Jess Martinez has a 12-year-old pit bull named La Máquina, Spanish for “The Machine.”
Like dog, like owner.
Throughout his combat-sports career, Martinez has performed with machine-like consistency, though with human (or, perhaps, pit bull) ferocity. A four-time state wrestling champion at St. Michael’s High (2009-12), he’s also a six-time international Brazilian Jiujitsu champion.
As an MMA fighter, he was 7-0 as an amateur and is 2-0 as a professional. He’ll seek to make it 3-0 on Saturday, when he faces Clovis’ Roy Saucedo (2-0) in the featherweight main event of Jackson’s MMA Series XXIV at Buffalo Thunder Resort & Casino in Pojoaque.
Saucedo has an impressive résumé of his own. He trains in Clovis at Force of One, with coach Eric Suan and accomplished pro lightweight Harvey Park (9-1).
One of Saucedo’s pro victories came against Ernesto Salvidrez, like Martinez a Santa Fean and a former state wrestling champion, on Jackson’s MMA Series XXIII in October.
At age 24, Martinez is planning a long and successful MMA career. A loss Saturday would not change those plans, but would be a setback he neither wants nor needs.
He knows that, for Saucedo, it’s the same.
“It’s like if we take a loss, it’s basically re-starting everything you’ve done. So I know this fight is important for me and for him.”
Martinez’s involvement in the martial arts began long before his high school days.
“I used to live in Cleveland, Ohio, with my mother, and I was kind of getting bullied there at the time,” he said.
Martinez’s father, himself a martial-arts instructor, got his son started in Brazilian jiujitsu at age 8 or 9.
“Then in fifth grade I started wrestling, and I’ve been doing it ever since.”
Sanchez avails himself of all the combat-sports advantages central and northern New Mexico have to offer:
“I’ve been working a lot on my standup, because I feel that’s the weakest part of my game,” he said. “I work a lot on that with (Santa Fe-area fighters) Angelo Sanchez, Josh Montoya, Tom Pless.”
Sanchez also comes to Albuquerque to work at Luttrell-Yee MMA and at Gracie-Barra BJJ with Roberto “Tussa” Alencar and Rafael “Barata” De Freitas.
“I get to train with a lot of different Jackson’s dudes, too, whenever I want,” he said. “New Mexico’s really molded me into a good fighter.”
How good? That’s the journey, which he’s shared with his beloved La Máquina for half his life.
He works as a personal trainer and a BJJ instructor, financing his dream.
“I’m glad I’m a single young kid and I’m able to do it,” he said. “I want to do it as long as I can.
“I’m gonna ride it out, ride the youth train.”
COWBOY COUNTRY: Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone’s victory on Sunday over Yancy Medeiros in Austin, Texas, was the Jackson-Wink welterweight’s 20th win in UFC competition, tying him for the top spot in that organization’s history with Georges St-Pierre and Michael Bisping.
He ranks third all-time in total UFC fights with 27, behind only Bisping (29) and Jim Miller (28).
UPCOMING: Saturday in Ontario, Calif., Albuquerque bantamweight Tim Sosa (9-5) is scheduled to face Rueben Duran (12-7-1) of Fontana, Calif., on a King of the Cage card. Sosa trains at FIT-NHB.
… Yana Kunitskaya could not have a better resource for her March 3 UFC featherweight title fight against champion Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino (19-1) than Albuquerque’s Holly Holm, Kunitskaya’s Jackson-Wink teammate. Holm lost to Cyborg by unanimous decision in Las Vegas, Nev., on Dec. 30, but she became the first fighter to go five rounds with Cyborg and won two of the five rounds on two official scorecards.
Kunitskaya (10-3), a native of St. Petersburg, Russia, will be making her UFC debut at the same venue, T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nev., at which Holm fought Cyborg.
Jackson-Wink bantamweight John Dodson (19-9) is scheduled to face Brazil’s Pedro Munhoz (15-2) on the Cyborg-Kunitskaya undercard.
… Jackson-Wink flyweight Ray Borg (11-3) is matched against Mexico’s Brandon Moreno (14-4) on UFC 223 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., on April 7.
… J-W teammates Carlos Condit (30-11) and Michelle Waterson (14-6) are booked for UFC on Fox 29 on April 14.
Condit, a welterweight, is matched against Matt Brown (21-16) of Xenia, Ohio. Waterson, a strawweight, is scheduled to face Cortney Casey-Sanchez (7-5) of Phoenix.