First off, this will probably alienate some folks (what’s new, right?) so feel free to send your hate mail to email@example.com. Now that THAT’S out of the way, let’s continue, shall we?
As some of you have seen, ESPN’s Outside the Lines program chronicled a mixed martial artist named Rad Martinez. Rad’s fight record ain’t bad: he’s a featherweight who is currently 9-2 with 4 KOs. All of his fights thus far have been in smaller promotions, losing in his most recent effort with promotion FFW at the Icardo Center in Bakersfield, CA. But it wasn’t the fighting that made Rad’s story interesting.
On April 1, 1991, Rad’s father, Richard, was involved in a car accident, causing him to be thrown from his car. Richard somehow survived the crash – even when doctors predicted that he would not – but was left in a near-vegetative state as a result. Rad’s grandmother assumed responsibility of Richard, and Richard went off to Clarion University, becoming a wrestling stud and a solid mixed martial artist. However, his grandmother passed away years later, of cancer. Rad promised his grandmother that he would take care of Richard once she passed away, and care for him Rad did.
Rad cared for his father, just like his grandmother before him. Day in, day out, every day, without fail. During this time, he also continued to hone his fighting skills. He was unable to devote the time and effort to the fight game that he would want, but Rad did pretty well for what he had to work with, sporting the aforementioned 9-2 record.
This morning it was announced that Rad Martinez had been signed to a contract with Bellator. In a press release, Bellator Chairman and CEO Bjorn Rebney stated “Rad not only has an incredibly uplifting, powerful story, but he’s also a fierce competitor who will be a great addition to the Bellator family.” And that’s where I start to have issues with the whole thing.
Is Rad Martinez deserving of a shot with the big boys? Maybe not the UFC, but I could see him being on a prelim card for Strikeforce, and especially for someone like Bellator or the slightly-smaller Maximum FC or Titan FC… but that’s based on record alone. The fact that he lost his last fight sets him back quite a bit, as no larger promotion would go out of their way to sign a fighter whose on a losing streak. Or rather, no larger promotion should go out of their way to do it.
Did Rad only get signed because of his story? Absolutely, and it’s not fair. Keep in mind that I’m not saying ANYTHING about Rad as a person – in fact, he seems like a much better and bigger person than me, as I doubt I could do what he’s doing for even a day, much less several years, and potentially several more to come. Nor am I badmouthing him as a fighter, as 9-2 is damn respectable, even in smaller promotions. But he’s just not getting signed now if not for the story, I’m sorry. Maybe down the road, but not yet.
There are probably hundreds, if not thousands, of Rad Martinez’s in various small promotions, fighting their asses off to get their big break, but continuing to get passed up. And these are folks with better records, more wins, more finishes, and overall better fighters than Rad is. But they’ll be forced to continue to bide their time in lieu of someone who is not as deserving on paper. What kind of message does that send to aspiring fighters?
Another thing that I want to say is that I don’t feel that Rad is in the wrong at all here. He should feel nothing but pride, for what he’s experienced in fighting, and also for what he’s accomplished in life. His father is in good hands, and Rad will continue to deliver on his promise to his grandmother. It’s not his fault that he’s being afforded this responsibility, and he shouldn’t be punished for it. But Bjorn Rebney and Bellator should be ashamed, signing Rad primarily based on his story, and undoubtedly exploiting that story in the future for marketing purposes.