Bellator featherweight Rad Martinez was all set for the biggest fight of his life last year (Dec. 7, 2012). He'd weighed in, traveled to the venue, warmed up....
and then he had the rug pulled out from under him.
His opponent in the Bellator season eight featherweight tournament finals, Shahbulat Shamhalaev, had fallen ill and was vomiting backstage. When a member of the New Jersey State Athletic Commission saw it, the fight was called off.
Now, Martinez has had over two months to think about that night, but he's finally going to get his hands on Shamhalaev tomorrow (Feb. 20, 2013) in the main event of Bellator 90 in his backyard of West Valley City, Utah.
The Pit Elevated fighter spoke with MMAmania.com about his upcoming fight against Shamhalaev, having the fight delayed for two months, and the benefits of fighting near his hometown in this exclusive interview.
Check it out:
Rad Martinez: It was pretty crazy that night. We were so close to the fight and I was warming up backstage and a guy from Bellator stepped in and asked for my coach, telling him the fight was cancelled. I didn't believe it at first. I was in shock, was angry and really upset. It just felt like all that time had been wasted.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I've heard that fighters who have had fights cancelled at the last second, they almost feel exactly as tired or exhausted that night as if they had actually fought. Was that the case for you?
Rad Martinez: Not exhausted but a little drained, a little down and mostly because going through those emotions of being so high and ready to go and excited to see the conclusion and realizing it's only postponed and I've got to do this in another couple months. I understand what you're talking about there for sure.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Now you had two pretty tough decision victories in the tournament, and that adds some wear and tear. Shamhalaev, on the other hand, spent about seven minutes of cage time in the first two rounds. Do you think this extra two months gives you a bigger advantage to heal your bumps and bruises?
Rad Martinez: I think it definitely was an advantage for both of us but moreso fo rme. Those grueling wars took their toll and I had an exhausted and tired body from the months of training and the battles. I was a little beat up, not completely recovered. Having a couple months to train and recover, now it feels like just another fight, not a tournament fight.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Since this is the tournament finals, elbows are legal now. Do you think that'll be a big help for you especially since you're major background is wrestling?
Rad Martinez: Yeah, it's a huge help because now you don't hve to think so much in the fight because you have to be cerebral and hold yourself back a bit to not throw elbows or you'll be penalized. Now you can let it go. Elbows are huge for wrestlers because we can do a lot more damage on the ground.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): What do you think about Shamhalaev's ground skills? There isn't much tape out there of him fighting on the canvas other than that vicious ground and pound against Cody Bollinger in the quarterfinals.
Rad Martinez: We haven't seen much on the ground or him on bottom. With Bollinger he was on top and that was pretty impressive. We're hoping that maybe his ground game is not so well-versed. He's used to standing, knocking people out and that's where we feel we have an advantage for sure.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Shamhalaev employs a pretty effective counter striking offense, moving backwards and waiting for his opponents to make the first move. Will that make it more difficult for you to take him down?
Rad Martinez: The way he fights, moving backwards, counterstriking, that in itself is a wrestling defense. Strikers who like to move forward and go hard, it's easy to get takedowns on those guys. But with guys looking to counter with their hips out, that'll be harder to get close to those legs. His style poses kind of an enigma for wrestlers to get inside and put him on his back like I want to. I know his camp has been focused on this fight for takedown defense and it's improved since November. We'll see how it plays out tomorrow.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): How do you think you'll be able to get inside against that unique style?
Rad Martinez: It's gonna be tough. I'm gonna have to utilize some feints. I'm going to have to throw. I'll have to stay out of range, throw some feints, get him to throw punches and follow his hands inside. It's gonna be tougher and I'll
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Do you think the fact that this fight is taking place in your home state of Utah will be a big advantage? What did you think when you first got the news you'd be fighting for the tournament title so close to home?
Rad Martinez: It's awesome. I was shocked when they said it was going to be in Utah. Having the crowd on my side is going to be an extra boost. The elevation is great for training here and I'm more than used to it. He trains in New York so that's sea level over there and that could be a nice boost for me. The crowd roaring and having my back is definitely going to give me a boost of adrenaline and I'm hoping to be inspired by them pushing for me.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): How do you envision the fight playing out tomorrow night?
Rad Martinez: When I see it, I see first of all that it's going to be a hard-fought battle. I see it going three rounds and each guy giving it everything they've got and me winning a close decision over a quality opponent and getting my hand raised and that title shot.
Rad would like to thank The Pit Elevated, his teammates, his coaches, his sponsors Gaspari Nutrition, Section 8, his family, his friends and his fiance Trish, You can follow him on twitter @RadMFTW.