Justin Levens weighs-in for UFC 59: Reality Check. Photo property of the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
LEMOORE - Phil Collins was training for a fight.
And as it so happens, that’s exactly what the Merced mixed martial artist will get on Thursday at the Tachi Palace Hotel and Casino at Palace Fighting Championship 7.
Collins (5-3) was scheduled for a PFC Middleweight eliminator fight with Newport Beach’s Justin Levens (9-8), but Levens sustained an injury in training and could not compete.
Lemoore’s Mike Martinez (3-1) will step in to take the fight on five days notice.
“We were looking forward to Collins vs. Levens. Both guys suffered losses to current champ Kenny Ento. Levens’ loss was a controversial one and Collins’ loss was cut and dry. But both guys had reasons to be in an elimination fight,” PFC President Christian Printup said. “A lot of people think fighting is brutal, but the training that the guys do is actually harder and Levens suffered a broken hand during training. Given the short notice, PFC Vice President Jacob Jeff and I came up with what we believe is a very interesting fight.”
Collins is not bothered by the change in the slightest.
“I fought on one card with [Martinez] and didn’t pay too much attention. I saw him win at Pure Combat in Visalia and he looks tough and big. I only see this fight going one way, though, a win for me,” Collins said. “I’m sure he’ll fight tough, but I think my experience will prevail. Short notice fights don’t matter. I used to fight for Gladiator where that happens a lot, so I train to fight and fight is what I will do.”
Collins is one of the top middleweight contenders in the PFC after defeating Visalia’s Marc De La Cruz by technical knockout in October.
“Collins hits like a truck and has a very improved ground game. I think this will be a heck of a fight. Who ever wins, will have earned a title shot,” Printup said.
The biggest question mark surrounds the 23-year-old Martinez, who is new to the sport and has just a year of extensive training with Lemoore’s Team Ochoa.
“I’m excited to be fighting for the No. 1 contender spot, and a shot at the 185-pound title. We currently have a great champion in [Lemoore’s] Kenny Ento and it would be an honor to step in the ring with a guy like him. First things first, though, Phil Collins is on my radar for now,” said Martinez. “I train with the well known and respected Team Ochoa in Lemoore. We train how we fight. I’m also up in Fresno at LA boxing with Cole Escovedo. I see myself as more of a counter fighter, I like to sit back and wait for my opponents to come at me and I capitalize on their mistakes.”
Martinez recently fought on February 29th in Visalia, beating Visalia’s Eli Moreno by triangle choke in 1:59 of the first round.
“Martinez is young, big, strong, athletic and not intimidated by Collins. Martinez doesn’t care who he fights and likes to take the tough fights when asked,” Printup said. “He is going in on short notice, but is in great shape. He hasn’t really stopped training after his most recent fight in Visalia. I think that he is a fighter on the rise and is a good prospect. He deserves this opportunity.”