Saturday at UFC Fight Night 141 in Beijing, bantamweight Martin Day will step into the legendary UFC Octagon for the first time.
The debut signifies a number of milestone moments in the 30-year-old fighter's life. Not only will it mean his dream has come true, it will symbolize redemption, perseverance, and overcoming adversity.
Growing up in poverty so severe his family was forced to live in a tent for a stretch of time, Day was the seventh of nine children. The Hawaiian doesn’t take the experience for granted, and now he truly appreciates what it means for hard work to finally pay off.
“It’s just a lot of different emotions,” Day said in an interview with FloCombat. “Happiness from just working so hard for so long. It’s everyone’s number-one goal as a fighter. That’s the top if you want to get to that place—to that spot.
“After all the hard work and sacrifices made, it’s an amazing feeling. It’s definitely a lot of happiness for sure.”
MMA fans might remember Day from his fight on the first season of Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series—a bout in which he lost to flyweight Jaime Alvarez.
“That loss was disappointing,” Day said. “We took that fight on incredibly short notice. Like I said, I’m always ready, but the amount of weight that was cut during that fight was pretty high. I think it affected my performance.
“If you take anything away from it all, you’ve got to learn from it. It did light a spark under me, and I did learn a lot. It set me up for those next three fights.”
Following the failed Contender Series bid, Day returned to the Hawaiian regional scene, where he picked up back-to-back wins. With one more win in California, Day was signed to the promotion.
The BJ Penn underling will face a stiff test for his UFC debut in the form of China’s Pingyuan Liu. Despite the fight taking place in Beijing, Day doesn’t see the venue as Liu’s home turf.
“My hometown is in Hawaii, and I train in Hawaii,” Day said. "If his hometown was truly in China, he’d be in China training with his guys. But he’s not. He’s training in Sacramento.
“I’m going to do my best over there to do my best with this foreigner who’s coming in from Sacramento. I’m going to go in there and take what I’ve earned, take what I deserve, and put on a good show while doing it."
For a UFC debutant, Day isn’t rattled by the spotlight. He spoke with confidence when describing how he believes the fight will play out.
“He likes to strike, but he’s going to learn really quick that he’s not going to be able to keep up with the striking,” Day said. “He’s going to fall behind in the striking. He’s going to start to shoot. He’s going to shoot for his life in this one.”