From USA Today:
MMA fighter with Down syndrome can’t find a fight
(Photo: Broward Palm Beach New Times)
One of the most fascinating stories you’ll read today comes from the Broward Palm Beach New Times, which details the story of 23-year-old Garrett Holeve, a Cooper City, Fla. man with Down syndrome who has found his passion in mixed martial arts fighting.
The sport has allowed Garrett to reinvent himself — mind and body. At the gym, he’s not Garrett Holeve, the guy with Down syndrome. He’s G-Money, an up-and-coming fighter with big ambitions.
« I will go for a contract for the UFC, get the contract, sign it, and be on UFC, » Garrett declares.
But there’s a problem. Even though he has spent countless hours training at American Top Team Weston, Garrett can’t find a fair fight. People who run the Special Olympics have given little indication they will ever allow the sport, and it’s unclear how many parents of special-needs’ people would even allow their children to pursue MMA. And though he has fought two exhibitions against abled competitors, few fighters want to be the one who knocks out a guy with Down syndrome or, worse, gets knocked out by him.
Holeve is having a tough time lining up opponents for actual matches and while his UFC aspirations may be unrealistic, his potential for inspiring others isn’t. The feature, which doesn’t spare any personal details of Holeve’s life, talks about how Holeve’s father, a former boxer, asked if any of his three sons would be interested in taking up the sport while watching a UFC fight with the family in 2010. Garrett was the only one to respond affirmatively and three weeks later, began training in mixed martial arts.
Now more than two years into Holeve’s training, retired UFC fighter Stephen Bonnar and Holeve’s father Mitch have started a foundation to encourage other special needs athletes to pursue mixed martial arts, opening the door for debate on whether combat sports are too dangerous for those with cognitive and physical disabilities.
It’s hard for me to understand how an activity that improves self-esteem and fitness, teaches teamwork and discipline and gives someone like Holeve an outlet to be passionate about could be a bad thing, especially if he’s being supervised by trained coaches. Holeve is now even helping to teach some classes himself.
Yet as the story details, Holeve’s aunt and uncle strongly disapprove of him fighting, while several YouTube commenters have expressed their own concerns after watching his videos online, stating that someone with his limitations could seriously harm himself in the cage.
Here’s a story that a local news team did on Holeve shortly after he started training in the sport in 2010: