Rad Martinez never really thought of himself as an inspirational figure.
When he shot into the spotlight during the ESPN “Outside the Lines” piece titled “The Promise,” which chronicled his around-the-clock care for his father, while also trying to live his dream of becoming the best MMA fighter he could be, he was shocked at the response.
His Facebook friends tripled in a matter of hours, and the messages he received were beyond anything he could ever imagine.
See, for Rad Martinez, he was just doing his duty as a son who loves his family when he started taking care of his father, who suffered serious brain damage after a car accident. Rad was only a kid at the time.
Even when he was in college at Clarion University in Pennsylvania, Martinez stayed in constant contact with his grandma, who was taking care of his Dad at the time, and his mind often wandered home to Utah.
“I would talk to them all the time, and always ask and always like to know what was going on with my Dad and my Grandma. My Grandma and I were extremely close so we talked every week, we stayed in touch, we talked all the time, very close,” Martinez said in an interview with MMAWeekly Radio.
“It was tough. Especially knowing what’s going on there, I felt compelled I should be there, but my Grandma would always tell me ‘no, you’ve got to go do that, get your degree and then when you get done you can come back.’ It was tough, but she always put my mind at ease and I knew I was doing the right thing.”
To keep his mind focused at school, Martinez studied hard, but also had a great physical release through wrestling. He worked all the way to becoming an All-American, where he worked beside current UFC champion Frankie Edgar.
Martinez and Edgar trained together everyday in wrestling, and even now, years later maintain a close friendship and bond formed in college.
“That kid’s like a brother to me,” Martinez commented about Edgar. “We were very close to each other in Clarion. We wrestled each other everyday, and we still talk to each other all the time. He’s like family to me.”
Wrestling gave Rad a sense of purpose and the outlet he needed.
“When I was wrestling for those five years it was my main focus, and I was really working hard to achieve those goals. It got me through those years,” said Martinez.
After school was finished, he returned home to Utah to help his family out once again. It was during this time that the collegiate wrestler started to pay more and more attention to the sport of mixed martial arts.
Much like his wrestling career, training in MMA gave Rad the perfect outlet to let out some of the frustration he felt on a daily basis, wishing he could somehow do more for his family.
“My last year (in college) was 2005 and MMA, that’s really when it exploded. It wasn’t really big at the time, the UFC wasn’t. I think I remember my going away party leaving Pennsylvania, the night before was ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ finale and that’s when it exploded. So I wasn’t a really big fan, really didn’t know much about it. Then it exploded, then Frankie started fighting, so that made me even a huger fan,” Martinez said.
“My Grandma was still alive when I started working out, and I even remember she and I had a talk. I was starting to go do some training and she had said to me ‘it’s really hard to do everything we need to do here’ and she had asked me to try and be home a little bit more, so I had started working out then, but had to scale it back. I think we’re in about my probably fourth year of fighting now.”
A year after Martinez moved home to help his family, his grandmother passed away.
While Rad was heartbroken to lose his grandma, he didn’t lose the purpose that she left him with. He started waking up at six a.m. everyday to take care of his father from that moment on, and has never looked back.
“Most of us kind of take advantage of our families and we don’t realize how important they are until someone passes away or someone gets ill. Family has always been important to us, to my family, and I always kind of knew this day would come and I kind of expected it, and I was ready for it,” Martinez commented.
While his days are long, Martinez wouldn’t trade what he does for anything in the world. He’s able to workout at least a couple hours a day and the family does have an aid that comes in a couple of times a week to allow him to travel or spend extra time outside the home.
Most nights around 10 p.m., when his dad goes to sleep, Rad hits the mats again to get some more training in, then he’s off to bed and back up at six a.m.
The payoff however is when he gets in the cage and fights.
“When I get out into training and into the cage it allows me to release kind of all that aggression, all that frustration, and it’s big. I don’t know how I’d be able to handle it here if I didn’t have that,” Martinez said.
Now Martinez gets to show all that he’s learned in the true proving ground of Bellator Fighting Championships. Signing on to compete in the featherweight division, the former 133-pound wrestler looks to debut later this year.
Rad has been taught some valuable lessons throughout his life, but the most important one is to never give up.
“Not to prove to anybody else, but to prove to myself,” Martinez said about his future with Bellator. “That’s why all of this started, I wanted to test myself and I wanted to see how I would fare against some of the best competition.
“I’m excited to get in there and answer my question.”