Disabled MMA fighters inspire

Thursday, April 25, 2013

April 15, 2013, two bombs were exploded during the Boston Marathon, wounding over 250, and killing three. A police officer was killed and one injured during an extended and ultimately successful effort to arrest the suspected bombers, brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

Rest in Peace
Krystle Campbell, 29

Rest in Peace
Martin Richard, 8

Rest in Peace
Lu Lingzi, 23

Rest in Peace
Sean Collier, 26

At least 13 people lost limbs, including newlyweds Patrick and Jessica Downes, who each lost a leg.

For those victims the road to recovery will be long, but MMA provides inspiring examples of not just being able to cope with the loss of a limb, but being better than people who are fully abled. There is no better test of a human being’s physical abilities than mixed martial arts, and the fighters below prove that the lack of a limb, or limbs, can be just another challenge.

Nick Newell

Undefeated, Newell holds the XFC lightweight title, and is only moving up.

“I was the only kid I knew that had one hand,” said Nick. “I didn’t know anyone else. I was just kind of thrown out there and told to go out there and just be a boy and go get dirty like everybody else. That’s what I did. I’m determined to succeed. I’m not going to let anything stop me from getting to where I want to go.”

“A lot of people ask me what it’s like fighting with one hand. I’m like, what’s it like fighting with two hands? I just don’t know. This is natural and its how I’ve always been and just like anyone else who plays sports. It just so happens that I’m good at one.”

Below Newell teaches Dakota how to tie his shoes.

Keith Miner

Rumble at the Rodeo welterweight champion Miner is the pioneer, becoming the first amputee to fight in MMA professionally, in 2008. Miner lost his right hand in 2000 in a wood chipper accident, and fights with a specially approved glove.

“You should fight, you totally should,” said his wife during an early discussion about competing in MMA. “Because you will inspire so many people. You will inspire me. You will inspire everyone who sees you just get up every day and doing something with your life, and not sitting, and being sad for yourself that you lost your hand.”

Fighting with one arm is one thing, but what about one leg. What happens if you are a one-legged man in an ass kicking contest?

The answer is, you can be a champion.

Matt Betzold

World Fighting Federation bantamweight champion Betzold was given poisoned candy when he was 6 years old, and doctors had to amputate his left leg below the knee. Betzold wears a prosthetic leg, but takes it off when he competes.

“Some people may say I’m disabled, but I don’t look at it like that” says Betzold. “I just have a disability.”

 And loss of a leg is not the end of what can be overcome.

Kyle Maynard

Maynard is a quadruple congenital amputee, who climbed Mount Kilimanjaro unaided, went 35-16 in HS wrestling, wrote the New York Times best seller ‘No Excuses’ at 50 words per minute, and among countless other achievements, competed in MMA.

Maynard lost the fight, against an opponent who circled and jabbed, refusing to fully engage. Why?

Here’s why. I had the honor of supervising a NAGA in 2005 that Maynard competed in. The man is a beast on the mats.

These fighters not only overcame disabilities, they are champions. They do not just inspire us because they can fight back and lead normal lives, they inspire because they can fight back and become champions.

The next time you are on the mats, and you get a sore elbow, or a sore knee, well, as Lyle Maynard’s HS coach used to tell the team – “I bet Kyle Maynard wishes he had a sore knee.”

Or maybe he doesn’t.

In an ESPN piece on What I Wish I Knew in High School, Maynard offers advice for each of us.

“The biggest thing was, what I needed to do was learn to accept myself. I wish I would have known more about the fact that my confidence shouldn’t stem from other people’s perceptions of me. It shouldn’t be based on the fact of how other people looked at me. It should be totally based on the way at which I look at myself.

“If someone’s going to look at me and cast doubt, if someone’s going to place their limitations on me, if someone’s going to go and say something negative me, then it’s almost like I feel sorry for them – it’s their reality, not mine.

“The biggest thing we can do to increase our own state of confidence is take a second and learn about someone else’s map of reality. And understand that we alone are responsible for our own state.”

We all have something missing. It is part of the human condition. The legendary Renzo Gracie spoke with 60 Minutes in 2008, and discussed having his arm dislocated by Kazushi Sakuraba.

60 Minutes: He twisted your am completely inside out?

Renzo Gracie: Yes

60 min: I see the arm, but i don’t see it on your face.

RG: To be honest, i really even enjoyed that moment. Because i had plenty consciousness of what was going on. And I didn’t give up. I saw the ligaments going, I heard one by one going away. And I embraced that for a punishiment of the mistake i made.

60 min: But your arm is busted, fight’s over. Why didn’t you tap?

RG: because I really believed that I could keep fighting even without the arm.

Mixed martial arts is meaningless without meaning. It is just entertainment. But MMA holds deep lessons, hard earned, that you can, that you must bring into life. Among them is fact that we each have shortcomings, we each have disabilities, and the only thing that matters is in end is believing, and all the hard work that believing demands.