Martin Bravo’s demise in the UFC was one that no one saw coming.
The Mexican fighter couldn’t have had a better start in the leading MMA organization on the planet, it was as promising as they come. But he also couldn’t have experienced a worse exit.
Bravo (12-3) debuted for the UFC back in 2016 on the heels of a successful run in the third season of “The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America.” Bravo, who at the time was just 22 years old, bested three opponents during the TUF run to earn a main card slot at UFC Fight Night 98 in his home country of Mexico. He was set to take on fellow finalist Claudio Puelles to see who would be declared the winner of the lightweight tournament.
In just two rounds, Bravo was able to dismantle Puelles to earn a TKO victory. It was the ultimate start to his UFC dream – Bravo debuted with a stoppage win, an undefeated record of 11-0, and the winning trophy for “The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America 3.”
“I went out there, I entered the UFC and to be honest it was really easy for me to get there,” Bravo told MMA Junkie in Spanish. “But I just wasn’t able to maintain myself in the company due to my state of immaturity.”
The high expectations for Bravo quickly came crashing down after his successful UFC debut.
The Mexican fighter was quickly knocked out with a flying knee against short replacement opponent Humberto Bandenay. He then lost a “Fight of the Night” split decision to veteran Alex Caceres. And to cap things off, Bravo was put unconscious by a spinning back first courtesy of Steven Peterson.
The third consecutive defeat, which unfortunately happened to be on his 26th birthday and in Mexico, gave Bravo his walking papers from the company. It was a tough pill to swallow.
“In my mind, I was on the brink of retirement, I was no longer going to fight,” Bravo said.”After I lost, I was really disappointed in myself and I thought this was just not for me. And even others disappoint you, they say you can’t do it and they tell you to retire.”
Combate Global implements fight night bonuses only for COVID-vaccinated athletes
Yazmin Jauregui eyes Combate Global title: ‘It’s time to face ‘Super Mely”
Bravo continued to train out of habit, but had no intentions to fight following his UFC release in 2019. He picked up a job with the Mexican government, as an accountant. Bravo wanted nothing to do with professional fighting. He had suffered a few injuries that took out his motivation to compete and didn’t see it sustainable to keep fighting outside the UFC.
“The truth is that my fire extinguished a little,” Bravo said. “I still trained, it’s always something that’s going to be part of me. I trained all year and then I suffered some injuries and I said I was going to retire and no more MMA. But it’s an addiction, the fire will always be there and at some point, you realize that your passion is worth fighting for.”
On March 7, 2020 – a year and a half after his exit from the UFC – the fire that was dwindling inside of him unexpectedly strengthened in an unexpected place in Rosarito, Mexico.
“I was at a party, that’s when it hit me,” Bravo recalled. “I looked up at the T.V. and there were fights on. It was the UFC (UFC 248), and boom my pupils began dilating, you know. I just stared at the T.V. and I gazed for a bit. I looked at myself – I was wearing a suit and said, ‘Güey (bro), what am I doing here. I’m not this, I’m that. F*ck this, I’m going to fight.’ I said, ‘F*ck it,’ and I quit my job the next week and began training again.”
Unfortunately, the pandemic hit soon after Bravo committed to a return after being years out of competition all while being in his physical prime. But there was no going back, Bravo was determined to pursue his dream once again.
In 2021, Bravo, who had mainly trained at Entram Gym in Tijuana, contacted a friend in California who had connections with Nate Diaz. He wanted to switch things up in his training, and after a few phone calls, Bravo was invited to train with Stockton’s finest.
“Basically my whole career I trained at Entram, but I wanted to do a change in team and I came to train with the Diaz brothers, which was a dream of mine,” Bravo said. “When I started this sport, I always wanted to spar with Nate and Nick and now I’m training with them. It’s a pleasure and a dream come true.”
Bravo signed with Combate Global in August and debuted for the promotion on Sept. 17 – four days from his 28th birthday and two-year anniversary since his final UFC bout.
And in just 69 seconds, Bravo snapped a three-fight losing streak and successfully returned to action with a TKO win over Andrew Whitney in the main event of the Combate Global card. It was a special moment for Bravo and the start of a new journey.
“It’s something that I owed to myself and to the people who have always supported me – they needed to see me with my hand raised,” Bravo said. “I got the knockout I promised my people and now it’s time to enjoy what’s to come.
“I just want to do great things in this sport, that’s all I think about now. I want to be a gladiator and nothing else. I’m here representing my people and we’re going to do big things.”
Alex Caceres def. Martin Bravo at TUF 27 Finale: Best photos
view 15 images