Cheerleading and volleyball were fun, but when Moreno Valley’s Jaylene Martinez took some mixed martial arts classes at age 14 for self defense, she found her passion. “I immediately fell in love with the sport and knew right away that I wanted to make a career out of it,” says Martinez, 17. Training at Pinnacle Mixed Martial Arts in Redlands and at Bullpen Muay Thia in Rancho Cucamonga, Jaylene has won several medals at various competitions.
In August 2019, she competed in the inaugural 2019 Youth Mixed Martial Arts World Championships in Rome. Sponsored by the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation (IMMAF) and the World Mixed Martial Arts Association (WMMA), the international event was for competitors 18 and under. The U.S. team included nine teens from the Inland Empire. Eight of them earned medals, including Martinez who brought home a gold for winning her flyweight division. “The thing I enjoy most [about mixed martial arts] is being able to challenge myself. I want to be the best I can possibly be. I love learning new things and teaching and inspiring others,” says Jaylene, who is also on the wrestling team at Moreno Valley’s Canyon Springs High School.
According to the IMMAF, mixed martial arts combines wrestling and techniques from Thai boxing, judo, Brazilian jiu jitsu and boxing. Its roots can be traced as far back as Pankration in the ancient Olympic Games. While techniques from six contemporary Olympic Sports are present in MMA (boxing, freestyle wrestling, Greco-Roman wrestling, Tae Kwan Do, judo and karate), MMA students today learn from a combination of martial arts, according to the IMMAF.
Inland Empire youth who won medals in Rome are: Shaniyah Carlson, Desert Hot Springs, Gold, Women’s Youth A: Strawweight– 115 pounds; Jaylene Martinez, Moreno Valley, Gold, Women’s Youth A: Flyweight–125 pounds; Rashad Satterwhite, Victorville, Gold, Men’s Youth A: Flyweight–125 pounds; Calen Greer, Corona, Silver, Men’s Youth C–75 pounds; Alexander Ramirez, Beaumont, Gold, Men’s Youth C–88 pounds; Regina Awana, Silver, Women’s Youth B–114 pounds; Andrea Frisque, Desert Hot Springs, Silver, Women’s Youth B–136 pounds; Alexander Trujillo, Cherry Valley, Bronze, Men’s Youth B–125 pounds. – Tammy Minn