Bellator featherweight contender Rad Martinez first came to national prominence as a part of an ESPN Outside the Lines story that chronicled his day-to-day life as a caregiver for his father while trying to live his dream as a fighter.
The heartfelt story rendered everyone who watched in tears, and Martinez immediately became a name in the mixed martial arts world.
Being a name may get a fighter in the door, but ultimately talent keeps him in the building. When Martinez got a contract offer to join Bellator, he did so not only to get his shot with a major promotion but also to prove he belonged with the best in the sport.
Now, as he enters the Bellator featherweight tournament finals on Thursday, Martinez gets to show everybody he's more than just a fighter wrapped up in an emotional story they saw on television.
"I don't like to say winning is everything, but you get into a sport like this and you put in the time, the blood, the sweat and your tears and you don't want to go home after you train for seven months whatever your camp is and then lose. To be able to go out there and put in the time, and have a story out there, and have some people doubt you, thinking you're a charity case and then making it to this level, and making it to the finals of a tournament like this on the brink of having a title fight, it's nice to prove some people wrong," Martinez told Bleacher Report on Wednesday.
"You prove to yourself that you do belong here. You're so close to fulfilling a dream."
The story about Martinez titled "The Promise" showed him taking care of his ailing father, and it definitely pulled on the heartstrings. It was impossible not to become a fan of his after seeing what he did on a daily basis to help support his family.
No matter what he does from now until forever, Martinez will always be attached to that tale, and he's not upset about it at all because some of the best things in life have been a result of that single moment.
"When this story hit, nothing but positive has come out of it," said Martinez. "Whether it's sponsors or signing with Bellator, or finding my fiancée, nothing but positive has come from that story. You can't help but be positive when that happens. Things are going well right now so I'm just going to enjoy it."
As personal as that chapter of his life was for the world to witness, Martinez is now happy to focus on his profession, and he has a chance to take a huge step forward with his fight Thursday night.
Martinez faces Shahbulat Shamhalaev in the finals of the Bellator featherweight tournament with the winner moving on to face champion Pat Curran.
Much like his first trip to the spotlight in 2011, Martinez is approaching this fight with nothing but a positive attitude, and if his will has shown anything over these last few years, he doesn't understand the meaning of the word quit.
"I'm just naturally kind of a positive person. You kind of have to be with some of the struggles my family has had to deal with. You can either give up or just keep fighting," Martinez stated. "I've always been that type of person. I got that kind of mentality from my grandmother. You just keep fighting."
Damon Martin is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report, and all quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
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