Michael Brandy, Deseret News
WEST JORDAN — His dad doesn't notice the bruises.
He doesn't notice the disappointment, tears or even the joy.
In fact, Radly Martinez isn't sure his father even knows who he is.
"I hope he does, but I don't know," said Rad, who cares for his father, Richard, in their West Jordan home. "If he seems alert some days, I ask him if he knows who I am, but he never answers. I don't know if he recognizes me as his son."
A car accident in 1991 left Richard in a near-vegetative state, and since his grandmother's death a few years ago, Rad has been caring for his father around the clock, every day. He feeds him, bathes him, changes him and exercises the 51-year-old's atrophying muscles.
Rad's only breaks come a few hours each afternoon when he heads to the gym. Just 45 minutes from his home, the Throwdown Elite gym might as well be in another universe. There, Rad Martinez, the soft-spoken, articulate and devoted son, works as hard as he can to become one of the fiercest, toughest and feared mixed martial arts fighters in the state. He's currently the Throwdown Lightweight Title Belt champion for 155 pounds with a 6-1 record.
"I knew from the moment I saw him, the potential he had," said Johnny Riche, promoter for Throwdown Elite Productions. "I talked to his brother and asked what we needed to do to get Rad training with us."
Riche said there are only a handful of local MMA athletes with the skill, work ethic, training and personality to make it in the UFC.
"He has the work ethic, the attitude, the skill and potential," said Riche. "How physical he is, Rad happens to be one of those few guys."
Rad isn't quite sure what MMA means to him at this point in his life, but he is willing to see how far his talent and Throwdown's coaching will take him. His trips to the gym and his nights in the cage are a brief bit of freedom from a life consumed almost completely by his father's care.
"It's one way of me getting away, letting off stress and steam," he said. "It kind of is two separate worlds … I really can't tell Dad about it. I can show him the bruises."
When Rad returns from a tough bout or a practice a little black and blue, he might take some ribbing from his grandfather about how a guy can sport shiners and still come out a winner, but he can only imagine the razzing his father might give him.
"I think he'd tease me a little bit," said Rad. "I think he'd like it … My dad was a hard-nosed tough guy; he was a mechanic and he raced cars … I don't know what he'd think of MMA."
He smiles and puts his hand on his father's shoulder and says, "I think he'd think it was pretty cool."
Rad's road to the cage was as rough as some of his fights.
His parents divorced when he was 4 years old, and he and his younger brother, Levi, moved to California with their mother. A few years later, his mother began to struggle with health problems, so she sent the boys to live with their father, Richard, and his parents, Alberto and Clara Martinez, in New Mexico. His mother passed away when he was 7, and he and Levi settled into their life in New Mexico among their father's extended family.
Tragedy turned his life upside down again on April 1, 1991.
Rad remembers sitting at the kitchen table in his grandparents' home. The boys went there after school when their father worked.
"I was grounded, sitting at the table doing homework," he said with a slight smile.
The phone rang and a friend told Clara Martinez about an accident, an overturned truck. The caller said the truck looked like her son's company vehicle.
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