Photographs courtesy of Richie Martinez
Our one-on-one with local San Diego fighter “Boogeyman” Richie Martinez as he prepares for his debut fight on Titan FC 30, Friday, September 26.
The amount of people in the world who can turn a hobby into a passion, a passion into a career, and a career into a legacy are few and far between. There is no way to put a number to this statistic, but I would venture to guess that if you asked ten random people on the street whether they truly do what they love, the amount who answer “yes” would be somewhere between zero and four. And four is a reach.
As someone who is doing their best to answer “yes” to that very question, it was my pleasure to sit down with one local San Diego fighter who epitomizes the cliché “do what you love and you will never work a day in your life.”’
If you don’t know “Boogeyman” Richie Martinez (3-0) by now, you should. And after this Friday, September 26 (tune into CBS Sports Network Friday, September 26 at 7:00 pm PT for Titan FC 30 live from the Cedar Park Center in Cedar Park, Texas), you may find yourself feverishly searching for videos of his fights to learn more about the man who turned his love for breakdancing into a career in mixed martial arts.
Martinez, a native of Los Angeles, who spent time all over Southern California before finding a home in Oceanside, holds a 3-0 professional MMA record with San Diego MMA outfit Xplode Fight Series (XFS), and earlier this year signed a contract to fight with Titan FC, which has gained a reputation for being a top tier MMA organization and feeder system to the UFC. Martinez will make his Titan debut Friday, September 26 as he takes on battle-tested fighter Leville Simpson (4-1-0).
While the importance of his debut fight with Titan FC lingers, and the excitement to get back in the cage is at the forefront of his mind, Martinez is calm, collected, and excited for the future ahead of him. To understand who Martinez is as a person and a fighter, you must go back nearly 15 years, when unbeknownst to him a career inside the cage would begin with a radio and a beat.
“I started martial arts 3 years ago. I started with Jiu-Jitsu. I adapted to the sport really fast because of my passion for breakdancing,” Martinez tells me during our interview.
Breakdancing? Jiu-Jitsu? Mixed Martial Arts? An unlikely path maybe, but when dissected in more detail, it becomes a path with an end in sight. And like most things in life, it took someone else to lead Martinez on the most direct path to success.
After attending a Gracie Nationals tournament in Los Angeles to watch his brother Geovanny compete, and excel, Martinez’ thirst for Jiu-Jitsu was born and the path in front of him opened.
“It was my brother who actually got me into Jiu-Jitsu. He participated in a blue belt division as a white belt and he submitted everyone. I was amazed. He was only at it for a few months too. Once I saw that I wanted to do it,” Martinez explains.
Like any bond between brothers, competition typically forces one another to continuously surpass the other. That is a basic fact of having a brother. This fact was no different for the Martinez brothers who already had been competing with each other as “b-boys” for over 10 years. But with competition comes respect. And for these two, the competition drives them while the respect keeps them wanting more.
And you wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Geovanny was the man behind Martinez’ nickname that morphed into a character and ultimately a personality. “My brother actually gave me the name ‘Boogeyman.’ And it stuck. It was a name, then it became a character and now it’s just me,” Martinez explains.
Before his days on the mat, drilling, rolling, and learning the harmonious art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, “Boogeyman” Richie Martinez found himself on a sidewalk, in the streets and surrounded by others who were there to observe a tall, lengthy kid, with a 15” Mohawk breakdancing with a group of friends. The group of youngsters, who adopted the name “The Freakshow,” was a brotherhood that had one goal: be the best “b-boys” in the neighborhood.
“My brother and I created ‘The Freakshow’ about 13 years ago. We wanted a crew that was like a brotherhood and that is how ‘The Freakshow’ started. We all grew up together and are so close. We travelled together, lived together, and did what we love,” Martinez explains.
Little did Martinez know at the time that the skillset he was developing as a young kid just having fun with his brothers would be paramount to establishing a strong foundation in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, one of the most difficult, demanding, and beautiful martial arts.
“Breakdancing was the gateway to Jiu-Jitsu for me,” Martinez confidently states. “It gave me the movement, strength, and physique that translate well into martial arts. Without that I wouldn’t be where I am this fast. I learned everything really fast and honestly I owe the foundation of my martial arts career to breakdancing,” he adds.
As a legitimate “b-boy,” Martinez was able to transition from breakdancing, which requires endurance, agility and strength, to Jiu-Jitsu, which includes those three traits coupled with intelligence and patience. According to Martinez, all of these traits are important, but there is one trait that can separate you from the competition in both martial arts and breakdancing.
“Flexibility is the trait that crosses over between Jiu-Jitsu and breakdancing the most to me,” Martinez tells me during our interview. “You’re moving in different ways that others cannot, that is Jiu-Jitsu,” he adds.
But what about the transition from one form of martial arts, such as Jiu-Jitsu, to mixed martial arts, which covers all forms of grappling, striking, and wrestling?
