Marthin Hamlet is entering just the 10th fight of his career and he’s already on the cusp of achieving something no one from his country ever has.
With a win against Cezar Ferreira in the PFL playoffs on Friday, Hamlet will advance to the finals of the league’s 2021 light heavyweight tournament for a shot at a championship and a $1 million prize. Should he win the whole thing, he will become the first fighter from Norway to win a major North American MMA championship.
The Nordic country has certainly seen success in the sport in the past, with former lightweight standout Joachim Hansen winning titles in Japan’s Shooto and DREAM promotions, and current middleweight contender Jack Hermansson—a Swedish-born Norwegian teammate of Hamlet’s—having won the Cage Warriors title before later joining the UFC.
But conquering a U.S.-based promotion is unprecedented.
“To me it means everything because I have 25 years in combat sports, wrestling and MMA, so I feel like to succeed I really need this title and this PFL championship,” Hamlet told MMA Fighting. “It’s only two fights away. Two fights, it’s not much, you know? The finals will be in October, so it can happen so fast. The dream comes true.”
Hamlet is a lifelong Greco Roman wrestler who is still relatively new to MMA. He made his pro debut in 2017 and won his first five fights before running into future UFC fighter Modestas Bukauskas. The two fought for a vacant Cage Warriors light heavyweight title in June 2019 and it was Bukauskas who emerged as the victor in the fourth round.
Since joining the PFL, Hamlet has only seen his and the league’s reputation grow.
“PFL is a huge organization,” Hamlet said. “Before I went in the PFL, everyone knows UFC here in Norway. But now that I have competed and I’m in the semifinal, now people are talking about the PFL and it’s a big thing here as well as the UFC now.”
Hamlet staked his claim to a playoff spot with an emphatic arm-triangle choke submission of veteran Dan Spohn in April. The second-round finish earned Hamlet five points in the standings, enough for him to make the postseason despite suffering a loss to Cory Hendricks in his second regular season bout.
Making things difficult for the PFL roster ahead of their first fights was the 17-day isolation required of them to compete in New Jersey due to COVID-19 precautions. The isolation itself didn’t bother Hamlet much as he was uniquely suited to it, but he admits that when he was unable to return home between his first and second league bouts, the time away from hsi family took a toll on him.
“I’ve been isolated my whole life with the sport of wrestling,” Hamlet said. “Training camps in Eastern Europe, traveling the whole world. It was training camp for three weeks, then home two weeks, again three weeks out. The whole time it was just training and sleeping and training and sleeping. So I have no problem with that.
“What made me a little frustrated between the fights was staying 10 weeks without my family. That was very hard. I really wanted to go home between the fights, but then I need to stay in the U.S. so I was a little mentally tired before my second fight because of that. … I was 10 weeks without my kids and they are just two and four, so that affected me a lot.”
Hamlet doesn’t want to dwell on any excuses as he heads into Saturday’s PFL 9 event in Hollywood, Fla. Even though he was down after losing to Hendricks, he told himself that has to learn to move on from his losses as easily as he moves on from his wins.
What other lessons Hamlet brings to the cage will be revealed on fight night, though he’s hoping to show off a more well-rounded game after having recently trained with heavyweight star Alistair Overeem. Combined with his extensive Greco Roman background, Hamlet is supremely confident as he prepares for an opponent who he believes has a lot more to worry about.
“I have huge respect for [Ferreira],” Hamlet said. “He’s been in the game for a long time and he also beat my teammate Jack Hermansson in 2016, so I feel like he’s a very good opponent. I’m really excited to meet him in the cage and I also think that he’s at the end of his career, so he has big pressure on him as well. He’s got some losses before this fight and so I think that he will feel more pressure about this fight.”