Martin ‘.50 Cal’ Stapleton is a fast rising MMA fighter who is definitely getting better and better the more he fights. He currently has a 12-1 professional record, which includes three submission and four TKO/KO victories. Anyone who steps into the cage with him is setting themselves up for one tough night as he is competent where-ever the fight goes. Not just good in the cage, Martin has also served as a Royal Marine Commando.
With so much experience behind him it’s easy to see how he can be tested to the limit and know there is so much yet to come. So how did he find his way into the martial arts? To begin with Martin dabbled in different areas of Martial arts but his journey only really got going when he met some influential figures and this really set him on his current path:
“I did a little bit of Boxing and Thai but really my Martial Arts journey started when I met the Butlin brothers. They were the first guys to really get me enthusiastic about it because everything they did was realistic so it grabbed my attention straight away”.
This got him involved in the world of MMA but his natural talent for the sport is what keeps him going strong. Sometimes we all stumble onto things we are good at but it can take us quite a while to know this is what we want to do. So when did Martin first realise that MMA is something that he could make a living out of?
“(laughs) I still don’t think I can make a living out of it! Have you seen what fighters get paid in UKMMA! (laughs). On a serious note, I have great sponsors in a company called Cross-deck who are specialist in the security industry and in helping ex servicemen transition into civilian life, if it wasn’t for their support I’d be struggling now as they helped me set up the gym and get all the qualifications I needed etc. check them out at www.cross-deck.co.uk“.
To have the support behind him shows how much his world outside the cage has helped him. Serving your country shows dedication and commitment to something you believe in. He has put himself out on the front line, learnt many lessons and loved every moment of it. It has also taught Martin many lessons one of which can be transferred when you get into the cage:
“I loved every minute of everyday I spent in the Marines and if I had my life again I would do exactly the same! Being surrounded by professionalism of that caliber day in day out makes a person able be able to achieve anything they put their mind to! The most important lesson I learned in the Marines is to never, ever shout the words “Put Me” in a room full of PTI’s as the pain that follows will surpass anything you can imagine! (laughs)”.
Not only has he represented his country on the front line, he has been able to do it in the world of mixed martial arts. He will be known to many people for being a competitor on The Ultimate Fighter: UK vs USA. The series was coached by Michael Bisping and Dan Henderson. It is quite an experience for anybody. He got onto the show by defeating fellow Brit Dan James but lost out in the quarter finals to American Cameron Dollar. However he got the chance to train day in day out with Michael Bisping, his coaching team and some good UK fighters like Ross Pearson and Andre Winner. Training with Bisping for six weeks was great for Martin’s career but he also learnt a bigger lesson himself, which he has taken on in his career.
“Mike was a great coach and he’s always good banter and we learned loads off him but the biggest lesson I took away from TUF was never, ever focus on the things that come after the fight! What I mean is, I was lying in bed at night imagining what it would be like to have a UFC contract etc when what I should’ve been doing was lying in bed at night thinking about my fight! Nowadays I treat fight night like its my last night on earth, win or die. I don’t plan a night out afterwards or even take clothes to change into. I turn up for the fight, that’s it. Anything afterwards is just a bonus”.
This lesson has paid dividends for him as he is currently riding an eight fight win streak, with wins over tough opposition like Jason Cooledge and Tommy Maguire. For a lot of fighters riding a big win streak can create quite a bit of pressure on them, especially when they go into future fights. The key ingredient to Martin’s success is all about what he wants to achieve in the game:
“I could splurt out a load of obvious superlatives here like the usual “dedication…” etc but it really comes down to this; I want to be he best LW Fighter on the planet and I won’t give up until I am! Simple!”
