Bellator Finalist Rad Martinez: “It’s True What They Say; It’s The Toughest Tournament in the Business”
Featherweight Plans to See How Shabulat Shamhalaev “Does on the Ground”
By Kelsey Mowatt
Since many throughout the MMA world were introduced to Rad Martinez via ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” program in 2011, the fighter’s kept the spotlight on his career by scoring four straight wins with Bellator. As a result of his latest two victories, which saw him defeat established vets in Nazareno Malegarie and Wagnney Fabiano, Martinez is one win away from winning Bellator’s latest featherweight tourney and fighting for a world championship.
“It’s an amazing opportunity and I’m just thankful that Bellator has given me the chance to be here and to be involved with this,” Martinez said on Full Contact Fighter Radio, while discussing his December 7th finals bout with Shahbulat Shamhalaev. “I’m one fight away from having a title shot, so, I’m feeling very confident, very healthy and I’m really looking forward to next week and trying to get that victory.”
The 25 year-old Martinez was invited to compete in Bellator’s Season 7 tournament after defeating Brian Van Hoven and Douglas Frey in his first two appearances with the promotion. Now that the Utah fighter has recorded quarter and semifinal wins over Malegarie and Fabiano respectively, Martinez is nearing the end of a journey that Bellator has made the cornerstone of the promotion.
“The whole Bellator tournament has been kind of a whirlwind,” said Martinez (14-2), when asked to assess the rigorous experience, which typically requires a fighter to win three bouts in three consecutive months in order to win it. “Before getting into this I was used to fighting every three or four months, and now I’m fighting once every month, so it’s a little tough on the body and you have to listen to your body and prepare a little differently.”
“It’s true what they say; it’s the toughest tournament in the business,” Martinez furthered. “If you make your way through it and you win the finals, you’ve really earned your title shot, especially looking at some of the guys that I’ve beat and who I’m facing next, they’re extremely tough guys.”
While there’s no doubting that the tournament pushes fighters to their limits, debate continues as to whether they might restrict Bellator from signing established vets, who may not want to commit to the busy and demanding format.
“I think they should continue to it; it sets them apart from any other organization,” said Martinez. “If someone wins the tournament and they get to the end, they have the right to say I’m the number one contender and I deserve a shot at the title.”
Although Martinez was accustomed to fighting once every three or four months prior to the tourney, the featherweight’s MMA career is built on his time as a NCAA Division 1 wrestler, which he believes has helped prepare him for the challenge.
“Absolutely,” said Martinez. “Anybody who’s been in a tough wrestling tournament, a 32 man tournament, it’s tough from start to finish. Every match is a grind it out match with a quality opponent so so tournaments like this are set up perfectly for wrestlers….we’re used to being sore, being hurt and still being able to fight through that.”
Standing in Martinez’s path to a title shot is of course Shamhalaev (11-1-1), who is the latest Russian fighter to have success under the Bellator banner. The lightweight has bombed his way through the tourney by recording stoppage wins over Cody Bollinger and most recently Mike Richman.
“He’s been very impressive,” said Martinez. “Talking about how hard this tournament is, he’s got two quick TKO’s, first round TKO’s, so he’s very impressive with his striking. He throws hard, he throws fast and he throws punches in bunches, so I’m certainly thinkinghis stand-up is the part of his game where I’ve had to prepare the most for.”
“I’m going to have to utilize a little bit more of my wrestling in this fight, try to get him to the ground and see how he does on the ground,” Martinez added. “We don’t have any tape of him on the ground too much, so I’ve got to think that’s where my advantage is rather than the stand-up.”
Bellator 83 will be hosted by Caesars Atlantic City and will be broadcast live on MTV 2.