Rad Martinez prepared physically and mentally for his match with Shahbulat Shamhalaev. Photo: Bellator MMA
The crowd at the Maverick Center is on their feet, chanting “U-S-A” in unison, spotlights circle the room, and the tension is palpable. Then with a collective gasp and a wave of the referee’s hand, it’s all over. Countless hours, mentally and physically preparing for this fight and it’s over, two minutes and 45 seconds into the second round. Fighters, bull riders and Olympians recognize this fleeting moment when history claims the winners and the losers. In this case the winner is the Russian fighter, Shahbulat Shamhalaev, and the unlucky one is Utah’s own Rad Martinez. If you had asked me two weeks ago about the Bellator Featherweight Championship Tournament, my eyes would have glossed over like I’d taken a spinning back fist to the face, but after interviewing our home boy and hearing his amazing story, I was invested. When I interviewed Martinez pre-fight, we talked about what the $1,000,000 prize money and what it would do for him and his new fiancé, how this title shot had been rescheduled, leaving speculation and anxiousness on the part of both fighters. The fight might not have taken that long, but the work leading up to it took years.