Complete commitment and total dedication doesn't begin to describe the sacrifice that Radly "Rad" Martinez, a mixed martial artist from West Jordan, makes every day. But to him, aiding his father full time is no sacrifice. At the core of the matter, the answer to why he does it is simple: Pure love and honor for his 53-year-old dad Richard, who was in an automobile accident 20 years ago that left him with severe brain trauma and in a condition that requires around-the-clock care. That's the role Rad fills, all the while compiling a 9-2 record and training for a Sept. 17 fight against Brian Van Hoven at the Seminole Hard Rock & Casino in Hollywood, Fla., his first of a six-bout contract which he recently signed with Bellator Fighting. The 32-year-old Martinez, — who had an eight-fight winning streak snapped by Brian Cobb in a May 20 bout — recently chatted with correspondent Chris Peterson about his wrestling background, serving his father and his journey into the MMA octagon.
Q: Can you explain your feelings about caring for your dad?
A: It's important to give him what he needs and what he deserves. It's been about five years since my grandmother (who was taking care for his father) died, and I've been doing it full time since (after returning home from Clarion University in Pennsylvania, where he earned a master's degree in business).
Q: You recently were part of a fundraiser and hands-on training sessions event to raise awareness for brain trauma victims. On a personal level, what does it mean to be involved in something like that?
A: It was the first event like that I've been able to be a part of. I was glad to do it and I hope to be a part of a lot more. We were hoping for 200 people, but we got 115 there, which was still really good. To see people open their hearts and wallets for this cause, especially in this economy, was nice.
Q: Talk about your preparation for and your focus on your first fight since signing the contract with Bellator after ESPN aired the profile on you? And have you been noticed more since the profile?
A: It's the biggest fight of my career so far. I'm driven and focused as I can be, and I'm ready to hear 'victory'. With YouTube, it's easy to find the past fights of your opponents. So we watch the fights and scout and notice areas that he's vulnerable in and focus on those things.
Things haven't changed too dramatically (since the ESPN profile) but since I've signed with Bellator, a few sponsors have contacted me. But some people have noticed me more. The funniest thing that happened is when I was driving and got stuck in traffic because of construction. My car was stopped and I saw this guy in his car next to me motioning to roll down my window. When I did he said, 'Hey, aren't you Rad Martinez?' When I said yes, he yelled, 'I think you're awesome!'
Q: When was the first time it occurred to you that you might become an MMA fighter?Comment on this story
A: I was wrestling teammates with Frankie Edgar (the current UFC 155-pound champion) in college (where Rad compiled a 98-27 record and finished fifth nationally at 133 pounds), so we used to beat each other up every day in practice. (Edgar) started in MMA (in 2005) and he told me, 'You would love this.' He was successful (Edgar won his first eight bouts and is now 13-1-1) and I thought, 'I can do this, too,' and I had my first fight in 2008.
When you're wrestling, you have to worry about wrestling. But in MMA, it encompasses so many things that you have to worry about.
Q: What is the origin of your name and how did your nickname come about?
A: My dad's best friend in high school was named Radly, and my dad just really loved the name, so they gave it to me. The 'ly' kind of just got dropped when I was really young. I can count on two hands the number of times my parents called me Radly.