The knockout is the ultimate victory, the indisputable marker of superiority, and the most definitive of endings to a contest of combat. It is always the desired outcome because, all too often, ringside judges make mistakes and award an undeserved victory. It may sound harsh to say that inflicting a concussive blow is the most satisfying of wins, but that is the hard truth in the fighting arts. And that is exactly what Zackaria Benbouchta Martinovic achieved on May 7 at Fightquest 35 in Kahnawake, Quebec.
Zack’s opponent, Justin Gimblett (1-4), looked to apply pressure early on but ate several solid punches in his attempts to get inside. Knowing his opponent was expending energy applying pressure, Zack made the strategic decision to sit back and let the action come to him, establishing a range where he could use his long limbs to counter.
Midway through the opening round, Zack rolled with a right hand and countered with a harder right of his own before following up with a monstrous right leg high-kick that landed flush. The impact sent Gimblett to the canvas in a heap, and the ensuing punches were nothing more than the finishing touches on a masterful performance. With the referee stopping the action, powerful Zackaria Benbouchta Martinovic notched the second win of his young career.
Right before the fight, Zack was seen embracing his father in his corner. What makes their relationship unique is that Zack’s dad also happens to be his coach. Elmostafa Benbouchta, or Ben as he’s known at the world famous Tristar Gym, isn’t his son’s coach out of necessity or convenience, but by choice. Ben is an experienced fighter who has 35 boxing matches to his credit as well as several MMA fights. With so many elite level professionals at Tristar, it’s difficult for an amateur fighter like Zack to get the desired attention from head coaches, but Zack gets all the coaching he needs from his dad.
“All the pro fighters listen to my dad and tell me how I’m lucky to have him as my coach,” says Zack. “And even if I don’t show it, I know how lucky I am. I love him to death. I actually don’t feel comfortable sparring if he’s not in my corner. Having my dad around boosts me up like crazy, in every way.”
That doesn’t mean their relationship is without its bumps in the road. They have their share of arguments because of the difficulty involved in balancing the roles of father-son and coach-student. “Sometimes you want your dad there just as your dad, not your coach,” says Zack. “But sometimes you don’t want your dad to console you because you don’t want your dad, you want a coach.” But even with that friction, Zack wouldn’t want it any other way.
Ben’s background as a martial artist makes it easy to understand the choices he made when raising his son. He decided to enrol four-year-old Zack in karate at Tristar as a way for him to burn off his boundless energy. Zack earned his black belt at 13 and then started training in other martial arts including muay thai, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, boxing and wrestling. At the age of 20 he began to focus on blending the disciplines together by training MMA and now he is putting all of that hard work and knowledge into his fledgling career as a professional fighter.
Zack’s typical week is hectic to say the least, as he balances the rigors of training with the academic responsibilities of being a full-time student. He works his training sessions around his classes at Concordia University, where he is studying exercise science and athletic therapy. In addition to school and training, he finds time to teach boxing and work as a nightclub bouncer. With his frenetic schedule, Zack is not immune to fatigue, but he pushes through those moments by staying focused on his goal of becoming an elite professional prizefighter.
As far as his career is concerned, he has a number of bouts on the horizon. He is set to compete in an amateur tournament this weekend on May 27-29 in Lethbridge, Alberta. This tournament is the Canadian Amateur MMA Tryouts, and if he wins his division, he qualifies for the International Amateur MMA Championships, set to take place in July in Las Vegas during UFC international fight week. This international competition will involve the best amateur fighters from all over the world, and talent scouts for professional fighting organizations will be there looking for the next big star. In Zack’s ideal scenario, he will win the Canadian tryouts, and then go on to compete in Vegas. His goal is to perform as well as possible at the international championships so that organizations like UFC and Bellator are forced to take notice. If all goes well, his performances will lead him to a professional fighting contract by year’s end.
However, Zack knows he needs more MMA experience before he turns pro, which is why these coming months are so crucial. If he can advance deep into those two tournaments, he will be getting more fights under his belt, which is of utmost importance. He doesn’t want to be a fighter who has a short run in a top organization but is then released quickly. When he does turn pro, his goal is to have repeated success for years to come. Only time will tell if he can reach those heights, but as his first round knockout victory at Fightquest showed, everything is moving in the right direction. — Jamie Rebner