Eduardo Martinez: First thing, where did the “El Mero Mero” nickname come from?
Saul Elizondo: Well, “El Mero Mero”, originally when I was a kid, my dad used to call me “El Mero Mero”. So that’s where I got the name from. My dad passed away when I was six years old, and that’s when I started doing martial arts. So I felt it was appropriate to choose a name that my dad used to call me when I was a little kid. To carry that on and use as extra motivation. It’s not like I’m trying to sound all tough by calling myself that. It’s what my dad called me when I was a kid, and it stuck.
EM: And in a way, by using this nickname every time you fight, you’re paying tribute to your father.
SE: Yes, exactly the reason why I use it. For most people, they might not know that, but that is the reason for it.
EM: How was your trip back to the Valley [from North Carolina]?
SE: My trip has been great, everybody has received me with open arms. I really appreciate my team over here, Alliance Jiu Jitsu in McAllen, with Luis Rubalcava and everybody that trains there. It feels really good to be back.
EM: When you’re away from the Valley, what do you miss the most?
SE: Oh the food, man. (laughs) I miss the food more than anything, and the culture. The culture down here is really different from anywhere else in the world. I love the culture down here and the food.
EM: What interested you in MMA?
SE: (After) my dad passed away, my mom enrolled me in a martial arts school in Roma, where I’m from. I grew up doing point fighting, it was a taekwondo school. But I always wanted to go all out, and felt like I wanted to do some type of kickboxing, boxing, but unfortunately, they didn’t have that where I’m from. Growing up as the years passed, I saw my first UFC fight, and I knew right away that that was what I wanted to do. So when I moved to McAllen from Roma, I went to a school that I found. I went in there and I told them, ‘I want to be a cage fighter.’ Seven years later, I’m a professional fighter. I’m going on my tenth fight already, and I’m a purple belt in jiu-jitsu. It’s been great the journey that I’ve had in martial arts since I’ve been a kid.
EM: You made your STFC debut at STFC 10 (2/26/10), on the undercard of a Ricco Rodriguez vs Patrick Miller headliner. What are your memories from that night?
SE: Looking back at it, it’s crazy the experience. It’s something that I fell in love with. The rush of just being in there, the excitement of being in the cage. Having an opponent in front of you that’s trying to hurt you, and you’re trying to hurt them. It’s really an interesting feeling. Definitely an adrenaline rush. So I got addicted to that rush. That’s what I remember the most, just being overwhelmed with this feeling of excitement.
EM: EM: Your most recent fight was against David Armas at STFC 27 (11/1/13). What did you take away from that fight?
SE: Honestly, I felt like I could have done way better in this fight with David Armas. I felt like I should have finished him with my jiu-jitsu, but he kept getting away. I felt like I need to improve more on my jiu-jitsu, and just keep on training hard. To learn to finish fights. I got disappointing because I couldn’t finish (Armas). So this time around, I’m coming in looking for that finish, whether it be TKO, KO or submission.
EM: In your year away from competing in a fight, what have you been working on?
SE: Well, I went back and saw the fight. I saw certain areas where I needed some help. So I started doing some other stuff. I incorporated some different training in my game. I started some boxing, and I started training with some wrestlers in North Carolina. Basically I’ve been mixing it up more, trying to learn from everybody. Trying to blend it all in.
EM: What led to your move to North Carolina?
SE: Well I went over there with my girlfriend. She went over there for school, to get her PhD. So I went with her to support her. I live out there, I help her, she helps me. I’ve been blessed to find a really good team up there. My team is Gracie Raleigh over there. Everybody there is really cool. Really tough guys, on top of everything. I love it out there.
EM: Who are some of the coaches and partners that have helped you prepare for this upcoming fight?
SE: There are so many partners. First, the main coach that I need to thank is Brandon Garner. He’s my main coach up there, he’s my boss. He’s a great guy. He’s really tough as nails. I admire him a lot. And Jason Jelen. Blake (Taylor), he’s helped me, he’s my kickboxing coach. My boxing coach Santos, has a boxing gym. All my wrestling friends out there, for sure. I cross train with a lot of wrestlers. Big shout out to them. David Grissom, really good fighter. He’s fighting the same weekend as me. So we both trained together in their training camps. He’s a wrestler, a really good wrestler. There are just so many people.
EM: How familiar are you with your opponent Leroy Martinez? Have you watched any of his fight videos?
SE: Yeah, it’s funny that you bring that up. Somebody had posted something on Facebook, about how if me and him fought, it would be a good fight. I don’t remember how far back that post was, or who it was (posting), but I knew right away that it would be a good fight and eventually I’d fight him. I’ve been studying his game for a while, I knew this was going to happen. We were bound to fight, and here I am now, with the main event (slot) going up against him. So I’ve been looking at him for a while.
My gym used to cross train with his gym, and we would train with each other. I’m very aware of who he is, and what he does. I’m ready for this fight.
EM: Are you looking forward to that STFC (Texas) title shot (if you win) in 2015?
SE: That’s the word right now. Hopefully it goes through, I’m supposed to be fighting for the belt in March. First thing’s first though, I can’t overlook my opponent for this fight. Even though I know I’ve been training hard, you never underestimate your opponent, no matter who he is. You never look past your opponent. So first, I got to take care of business with him, and hopefully I’ll get my chance early next year at that belt.
EM: Anything you’d like to say to the fans that are going to be attending on Friday night?
SE: To everybody attending, first of all, thank you so much for supporting all the fighters down here in the Valley. Not just me, but supporting MMA in general, it’s because of you guys that we get the opportunity to train hard and show off our skills. I really appreciate all the fans, all the supporters, all the sponsors, the STFC. I thank everyone that is part of the show, the media and stuff like this, it’s really important to have you guys exposing the event and fighters, and what we do. I really appreciate what everybody does to support the fighters in the Valley.
EM: Thank you Saul.
SE: Orale, nice talking to you.