The most important fight of Rad Martinez’s life will be Thursday when he headlines a Bellator MMA event at the Maverik Center.
When Martinez takes on Shahbulat Shamhalaev in front of a hometown crowd — and a national TV audience — a $100,000 payday and a guaranteed title shot will be on the line.
“Everybody’s next fight is their biggest fight,” Martinez said. “But this one is no doubt the biggest fight of my career.”
Martinez, whose wrestling career at Clarion University ended with a fifth-place NCAA finish, expects a tough bout between two fighters with very different styles.
“He’s a kickboxing world champion, and his strikes are fantastic,” he said. “My background is wrestling. I don’t think it’s any secret that he wants to stand and beat me up and try to knock me out, and I want to drag him to the ground and beat him up and try to knock him out. I feel like my strengths will be his weaknesses.”
And Martinez expects a hometown crowd to fuel him.
“Having it in Utah is huge,” he said. “There are going to be so many supporters out there that are going to be rooting me on. That’s going to help to push me forward. If I start to feel tired, they’re going to motivate me to go forward.”
The $100,000 prize would help pay for Martinez’s August wedding. It would also help cover the costs of caring for his father, who suffered a traumatic brain injury in a car crash roughly two decades ago.
“It would go a long way toward securing my family’s future,” he said.
O Thursday, 6 p.m.
At the Maverik Center (West Valley City)
TV • Spike TV (8 p.m.)