Rad Martinez, a heretofore anonymous 24-year-old mixed martial artist hailing from West Jordan, Utah, has signed a multiyear, multifight agreement with Bellator Fighting Championships.
News of the deal comes days after Martinez, an all-American wrestler and teammate of UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar at Clarion University, was the subject of an ESPN Outside the Lines profile focusing on his status as the primary caregiver to his brain-damaged father, Richard, who's lived in a near vegetative state since an automobile accident in 1991.
Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney said the organization had been in talks with Levi Martinez, Rad's brother and manager, during the last year. After learning of Martinez's story via the OTL piece on Sunday, Rebney instructed his matchmaker, Sam Caplan, to sign the 9-2 fighter, whose last bout ended in a submission loss to Brian Cobb in May.
"There's a big part of me that hopes that my dad is proud of me and what I'm doing right now, and if he's not proud of me now, then in the afterlife," Martinez said. "That's a huge driving force for me. Even if he doesn't know now, I feel confident that he would have been really proud of me before his accident, and that I've been able to make a success of myself."
Bellator, said Rebney, is reaching out to a collection of sponsors and interested parties who could help with "putting Rad in a position where he has the economic wherewithal" to find help for his father. "Then he really has to focus on getting in the gym and being the best mixed martial artist he can be. There's no question in my mind he'll do that.
"He's a very talented fighter who happens to have a very inspirational story. But he needs some help. We're trying to give a guy that could be a very special fighter for us an opportunity, and at the same time it's doing something good that could work out really well for him and us."
Rebney anticipates Martinez will make his Bellator debut during the promotion's fall season, which commences Sept. 10 in Atlantic City, N.J. Though Martinez has campaigned at 155 pounds, thought has been given to him competing at featherweight.
"I feel like I'm going to be faster at 145 pounds, and I also think I'll be able to carry most of the strength I have right now down to featherweight." Martinez said. "I'm going to be strong and it will be nice to fight against guys that are closer to my natural size."
Josh Gross covers mixed martial arts for ESPN.com.