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Jonathan Martinez already beat two of his UFC heroes, Jose Aldo is next: ‘He had his chance’

UFC Fight Night: Martinez v Yanez
Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

There’s a saying: “Never meet your heroes.” But what about beating them up?

On Saturday night at UFC 301, Jonathan Martinez goes up against a third fighter he admired growing up when he faces Jose Aldo in the co-main event. Upon first receiving the offer, Martinez admittedly did a double take — he didn’t realize immediately that he was facing the Jose Aldo, because that Jose Aldo retired back in 2022.

Once he realized it was arguably the greatest featherweight in history and a constant presence among the best fighters at 135 pounds, Martinez shifted his focus toward beating Aldo. In many ways, he felt strong similarities between his upcoming fight and past UFC encounters he shared with Cub Swanson and Thomas Almeida.

“I was actually watching [Jose Aldo] when I was in the eighth, ninthe grade when I was watching the WEC,” Martinez told MMA Fighting. “The same thing watching Cub Swanson. I was sitting on my couch with my parents, my brother, and watching those fights. I never thought I was going to fight them, but here we are.”

Going back even further, Martinez recounted the first time UFC forced him to switch from fan to opponent when tasked with facing one of his favorite fighters.

“This is my third time going against [someone I admired],” Martinez said. “My first time was Thomas Almeida, I was a huge fan of him. I remember I shared on my Instagram that he was going to be a world champ one day when he was coming out of Legacy [FC], he was just beating guys up.

“Then when the name came up, I think it was a short-notice fight and I told my coach we’d take it. I went out there and I beat him. After that, I was like, ‘That was pretty cool.’”

Martinez beat Almeida by decision. Two years later, he chopped down Swanson with leg kicks to earn a Performance of the Night bonus.

He hopes to add Aldo to his win column in similar fashion at UFC 301, because as much as he respects “The King of Rio,” Martinez knows it’s his own time to shine.

“I’m going out there to make a statement to everybody,” Martinez said. “Hopefully get some of his fans too. He had his chance. Now I should have my chance.

“This is going to be real good. Excited I got this opportunity to fight and it’s even better to fight someone in their town. I like that feeling.”

As far as the matchup goes, Martinez won’t give away any secrets for his strategy, but there’s definitely been some noted interest in watching him exchange leg kicks with somebody like Aldo.

During his rise to fame in the WEC and eventually the UFC, Aldo routinely brutalized his opponents with leg kicks, including a memorable performance where he left Urijah Faber with so many bruises that it looked as if Faber was wearing purple pants.

Meanwhile, Martinez has stopped two of his past three opponents with leg kicks, which seemingly sets the stage for him to play lumberjack with Aldo.

But Martinez is quick to point out that he has more in his arsenal than just leg kicks, so don’t expect him to start swinging those just to prove a point because he’s fighting Aldo.

“I’m going to try to mix everything up,” Martinez said. “He’s really good everywhere. I’m going to try to do everything. It’s mixed martial arts. Some fights I throw kicks, some fights I don’t. We’ll see.”

More than anything, Martinez just wants to continue climbing up the ranks at bantamweight, and facing a legend like Aldo helps. He has nothing but admiration for the legendary Brazilian, but Martinez has no problem playing spoiler to Aldo in his home country, in what seems likely to be Aldo’s final appearance in the UFC.

“I am excited for that,” Martinez said. “Honestly just to show my skill and show I do belong in the top five. If I go get him out of there, it’s going to bring a lot of eyes. So that’s my goal — to get him out of there.”


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