Prior to signing with Bellator, Rad Martinez was thought to have been a solid up-and-coming prospect in the featherweight division, and as it turns out, he’s been as advertised.

In three fights in the promotion since his debut late last year, Martinez has stepped up against increasingly difficult opposition and earned his way into Friday’s featherweight tournament semifinals.

“Before, when I was in the local scene, I was winning a lot of fights wondering what it would be like to step up into the bigger promotions and face that competition,” said Martinez. “After these three fights, it’s made me feel like I belong and that I’m a pretty good fighter.

“It’s been nice to have this run, and the competition is only going to get better, so I’m looking forward to the challenge and enjoying it.”

Just to get to Friday’s semifinals, Martinez had to overcome the toughest fight of his career against Nazareno Malegarie in October.

“Fighting a guy as experienced as Nazareno is – having 20-something fights – I knew that nobody had stopped him and he would be a tough fight,” said Martinez. “We ended up beating each other up for three rounds and I won a close decision.

“It showed me that I can stand in there and take some damage a little bit and also give out some myself instead of taking the fight to the ground and just work my wrestling. Knowing I can take a punch and beat a guy like that with so much experience gives me a lot of confidence going into this next fight.”

Martinez’s opponent in Hollywood, Fla., this Friday at Bellator 80, Wagnney Fabiano, would seemingly mirror Nazareno. Still, Martinez doesn’t think that while his recent opponents share similar credentials that they will fight him the same way.

“It’s a completely new fight, but at the same time, some of the things that worked for me in the last fight I believe will work for me in this fight,” said Martinez. “This fight going in, we’re thinking he’s going to try to take me down and submit me, but if it turns into a fight like the last one, I’ll be there and ready for a battle like that.

“Wagnney, I believe, is more of a counter fighter and going back and trying to use the perimeter of the cage, so I have to be very aggressive. I also have to be on my toes, because even though I have a strong wrestling background, I’ve got to make sure I don’t get lazy and get caught in a takedown and have the fight go where he wants it.”

With a spot in the finals on the line, it would be understandable if Martinez wanted to lay up a bit in this fight in anticipation of the next, but as he told, he’s not going to forsake the future for the present.

“I absolutely do not look past this fight and forward to the next at all,” he said. “The worst thing I could do would be to try to conserve myself for this fight expecting to make it to the finals, and make a mistake and get beat. So right now it’s only this fight and only after victory do I start thinking about that.”

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