This past December was supposed to be the culmination of a long road of hard work for Utah featherweight Rad Martinez.
Having worked his way through two very tough fights in last year’s Bellator 145-pound tournament, Martinez was one fight away from winning it all and earning a shot at a championship, when things went awry.
Martinez’ opponent, Shahbulat Shamhavaev, was forced out of their bout at the last minute, delaying their tournament finals match.
“To be honest, I was frustrated,” said Martinez. “It had been a long couple months preparing for the tournament and the first two fights of the tournament were grueling battles and I was ready to have a culmination. I was down and pretty upset and couldn’t believe it, but it turned out to be a blessing.”
That blessing, as Martinez puts it, is the fact that he has an opportunity now to take the tournament title Thursday night live on Spike TV in his home state of Utah in front of the people who have followed his career from the start.
When asked if fighting in front of his hometown crowd would be added pressure or added motivation, Martinez told MMAWeekly.com, “I feel it’s a little bit of both.
“You’ve got to defend your house and nobody wants to ever lose in front of their family and friends. But I can’t really let myself think too much of that. It’s just another fight and I think in the end it’s going to be more of a motivator.”
Martinez says in the months since the delay, nothing has changed as far as preparation for the fight other than one thing.
“I’m much more healthy,” he said. “Those two bouts I had previously and then fighting the next month is hard for anybody to do, so I feel healed up in my body and not so beat up and exhausted.”
Martinez is looking to use the discrepancy between his and his opponent’s ground games coupled with the fact he’s fighting at an altitude he’s comfortable at to sway the fight in his favor.
“Obviously, if you look at the dynamics of the fight, he’s a world champion kickboxer who wants to stand up with people and knock them out, while I’m a wrestler,” said Martinez. “I feel like my advantage is to take him to the ground and see how he works off his back.
“He’s had quick knockouts in his last couple fights, while I’ve had these long, grueling wars. I train out here, and if you don’t, you get shocked when you come out here. I feel like it’s going to be an advantage and it’s going to work in my favor. I’m going to grind on him and try to make him tired and get a victory.”
Now that he’s so close to achieving a huge milestone in his career, Martinez is keen to remain focused on Thursday night only and leave whatever comes as a result of it for when it’s finally over.
“A lot of big things come with winning this fight, but I’m not trying to think too far ahead of facing this guy Thursday night,” he said. “If I’m lucky enough to get this victory, a lot of good things happen, but right now I’ve got to concentrate on Shahbulat and then see what happens after that.”