Mallory Martin sought help to deal with anxiety ahead of first UFC win

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Mallory Martin fought an internal battle long before she faced off with Hannah Cifers inside the octagon.

Following her first UFC victory, a comeback submission win over Cifers at UFC Vegas 8 this past month, Martin spoke to the media about her visible emotions after the fight and why the moment meant so much to her. On a recent episode of What the Heck, the 26-year-old strawweight elaborated further on the circumstances leading up to the Cifers clash, and while she still declined to go into into exact detail about the struggles she faced, she confessed she had to find a way to overcome anxiety and depression.

“My dad passed away when I was 17,” Martin said. “He was my only parent and I dealt with depression back then, but I never really dealt with this type of anxiety where like, I couldn’t eat this camp. I didn’t have to lose any weight because my weight was so low already starting the camp that it was basically about keeping the weight on and being big enough and strong enough to be able to fight. It was a different type of camp, instead of having to cut weight or lose weight that I would typically have to do.”

“I had a little heart-to-heart with myself,” she continued. “I was in a spot where I was like, I just need to talk to my dad. My dad’s gonna tell me what I’m gonna do. But my dad’s gone, so I was just very lost and didn’t know what to do, or didn’t know how to help myself, and I basically was like, ‘Nobody’s coming to save you Mallory. If you want to live a different life, or if you want to get better and you don’t want to live like this, or have this kind of pain and anxiety, you’re gonna have to get help.’ I talked to my coaches and they helped, and I started seeing a therapist and it helped tons.”

Martin’s UFC debut came as a short-notice replacement against Virna Jandiroba this past December. The challenge proved too much for the newcomer as she lost by second-round submission to the former Invicta FC champion.

Shortly afterward, Martin faced a reckoning. An incident, which she declined to elaborate on, shook her to her core and carried over months later when she began to grind through training camp.

“I don’t really want to talk about what happened just because it’s nothing to do with fighting – it’s something that happened in my personal life,” Martin said. “And it wasn’t even before camp, it was in the beginning of the year that I went through something, and it basically completely changed me as a person and I just went through this camp needing something to help me.

“Fighting has always been my passion and my outlet, so it was good for me to get a fight and start a camp, and halfway through camp I was just like, I need to get help, I can’t keep living like this. I was just struggling with anxiety and all that, and I decided to get help from a therapist and talk to my coaches and whatnot. I completely – not completely, but I turned around the way I was going down. By the time I got to the fight, my mental [state] was there, I was ready, I was back to myself, but the beginning of the camp was a struggle.”

After their fight, Martin was grateful that Cifers signed a contract to match up with her. Cifers almost finished Martin in the first round, but Martin’s corner helped straighten her out and she turned the tables on Cifer to secure a rear-naked choke that earned Martin a $50,000 Performance of the Night bonus.

That extra check only added to the positive vibes that Martin was feeling leading up to the fight.

“Getting the bonus, that’s life-changing,” Martin said. “This is gonna change my life. And I knew, like I had this feeling before I fought that something was gonna happen. Something big was gonna happen and it was just gonna change my life. … Whatever the universe was gonna give me, I was open to it.”

The plan now for Martin is to compete twice more before the end of the year, with Martin aiming for a November return. She would like to face Polyana Viana, who also scored a win at UFC Vegas 8 with a first-round submission of Emily Whitmire.

Martin and Viana are both facing potential medical suspensions that could keep them on the sidelines until February of next year. But if they can get cleared, that’s the next challenge Martin expects the universe to throw her way.

“I’m pretty sure I’m gonna fight Polyana,” Martin said. “We were matched up in May and then the coronavirus hit and the fights got canceled, so that fight fell through and then she ended up rescheduling with Emily. She called me out after the fight, and I already anticipated fighting her, so I’m gonna scrap with her.”

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