As one of nine siblings, you might assume that Martin Day had to learn to fight growing up in Hawaii, and he won’t deny that.
“I'm the smallest brother,” he said. “Sometimes the runt of the litter comes out the toughest.”
But his vocation in life may have started even further back on his timeline, to the place of his birth.
“I was born in Japan,” said the son of missionaries. “I'm one of nine siblings and most of my siblings were either born in Hawaii or the Philippines. It just so happened that they were in Japan when I was born and my dad always jokes that, 'Martin brought home the spirit of the samurai and martial arts.'”
It’s a cool anecdote, but a coincidental one, as well, and all along, Day embraced the life of a martial artist, beginning a journey at 13 that continues on Saturday when he faces Davey Grant in a UFC 251 bout on Fight Island. And considering that he hasn’t stepped into the Octagon since November 2018, none of the peripheral things matter as much as the actual fight does.
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“Before paychecks came along and all that stuff came along, fighting as an amateur, fighting in Taekwondo tournaments and stuff, why do we do this?” he asks. “I did it because it's fun. It's what I was born to do, it's what I enjoy, I love being in there and competing and I think when we get up to this level sometimes we forget that and lose sight of that a little bit. And that's what I miss the most, just getting in there and competing. And that's what I get to do come July 11th.”
The winding road to Yas Island has been a frustrating one, from injuries that kept him out all of last year to the COVID-19 pandemic that scrapped the March 28 card that saw him scheduled to face Randy Costa, the 31-year-old has displayed the patience of Job in waiting for his return to active duty.
“I just keep myself in the moment,” he said. “People get caught up living in the past or the future, and that's where anxiety comes from, thinking about things that already happened or things that are in the future and out of your control. The only moment we really have control over is right now. So I just stay in that moment and whatever happens, happens. I roll with the punches and take life as it comes. Stuff happened, a couple unfortunate things, but in the grand scheme of things, you never know what can happen. One thing affects so many things down the road. As the champ (Max Holloway) would say, it is what it is.”
Day will be on the same card as his teammate Holloway this weekend, so that removes some of the stress of being far from home, and as far as that part of it goes, Day, Holloway and all of the Hawaiian UFC contingent are more than used to long trips from the island for work.
“My first handful of pro fights were in Hawaii,” said Day. “Most of the time after that, I was traveling all over the place. Even our closest neighbors on the west coast over in the U.S. is a pretty good flight, so I've been flying all over my whole career, and I'm used to it. I've been nowhere as far as Abu Dhabi, so that's gonna be different, but flying's part of it when you live in Hawaii.”
And that arduous aspect of the fight game hasn’t made him waver in the slightest when it comes to continuing to do this.
“This is what I always wanted to do,” he said. “I can't see myself doing anything else and I don't even want to try to see myself doing anything else. This is what I do.”
So it is true that fight night is the payoff for everything else?
“Fight night's the fun part,” Day confirms. “There's a lot of enjoyable parts; I love to train, I love the process, all that can be fun. But all that can be real hard too. And so fight night, you go in there, have fun and show everything you've been working on and all that good stuff and have a good time.”
Martin Day has been waiting far too long to have a good time. On Saturday, the wait is over, and frankly, he doesn’t care if it’s Davey Grant or Francis Ngannou in there with him; this bantamweight is going to be smiling.
“At this point in my life, I just want to fight, I want to get back in there,” he said. “It's been a little bit too long for me, so I'm just super excited to get back in there and mix it up. At this point, they could put whoever in front of me and I'm ready to go."
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