Rad Martinez will step into the Bellator MMA cage tonight in what casual fight fans would consider the fight of his life, but anyone who knows Rad Martinez realizes he faces much larger obstacles at home every day.
Martinez will take on Shahbulat Shamhalaev in the main event of tonight's Bellator 90 fight card in his home state of Utah with $100,000 and a featherweight title shot on the line.
"It is pretty cool to say I will be in a main event like this. I never imagined myself being the main event and having people buy a ticket to watch me fight," Rad Martinez said. "To be a part of that and to say I made it to this show, it is huge. I am proud to say I made it to this level."
While it may be the biggest professional mixed martial arts fight of Martinez's life and potentially the biggest payday, anyone who knows Rad Martinez realizes he faces much larger challenges at home every day.
Rad Martinez, born Radley Martinez in West Jordan, Utah on October 10, 1978, lived in Farmington from the ages of six to 17.
He attended Farmington High School through his junior year before moving back to Utah for his last year in high school.
As a sophomore in 1998, Rad Martinez was crowned a wrestling state champion as a member of the Scorpions.
But it was during his family's time in San Juan County that their entire lives changed.
Rad's father, Richard, was in an automobile accident on April 1, 1991 when Rad was just 11 years old, leaving him with a traumatic brain injury.
"It happened on Bloomfield Highway 64, about a mile from home," said Rad's younger brother and manager Levi Martinez. "His truck rolled seven times and he was thrown from the car."
Doctors originally believed Richard Martinez's injuries would be fatal.
He survived the accident, but requires around the clock care for everything from waking up in the morning to eating to using the bathroom.
"It was a dramatic change for our family. My brother and I had to grow up quickly and become more mature," Rad Martinez said. "Our grandparents took on the responsibility of taking care of dad full time right away. It changed the outlook of our whole family overnight."
Rad and Levi's mother had passed away years before their father's accident, and their grandmother assumed the role of around the clock care for Richard until she passed away from pancreatic cancer 15 years after Richard's accident.
After his grandmother, who Rad calls his hero, passed away, Rad took on her role in caring for his father.
"It is a 24 hour, seven days a week, 365 days a year job. Rad is an individual who doesn't get a vacation," Levi Martinez said. "I am lucky enough to have a healthy career where I can take time away from my desk to help care, but Rad is there every day waking dad up, bathing him, feeding him, giving him his constant medication and giving him physical therapy so he doesn't get bed sores. Dad can't communicate, so we don't know when he is sick or doesn't feel good. It is very challenging, but we are 22 years into it so we are used to it.
"It is really a double-edged sword. We still have our dad, but as the same time how much of him is our dad? He can't show emotion, and we aren't even sure if he recognizes us. I mean, it is good to have him there, but at the same time he can't offer us support or tell us we are doing a good job. It is great to have him, but it is a tough thing to have him here at the same time."
Before the accident, Richard Martinez was a regular at Aztec Speedway where he raced mini sprint cars to several championships.
"Those were some of the greatest nights of my young life. My dad and brother and I would go over to our uncle's shop in Aztec and work on the car every Saturday and then we would sit in the stands and watch dad race," Rad Martinez said. "We would eat Frito pies and watch dad. I miss those days."
It was at Aztec Speedway on those Saturday nights that the first flashes of Rad Martinez's athletic ability was on display.
"Those were the most memorable times for me. During intermission, all of the kids in the crowd used to go down on the track and do a foot race around the track. Dad used to sit in the pit and watch us race," Levi Martinez said. "Rad won every single foot race there was, and I was always second. The funnest part was to watch dad as he watched us race."
Rad and Levi both wrestled in college and both earned All-American status. Levi wrestled for Northwest in Wyoming where he and Rad were teammates for one year before Rad transferred to Clarion University in Pennsylvania where he became good friends with teammate Frankie Edgar, who later became a UFC lightweight champion.
"MMA was starting to get popular when I was a senior in college. A few buddies of mine who I wrestled with graduated and they got into it and saw success," Rad Martinez said. "They were in my ear the whole time telling me I would love it. Frankie made it to the UFC and did great. He rode me and said I had to do this.
"After I graduated from college and finished wrestling, I needed something to get my competitive juices flowing. I still wanted to be a competitor. I got into MMA and had my first professional fight in 2007 and had some success. Any success was great because it helped me make money to help my family."
Since his professional debut, Rad Martinez has amassed a record of 14-2 with six TKO victories and eight decision wins.
