anything the boss-man said that got Martinez jacked up, Martinez does remember what he said to White. The twelve-year old called his shot, even all the way back then, although he did leave the door open for a little margin of error.

“He got a chance to say hi to everyone and I think he did have a little speech or something like that,” Martinez said. “But when it was my turn to take a picture with him, I clearly, clear as day, remember telling him I’m either going to be fighting for you one day or I’ll be playing for the New York Yankees.”

Of course, it doesn’t look like Martinez will be wearing pinstripes anytime soon. However, he is set to try to make it two straight UFC victories this weekend. Although that seems like a wild prediction for a twelve year old to make and now see come true, Martinez points out that fighting is in his blood, and this was always likely.

“I’m Filipino-Hawaiian, and Hispanic – that’s like the two best fighting bloods,” he laughed. “So, of course, it’s almost destined for me and meant for me to fight.”

Mana Martinez welcomes Ronnie Lawrence to the UFC this weekend as part of the early prelims of UFC 271. The prelims kick off at 6pm EST.

You can hear the entire audio of this interview at 30:51.