Lopez Out, Martinez Steps in to Face Riddle at UFC 143

By Tristen Critchfield Jan 30, 2012
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- While eating dinner last Thursday night, Henry Martinez received the phone call of a lifetime.

On the other end was manager Jahani Curl, informing the Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts product that his Octagon debut was going to come in a little more than a week at UFC 143 against Matt Riddle. Martinez, just five days removed from the eighth victory of his professional career, didn’t know what to do with himself.

“Since the day I started training I was hoping for that call to come,” 28-year-old Martinez (Pictured) told Sherdog.com on Monday. “Obviously you know it’s not going to come right away when you start. You know there’s gonna be a lot of hard work behind it, but that’s what everybody wants. You want to be on that stage.”

Riddle was originally scheduled to face Wanderlei Silva pupil Jorge Lopez on Saturday’s card, but Lopez was forced to withdraw due to injury. The UFC officially announced the change on Monday.

“Henry has a great record (8-1), and he’s put together some great wins,” said trainer Greg Jackson. “It’s nice to have the Jackson’s fight show be a springboard to get to the UFC.”

Martinez last competed on Jan. 21 in the co-main event of Jackson’s MMA Series 7, where he submitted Serial Boxe representative Ali Hanjani with a reverse triangle choke in the second round. It was the fourth consecutive win for Martinez, who will move up from lightweight to welterweight to face Riddle. He has also competed at featherweight, falling to Wilson Reis at Bellator 2 in his lone career setback. The quick turnaround suits Martinez just fine.

“It really helps when you fight back-to-back like that. You get those nerves again if you have too much downtime between your fights,” he said.

A cast member of Season 7 of “The Ultimate Fighter,” Riddle has lost his last two fights, dropping unanimous decisions to Sean Pierson and Lance Benoist. All eight of the Pennsylvanian’s bouts have come with the UFC, with his last victory coming against fellow “TUF” alumnus DaMarques Johnson at UFC Live 2 in 2010.

Martinez doesn’t expect to be fazed by the spotlight when he finally steps into the Octagon for the first time on Saturday night.

“When I’m actually fighting, it’s almost like I’m in a room with the person I’m fighting and that’s it. I’m oblivious to the things that are going on outside the cage,” he said.

Going down Feb. 4 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, UFC 143 is headlined by an interim welterweight title bout between Carlos Condit and Nick Diaz. Other featured attractions include a heavyweight showdown between Fabricio Werdum and Roy Nelson, as well as a welterweight clash between Josh Koscheck and Mike Pierce.

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