He is certainly pushing himself up the ladder in the lightweight rankings and it won’t be soon before he gets another crack at the UFC. In his 13 fight professional career he has only lost once and that was to a former UFC fighter, the UK’s own, Paul Sass. Sass is known for his devastating submissions and Martin learnt a valuable lesson from that fight:
“That I needed to work more on my triangle defence (laughs)”
A lot of people have fallen to be a victim of Sass’s triangle choke and Martin definitely pushed himself further and further after that fight. In his last outing in December 2012, he took part in the Cage Contender – Fight Starts tournament. The tournament provided fighters to possibly have the chance to fight three times in one night. It was something Martin did and he took home the crown at the end of the night. How did he feel about the tournament victory and did he have to change anything in his training?
“It was an amazing feeling at the time but I don’t think about that anymore because its in the past and I believe if you dwell on past success you take your eye of the present! Training wise we just trained hard as per usual and Colin mixed up some different sparring sessions to simulate the tournament format”.
The training paid off for the fight and the confidence the tournament brought sets him up for his next fight, which is at OMMAC 17, on 1st June 2013. OMMAC is one of the best shows in England he takes on Alexei Roberts in what is set to be one of the best fights on the card. It is something he is looking forward too. So how much does he know about Alexei and how good is it to be fighting back on OMMAC?
“I haven’t watched Alexei’s fights but I know he’s got some good wins by KO and that he has beaten 2 BJJ black belts so I have respect for him as a fighter and I always enjoy fighting on OMMAC as its not too far from home I usually take a good crowd with me!”
Training will be on going for the next fight and it is always interesting to see how a fighter prepares for each fight and what typical training is like. For Martin he liked to over-see his normal training but for his next fight he is putting his faith in the people he trusts.
“I do my training at my gym and at Kaobon and I also spend a lot of time training with the Sinclair brothers, and I do all my Strength and Conditioning at my gym where myself and Dave Green programme my training schedule. For this camp I’ve given a lot more control over to Dave because I felt like I was overlooking certain things and its better to have someone you trust that can look at you as an athlete objectively and bring up your weaknesses”.
Team Kaobon is known as one of the top gyms in England. With some great fighters involved in the gym (Paul Sass, Andy Ogle and Terry Etim to name a few) it is a great place to pick up new skills and learn from some of the best in the business. Training there not only helps Martin, he really enjoys it:
“Training at Kaobon is brilliant because there are so many top level guys there that there is always someone who can kick my ass at something! Say we’re doing stand up there’s a good handful of lads that are top level Thai Boxers, or if we’re doing ground work there’s always guys that can tie me up in knots. Iron sharpens iron and at Kaobon there’s a lot of iron!”
Training at Kaobon is helping Martin just as much as training and running his own gym: The Full Contact Performance Centre in Rochdale. There he has the opportunity to pick up new skills but also pass on the vast knowledge he has picked up on his MMA journey so far. The gym hasn’t been open that long but Martin has a strong team coming through.
“We opened FCPC last March so we’ve been open just over a year now. I’ve got a strong team of Amateur Fighters coming through the ranks now that have started competing in the local shows, mainly on FCC in Bolton. I could drop a few names in here but I don’t want to add any pressure to my lads this early in their Careers as I have really high hopes for a good few of them”.
His career has had many highs to date and is still on the rise. Not only that he is very experienced in the world of MMA and trains with some of the best. So what is his career highlight to date and how does it feel to actually get in the cage and fight?
“I’d have to say the CCFS Tournament but like I said earlier, that’s in the past and I’ve got my eyes on a lot more for the future. It’s hard to describe really. I don’t feel scared or any of that but there are obviously nerves, but I believe nerves are a good thing. Strong self belief overcomes nerves every time and that is something I have got a lot of”.
If anything in life and in the crazy world of MMA you don’t know what is round the corner. Anything can happen but with a strong self belief you can tackle anything that comes your way and Martin Stapleton is one of these people who will tackle anyone and anything head on. He has had quite a career to date with many high’s and the chance to learn from the low moments. So be prepared to hear his name for quite a while as he continues on his quest to be the best lightweight in a while.
Photo Credits: Martin Stapleton and Team Kaobon gym
Special Thanks to Martin for taking the time to answer my questions