UFC Vegas 62’s Jonathan Martinez: The Shy Street Fighter

Jonathan Martinez and Alejandro Perez, UFC Vegas 49
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - FEBRUARY 26: (L-R) Jonathan Martinez kicks Alejandro Perez of Mexico in their featherweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on February 26, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

As Jonathan Martinez prepares to make the walk in the Apex this weekend at UFC Vegas 62, he’ll be doing so a decade (nearly to the date) from his first amateur fight. 30 fights later, he finds himself in the midst of a three-fight win streak and in the co-main event against a legend of the sport. With those ten years behind him, “The Dragon” has spent some time looking back at those very first fights to see just how far he’s come.

“I come from fighting in the streets a lot. [My amateur fights] looked like a little kid going in there and throwing just to throw,” Martinez said. “Now watching myself – it’s more like doing art.”

Street fighting was the origin story for the UFC bantamweight. After being transplanted halfway across the country, he was always looking to get in scraps to let out that anger and frustration.

“I was always fighting at a young age because I didn’t want to be in Texas,” he shared. “I’m originally from California, so I would get in trouble a lot and try to fight everybody.”

However, unlike some of the other names we know that got started in street fighting, the past of Martinez isn’t as well documented. That’s because he self-identifies as a shy person, one who would rarely talk about it. Not only would he not talk about it, he also was too shy to even set up the fights.

“I wouldn’t call them out because I was a little shy person. So I would tell my friends to tell them that I want to fight the next day,” Martinez laughed. “They would set it up, and [the opponent] would say ‘yes’ and tell me. So I’ll be at home doing push-ups, hitting the bag. To me I was getting ready to fight the next day.”

This wasn’t a rare occurrence either. Martinez would be having his friends play Dana White for him all the time – at least until his dad got sick of him getting into trouble.

“I’d usually fight once or twice a week. I remember freshman year, I fought about twenty times. I just kept fighting and fighting. I’d break my hand and I’d just wrap it up and try to fight again,” he said. “I guess my dad got tired of me getting in trouble and so he put me in taekwondo. That’s when I started getting beat up.”

Getting beat up by those who knew more than him was the beginning of a long path. Martinez began to get off the playground and spend more time on the mats. The payoff is what we see today – a man trying to make a run to the top of the division with a bout against Cub Swanson.

That bout will serve as the co-main event of UFC Vegas 62 this Saturday.

You can hear the entire audio of this interview with Jonathan Martinez at 1:23.