Most professional MMA fighters have the luxury of training full time, but Rad Martinez's full time priority is the care of his father. He is lucky to get a couple hours each day to train.
But it hasn't stopped him from climbing up the ranks en route to tonight's nationally televised Bellator MMA featherweight tournament championship match against Shamhalaev (11-1-1).
Rad Martinez won the Throwdown lightweight championship and bounced around in smaller promotions before finally earning his shot with Bellator MMA in 2011.
He hasn't lost a fight since May 20, 2011, and was invited to take part in Bellator MMA's season seven featherweight tournament with the winner earning a shot at the featherweight belt against the winner of an April 4 fight between current champion Pat Curran (18-4) and challenger Daniel Strauss (21-4).
To reach the tournament finals, Rad Martinez defeated Nazareno Malegarie (22-3) and WEC veteran Wagney Fabiano (15-4), both in unanimous decisions.
"Bellator has been great to us. More than anything, they gave Rad a shot to prove himself, and they have started to believe in Rad like I always have," Levi Martinez said. "They put him in the tournament knowing he had some popularity from the ESPN special they did on him and our dad in 2011, but there was still some hesitation about whether or not he would get to where he is. Thanks to Bellator, Rad could show the world he is not just somebody with a sappy story and a guy who just takes care of his dad. He is a high-level MMA fighter who can hang with the best of them.
"To be honest, from the beginning of the tournament I knew Rad would make the finals. I saw the talent out there. They are good, and Wagney was good, but nobody in the tournament had fought an individual like Rad. He is one of the top wrestlers in the world. When you put a world class wrestler in front of a good jiu-jitsu guy or a good striker — especially a guy like Rad who is four percent body fat and walks around at 170 pounds before cutting to 145 — we have all the confidence in the world."
Shamhalaev is a world-class Muay Thai kickboxer from Russia who is based out of New York.
Rad Martinez and Shamhalaev were originally scheduled to fight in the final round of the tournament in December, but Shamhalaev came down with food poisoning the day of the fight and withdrew, forcing a postponement.
But the delay has been a blessing in disguise because Rad Martinez has healed a few bruises from his first two tournament fights and the fight was rescheduled for his home state of Utah.
"There are going to be so many people cheering for me. It will give me so much momentum and the adrenaline to push forward," Rad Martinez said.
There isn't much film of Shamhalaev fighting off his back. As a wrestler, Rad Martinez is aiming to put Shamhalaev on his back the majority of the fight.
"In my two other fights in the tournament, I have showed I can stand up and throw my own weight around with the stand up game. I am going to keep my chin down, my hands up and I will defend his shots with my wrestling while working in close to try to get him to the ground," Rad Martinez said. "I want to get in a dominant position on the ground and look to finish. I am always looking to finish. My first fights in the tournament were all grueling three-round battles, and I expect this to be the same. He throws hard and fast and looks to knock out his opponent, but I want to take him to the ground and knock him out there."
No matter where the fight goes, Rad Martinez knows he has the strength inside to fight out of any situation after what he and his family have gone through the last 22 years.
"I got that fight from my grandmother and the way she raised me. I will never give up. I will always keep fighting," Rad Martinez said. "That spilled over into wrestling for me. My mentality and my family have helped me out a ton in this sport."
The Martinez brothers only see one outcome to tonight's fight, and it ends with Rad Martinez's hand being raised in front of millions of viewers on SPIKE TV.
"There is no lose. I don't see him losing this fight, so there is only win," Levi Martinez said. "We have lived our life that way. We don't anticipate failure. We will walk away with the check and we will go back home. We aren't star struck, and we enjoy our privacy. We like quiet nights at home with our family and our dad. There may be $100,000 on the line, but it won't change Rad. It will assist in the care of our father, but nothing else will change."
Rad Martinez said he won't be satisfied by just one big payday, and he hopes there will be many more to come for his growing family.
"There is a lot riding on this fight with that big of a payday, but $100,000 by no means gets you set for life. It is an excellent start that will help secure me and my family, and I am getting married in August to my finance, Patricia. This money will help us put on a beautiful wedding."
The Martinez's still have several family members in San Juan County, and many of those family members and friends have made the trip to Utah to cheer on their hero.
"San Juan County, Farmington, Aztec, Bloomfield. That's my home," Rad Martinez said. "I love it out there and the people there. I love New Mexico and am proud to say I am from there."