MMA offer deaf fighter a new life

Saturday, January 23, 2010

“I hate when they say, ‘Oh, I feel bad, he’s deaf,'” Ofiu said. “Don’t feel bad. I will feel bad for you because I’m going to fight you.”

We all know someone who’s had to overcome big challenges to get where they are today, but perhaps none are as large as the ones Josh Ofiu has had to face.

When he’s not attending school in Washington, D.C., you’ll find him fighting at the Alaska Fighting Championship bouts at the Sullivan Arena — but it’s taken a lot of time to get there.

If you’re one of the hundreds at the Sullivan on a Wednesday night, chances are you’re looking for a good fight: close calls, smart moves, a spectacle for the senses — in other words, all the things Ofiu likes about mixed martial arts too.

But as he gets ready for the evening’s match, you can already hear: his fight’s lasted longer than a few rounds.

“He thinks it’s almost an advantage that he’s deaf that he’s in the ring,” said Ofiu’s sister, Malaleolani Lavea. “He’s not like the hearing fighters, where they get a little nervous when they hear the crowd.”

“They know to make as much noise as possible, because he can feel the rumble,” said host Bob Lester.

On a night when Ofiu is in the ring, you’d better hope you’re not in there with him.

“Heavy hands, very fast — awesome fighter,” said AFC fan Darrin Nelson.

“I hate when they say, ‘Oh, I feel bad, he’s deaf,'” Ofiu said. “Don’t feel bad. I will feel bad for you because I’m going to fight you.”

He’s not afraid to throw a few punches — something he got used to only a few years ago.

It was 2006 when Ofiu found himself fighting assault charges. At the time, police said he was part of a mob kicked out of a party that came back to get revenge.

“Mr. Ofiu was at the front door of the residence,” said then-Anchorage police spokesperson Paul Honeman. “Likely the person who broke open the door physically, entered the residence and began beating on others inside the party location.”

Headed for trouble, not too long after his arrest Ofiu tried his hand at mixed martial arts.

“This is just a positive way for him to do it without getting in trouble and get some of that anger out,” Lavea said.

He later enrolled in Gallaudet University, a school for deaf and hard-of-hearing people, where he met his fiancé.

“I remember she told me, ‘If you want to be with me, be a good boy,'” Ofiu said.

So that’s just what Ofiu did. And just one look at what he does now is all it takes for his friends at Gallaudet to take notice.

“I feel bad when they always look down. I’m trying to help them look up, be tough, be happy,” Ofiu said. “Now they look up to me.”

After a lifetime of battles, Ofiu finally has what he’s always wanted.

“Now I’m happy,” Ofiu said. “I have my son and my wife, and I worked hard for who I am now. I’m so happy now.”

Good fights aren’t hard to come by on any given Wednesday in Anchorage.

“They always ask me, ‘How do you do this?'” Ofiu said. “I tell them, ‘You can.’ You say to me you’re deaf. Deaf can do it.”

It’s just that some victories feel better than others.

Ofiu plans on graduating from Gallaudet in 2014, when he hopes to pursue a career as a counselor for other deaf children.

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