It’s safe to say, 2018 went according to plan for Anthony Rocco Martin.
After making the decision to move up to welterweight and start training at American Top Team, the 29-year-old went a perfect 3-0 in the octagon last year. The result was a new UFC contract and a ton of momentum. The next step this year is making that jump into the Top 15 and emerging as a contender. That’s why “Rocco” was unhappy when the UFC matched him up with Sergio Moraes at UFC on ESPN+ 4.
“I was trying to look for that Top 15 [opponent] right away.” Martin told MMANews. “I want to start knocking those guys out and working my way up the ladder. Sergio is one of the quietest 8-2-1 [records] in the UFC. He’s not very active, but honestly I think I’m way better than him. I don’t see any area where he can beat me when I fight my fight.”
Martin (15-4) has gone on an underrated run in the UFC the last three years amassing a 6-1 record. This after starting his UFC career 1-3 and was nearly released from the promotion in 2016. The change to American Top Team has been a positive one and one of the key aspects is the amount of high-level fighters he gets to work with on a daily basis.
“Micah Miller has been down here, he’s got a rubberguard game. I’ve also been training with Thiago Moises and I’ve been sparring with Albert Tumenov and Johnny Eblen. It’s been a good camp. All I do is takedown defense, I must be Anderson Silva because the last four fights is striking and defending takedowns.”
One of the major topics in MMA has been his ATT teammate Colby Covington being denied a title fight against Tyron Woodley at UFC 235 next month. While Covington is controversial to say the least, Martin supports his teammate and doesn’t think it was right that Kamaru Usman was given the welterweight title fight over him.
“[Colby and I] train together and [I] talk to him and stuff. Obviously it’s just a shitty situation [not fighting for the title]. I think from the sounds of it, if Tyron [Woodley] wins [at UFC 235 against Kamaru Usman] he’ll get that instant title shot. But if Tyron doesn’t win, you never know what’s going to happen. Obviously I think its b**shit, I think he deserves his shot and he should be fighting for the title.”
Heading into March 9 on a three-fight win streak, Martin feels this won’t be a competitive matchup. He’s expecting another finish with the goal of landing a notable opponent in his next bout.
“I honestly think I’m going to knock him out or I really think I can submit him. He thinks his grappling is as good as a lot of people talk about. I think I can easily submit him. I think he’s a great grappler, but I’m a submission specialist. He’s not an MMA grappler, his wrestling is terrible, and his cardio is terrible.”
UFC on ESPN+ 4 takes place March 9 at INTRUST Bank Arena. Former UFC heavyweight champion Junior Dos Santos faces Derrick Lewis in the main event.