Rogue athlete Martins Licis (aka “The Dragon”) is a one-of-a-kind within the Strongman ranks—a tenacious, crowd-pleasing competitor who simultaneously looks like the future of the sport and a throwback to its legendary past.
In 2019, after narrowly missing the podium the two previous years, the 28 year-old Licis achieved his ultimate goal, winning his first World’s Strongest Man competition and becoming just the sixth American champion in the WSM’s 42-year history. At the event in Bradenton, Florida, the Californian-via-Latvia won the final Squat Lift and Atlas Stones events en route to the title. It was a surprising result to some, but an inevitability to many who’ve observed Martins’ rise in recent years.
At the Arnold Classic earlier in 2019, for example, The Dragon finished second overall, falling just 4.5 points shy of Hafthor Bjornsson. “Placing second in the Arnold was like a wake-up call,” he said, “and especially being that close to Thor. I knew I could win [World’s Strongest Man].”
A year earlier, at the same Arnold event in Columbus, Licis had become a sensation even beyond the Strongman community when he broke a nearly 100 year-old record with a 560 LB Steinborn Rockover Squat, breaking the hallowed mark of Milo Steinborn himself (Licis would break his own record later that year).
After injuries limited his appearances across much of the last two years, Martins made a monumental return at the 2021 Rogue Invitational in Austin, Texas, beating nine elite athletes in the event’s first ever Strongman competition. A show-stopping performance in the final challenge, Stones Over Hitching Post, was enough to beat out current World’s Strongest Man, Tom Stoltman, in overall points, 45-42.
Martins has been training in strength sports since the age of 11, learning first from his father Kristaps Licis, and later from accomplished trainers Odd E. Haugen and Scott Brengel. His new personal strength headquarters, the Wreck-It Gym in El Segundo, California, opened in 2021. You can watch Martins give Rogue a personal tour of the space here.