Few teenagers possess the drive and commitment required to initiate an athletic career sparked from childhood interests. VCU sophomore and amateur Mixed Martial Arts fighter Angelica Martinez is one of those athletes who went the extra mile early on in life.
“I was 14 when I was watching UFC and I thought ‘there’s no reason I can’t do this’,” Martinez said. “I remember watching a documentary on John Jones and he’s been my role model. So after I watched the documentary I told my Mom, ‘this is it. I want to do this’ and then that weekend I started doing Tae Kwon Do.”
Martinez, 19, has fought in the Virginia MMA circuit since she was 16-years-old. The Prince George’s County native is 3-2 at the amateur level and holds the Sprawl’ N’ Brawl women’s strawweight (115lbs) title belt. Martinez said she encourages other young athletes, specifically fighters, to follow in her footsteps and fearlessly pursue their passion.
“If you want to be in the olympics or play a collegiate sport, you have to commit pretty early. But a lot of MMA fighters start when they’re 18,” Martinez said. “That’s what’s beautiful about this sport, that you can jump into it whenever. You don’t have to do it your whole life. And if you’re good, you can go places.”
Martinez has certainly gone places. She is ranked 63 out of 297 active United States Southeast women, and 13 of 62 active Virginia women, according to Tapology.com. Her trainer, Danny Vidal, owns RVA MMA. Martinez said it was their close bond that brought her to VCU.
“I had my first fight when I was sixteen and I lost that fight, but Danny was the coach of the girl that I fought and he asked me to come train with him,” Martinez said. “So that’s why I ended up at VCU.”
Aside from Vidal’s heavy influence on her development as a fighter, Martinez indicated his willingness to network for her has been key in getting her MMA career off the ground.
“He’s a third-degree black-belt, so he knows a lot, but he also knows a lot of people,” Martinez said. “That’s been really helpful, we’ve had a lot of coaches at the gym and now that I’ve had a few fights he’ll send me to other gyms. He’ll say ‘go train with them’ so I’ve got to meet a lot of new people through him.”
Having kick-started her MMA career at such a young age, Martinez struggles to maintain a typical college lifestyle while accommodating her training schedule.
“I miss out on the social aspect of college and don’t have as much time to spend with friends and family,” Martinez said. “But I’m fortunate enough to have understanding and supportive people behind me. I also drink a lot of coffee.”
Martinez said she prides herself on her stand-up striking ability, but she has been working to improve her ground-game. Her extensive reach and powerful strikes have proven potent weapons for her in the ring, she said she realizes the need to develop her all-around game en route to becoming a professional fighter.
“Since I came from Tae Kwon Do I’m used to a lot of kicking, so that’s where my base is,” Martinez said. “I’m more comfortable striking. I wrestled in high school and I do jiu-jitsu so I have some ground experience but I would still much rather stand up.”
After losing the first two fights of her career, Martinez burst onto the Virginian MMA scene by reeling off three consecutive victories.
Martinez defeated Nicole Houston by submission in the first round of a flyweight (125lb) bout to earn her first win. The momentum carried into her next fight, where Martinez defeated Tara Graff in the catchweight (117lb) division by TKO in the second round.
Martinez captured her first belt in her fifth fight on April 23 against Lindsey MacMhaolain of the strawweight (115lb) division, going the full three rounds to win by majority decision.
Martinez has not fought since the title bout. She was scheduled to defend her title in July until the card was pushed back, and she now plans to pursue the strawweight belt for Revolution Fight Series. She is scheduled to go toe-to-toe with Lateesha Mohl on Saturday, Sept. 24 at the Shingleton Gym of Shenandoah University in Winchester, VA.
Martinez hopes to boast a 4-2 career amateur record and two title belts just a week after her nineteenth birthday. Well on her way to a successful career in mixed martial arts, she said that accolades and earnings are the least of her concerns.
“I plan to definitely be professional before I graduate from college, and I dream of one day being in the UFC. I want to not only make it there, but make a name for myself. I don’t care about money, I just want to be respected as one of the best in the world.”
Zach is a junior pursuing a dual degree in print journalism and English. A proud Norfolk-ian, he enjoys long walks on the beach, English literature of the romantic period and anything pertaining to Harry Potter or baseball. Zach an avid Red Sox and Patriots fan who can usually be found working at the Student Media Center or running along the James.