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Rocco Martin doesn’t want to fight his teammates but the UFC title matters most to him

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UFC on FOX 18 Weigh-ins

Rocco Martin has always dreamed of being UFC champion and the next step towards that goal is beating former title contender Demian Maia this weekend at UFC Fight Night from Minnesota.

Already riding a four fight win streak in the division, Martin could establish himself even further if he could dispatch the 41-year old veteran, who is 8-3 over his past 11 fights with his only losses coming to current champion Kamaru Usman, former champion Tyron Woodley and former interim champion Colby Covington.

Following his last win, Martin asked the UFC to give him a top 15 ranked opponent and he wanted to compete close to home at the upcoming card in Minnesota. Both wishes were granted, which is why he is looking at this fight as a crossroads for his career if he hopes to make a serious push into title contention by 2020.

“I think this is a fight that I have to win,” Martin said when speaking to MMA Fighting. “No matter what I have to win this fight. I think Demian Maia is starting to slow down but he’s still very dangerous.

“It’s definitely a must win and it’s a huge spotlight that can help catapult me into the top 10 and get me to where I want to be.”

Martin views Maia as the ultimate measuring stick for this division considering the only people who have beaten him recently are the champions and former champions at 170 pounds.

Maia also represents a particularly interesting challenge because the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt is one of the nastiest grapplers in the sport, who never hides his strategy to look for the takedown and then seek out a submission.

“I’m here to be the world champion. If I can’t stop Demian Maia’s takedowns, how am I going to stop Colby? How am I going to stop Usman? How am I going to stop Woodley?” Martin said. “So that’s where I’m measuring. I’m not saying he’s not one of the best grapplers but he’s not the best wrestler. He’s a very good wrestler but if I can’t stop his takedowns, how am I going to stop those guys?

“And my goal is to be the world champ, so this is a great spot, a measuring stick to see how my takedown defense is and build off that.”

If Martin can beat Maia, he would be in a prime position to challenge one of the fighters in the upper echelon of the welterweight division in his next fight, which is exactly where he wants to be.

“It’s a great spot to catapult me into the top 10 and really make a push at that title run,” Martin said.

Now if there’s an obstacle haunting Martin in his pursuit of UFC gold, it’s the fact that he could soon join the top 10 rankings at welterweight where three of his teammates are already currently seeded.

Covington as the former interim champion is at the top of the list with Jorge Masvidal about to battle Ben Askren at UFC 239 and Santiago Ponzinibbio rounding out the group as he looks to build on his current seven fight win streak.

It makes the training room at American Top Team in Florida arguably the best place to prepare for the best of the best in the UFC’s welterweight division but with potentially four of the top 10 fighters at 170 pounds under one roof, it makes it awfully hard for them to avoid each other.

Martin acknowledges the possibility that a victory over Maia may thrust him into a situation where he’s jockeying for position against someone he calls a friend or at worst a teammate but that’s a problem they all knew could be coming if everybody kept on winning.

“I feel like there’s no better way to prepare for someone than to just train with them. I told them all, I’m here to be the champion. Ideally, I don’t want to fight those guys unless they’ve got the title belt but my goal is to be the champion. If you’ve got the belt, I’m coming for you,” Martin explained.

“I don’t care if you’re my teammate, my brother, I’m here to be the world champ.”

Martin has spent a lot of time in his current training camp working alongside Covington, who is a former All-American wrestler with a win over his next opponent. Those sessions together have been invaluable to his preparation but Martin knows there’s a distinct possibility that he’ll be forced to cross paths with Covington as an opponent one day in the future.

“It’s the same thing I told Colby, I’m going to do everything to help these guys win that title but I’m going to be coming for that title at the same time,” Martin said. “They all understand that. We all know there’s so much incentive to being the champion, there’s nothing, no friendship or anything, that’s going to stop you from wanting to be the world champion.

“That’s been my goal from the start. The only reason I wanted to go to the UFC was to be the UFC champion.”

Martin promises if he’s ever forced to face a teammate it would be a tough situation but it’s only business, never personal.

“I think some people need a personal beef to fight. I’m definitely not one of those guys,” Martin said. “It definitely adds a little something extra when you’re training and you don’t really like the guy that much.

“But really my goal has always been the same and they understand that and I know that their goal is to be the champion as well.”