“The transition to MMA was tough, but I trained hard to get up to speed. When I was breakdancing, it was always about being on the ground, which translated well to Jiu-Jitsu. Striking is a whole new world, but there are still things I can draw from,” Martinez explains.
Luckily for Martinez, breakdancing doesn’t start or end with the dancer on his back, hands or shoulders. Like all sports, it starts on the feet. This fact is no different in MMA. “Even when you are standing in a fight, you need good footwork. And that is dancing. When you are boxing, you need good footwork. With Muay Thai, same thing. Dancing is using patterns. Different steps. Different counts. Same thing in fighting.”
If you follow Martinez on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, then you know he is a man who dedicates himself to his craft, whether it be working on breakdancing or training for a fight. Add in the fact that Martinez started training martial arts later than most and you can understand why it appears as if he eats, sleeps, and lives at the gym.
“I started training at 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu in Vista. I would drive to Los Angeles once a week to take classes at the 10th Planet location with Eddie [Bravo] just to catch up,” he explains.
Similar to breakdancing, Martinez was already a creature of habit. With the basic skills in place, Martinez recognized the parallels between his days of a “b-boy” and his future as a fighter.
“My goal was to learn one move and just repeat it over and over and over. It is all about repetition in this sport. Repetition is key. Sometimes you only need a few moves, but if you drill those same moves over and over until you perfect them, then you can be successful,” Martinez explains.
As a competitive person, Martinez was infatuated with the possibility of making the transition to Jiu-Jitsu and knew that in order to be successful, it would take 100% commitment. As was with his days as a “b-boy,” Martinez prepared himself mentally for what lay ahead and understood that “the grind,” as he calls it, would be paramount to making the endeavor a success.
“The one word to describe this journey is grinding. I have been grinding my heart out for this. It’s been a short journey, but it has been intense. I feel like I belong here,” Martinez explains.
Train With the Best…Become the Best…
One of the most understated facts of mixed martial arts is that it is an individual sport. While the hardcore MMA fans understand the importance of having a good team surrounding a fighter, and the coaches and trainers in the industry rely on elite competition to prepare their fighters for battle, an average fan or casual observer who tunes into an MMA event periodically may not understand what a team atmosphere brings to the sport.
When the cage door closes, the fight becomes a one-on-one battle only supported by the verbal instruction from a corner and the mental capacity of the fighter themselves. It is the preparation leading up to a fight, the emotional support from a team and wisdom supplied by a coach who has been there before that creates a framework for success in MMA. This is something Martinez truly appreciates and in fact, is a reason that led him to central San Diego to train.
“S.D. Combat Academy came about in a weird way. I actually fought one of the guys from the team, who is now a training partner, in my second amateur fight. It was such an intense fight afterwards I was like, ‘man I have to go train with those guys,’” Martinez explains. “I ended up reaching out to Manolo [Hernandez] and started training MMA with them which was the best thing I could’ve done,” he adds.
In addition to training with S.D. Combat Academy and Team Hurricane Awesome, Martinez always has a home at 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu, which was founded by world renowned Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt Eddie Bravo.
“Eddie Bravo and I are super cool. I talk to him about once a day. He’s a great guy. He is a mentor, friend and a brother,” Martinez explains.
It was under Bravo’s tutelage that Martinez established his foundation on the mat, earning a belt in less than three years and taking the next step to becoming a fixture on the MMA landscape.
“I got my brown belt in less than three years. That is really fast. Some people maybe thought I didn’t deserve it. But once you roll with me you will understand,” Martinez explains.
After thoroughly dissecting the physical and mental skills required to be successful on the dance floor and inside the cage, you may be surprised to know that there is one more key to success in the eyes of Martinez. It has been an underlying theme to this story and one that has helped him excel in all of his endeavors: Team. Or family. To Martinez, they are one in the same.
“We are all a family. Between 10th Planet, Team Phalanx, Team Hurricane Awesome, and S.D. Combat Academy, I train with some of the best athletes around. Some of these fighters will be champions. I can’t wait until we all get there together. And we will,” Martinez explains with confidence.
“Boogeyman” Richie Martinez fights in 4 days at Titan FC 30, live from Cedar Park, Texas on CBS Sports Network and he couldn’t be more pleased with the opportunity.
“Titan came to me with some good ideas and they presented the best opportunity for me. I had goals of being in a top 5 organization before the year started. Thankfully, Titan was the one I wanted to fight for and they signed me. This is my first fight with Titan and I am really excited,” Martinez excitingly explains.
If this is the first you heard of “Boogeyman” Richie Martinez, then I truly hope this article opened your eyes. The intent of this article was to demonstrate the importance of doing what you love. And doing what you can to be the best at whatever your passion may be.
For Martinez, his passion sparked a journey with an uncertain end. A journey that has just begun, regardless of where it truly started.