Mixed-martial arts: Announcer Joe Martinez a rising star
Mixed-martial arts announcer Joe Martinez. FOR THE MIAMI HERALD
Photo BY ARMANDO ALVAREZ
Growing up a boxing fan I got accustomed to two voices in the ring: Michael Buffer and Jimmy Lennon Jr. Time and time again the words ''Let's get ready to rumble'' and ''It's time'' meant battle was about to commence. Then came the UFC and we were introduced to Bruce Buffer, Michael's brother. For years he has been THE voice of MMA, but now Bruce has company.
I had heard the name Joe Martinez before. In fact I had seen him as the ring announcer at WEC events on TV, but it wasn't until I covered the first Urijah Faber-Mike Brown fight at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel that I realized this man was one of the best ring announcers I had ever seen and right up there with the aforementioned three.
Martinez, 34, was born in Apple Valley, Calif., and has lived in Southern California his entire life. He has been a public-address announcer the past 14 years, mainly for the San Diego Padres' minor-league affiliate, the Lake Elsinore Storm, a team he still works for. A lifelong boxing fan, Martinez got the opportunity to don a tux and ring-announce for the first time in 2000.
'I was working a college basketball game for Cal-State Fullerton when a guy came up to me and said,
You know what? You should do boxing.' I grew up watching Michael Buffer and Jimmy Lennon Jr. and I would imitate them in the locker room,'' Martinez said.
It was always a passion, but I never thought I'd make a career out of it. A promoter once called me and I did a fight, and after that I did fights for Guilty Boxing on ESPN Deportes and I loved it.''<br /><br />Martinez didn't gain notoriety until he started working for the WEC. He did a show once after being referred by Greg Goossen and fell in love. He told the WEC co-founders he would love to be their ring announcer, but at the time they had a working relationship with Lennon. Martinez thought he had no shot, but took a chance. Two years later . . .<br /><br />''They called me and told me they wanted to use me for their shows. I thought it was a joke,'' Martinez said.
WEC was getting big. UFC had just bought them. UFC is not small-time about anything. For me this was a huge step. I had gone from doing small-time club fights to working for one of the most prestigious organizations. It was nerve-racking signing that contract. It seemed too good to be true. I was getting paid to do something I love. It's surreal and at the same time absurd because I don't think of it as something I should be getting paid for.''<br /><br />Martinez, who's of Mexican and German descent, is now know worldwide in the sport. He takes it in stride. Doesn't see why he should be famous, or why people want to take pictures with him. He enjoys autographing a media credential for a young fan, but finds it funny that people are in awe when they meet, well, an average Joe.<br /><br />''It's fascinating,'' Martinez says with a laugh. 'My father-in-law was at my house once when the cable guy passed by and when he saw a picture of me in the house he said,Wow, that's Joe Martinez the WEC announcer. I'm a big fan.' I met the guy later, and I was like, 'Dude, I'm just like you.' People sometimes recognize the voice when I'm doing the baseball games. I'm happy because that means they're watching, and I'm representing the organization in a classy way. I don't need the celebrity, or anything. I'm stoked to do what I'm doing.''
As the WEC announcer, Martinez gets to see the top fighters in quality fights. Asked who's the best he has seen thus far, Martinez just asked, ''Who do you think?'' He knows who I believe is the best, and he is of similar opinion.
Miguel Torres. I have never seen an athlete in any sport who is on top of their game like Miguel. He is so well-rounded and prepared all the time. He shows no emotion during his fights until it's over, and even then you have to wait until he's out of the zone and winds down. I can't compare him to anyone because there hasn't been anyone like him. He's top=notch.''<br /><br />What's the best fight he's ever witnessed in person?<br /><br />''The one that sticks in my head is Jens Pulver versus Urijah Faber, the first one,'' Martinez said. ''It was at a sold-out ARCO Arena in Sacramento. There was so much hype behind it. Pulver was dropping to 145, where he had never lost. He was the former UFC lightweight champion. He was taking on theCalifornia Kid,'' the hometown fighter, and I felt like this is what it's all about. This was beyond anything I had ever done. Imagine if they fought in their prime. The 'wow' factor really hit me there.''
Martinez is a simple man. He lives with his wife and 1-year-old daughter. He loves sports. He watches games and cheers like the rest of us. He is a journalism major who fell into a gig that he adores, a gig that has earned him money, and like was written before, some celebrity, but if you ask Joe Martinez what he does for a living, he sums it up ever so plainly.
``A college gig I fell in love with and ended up sticking with.''
It's truly what dreams are made of, don't you think?