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Garrett has the Right to Fight

UFCBlogPostGarrett Holeve, a 24 year old man living with Down syndrome, has an online petition on Change.org to allow him to compete professionally as an MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) fighter in Florida.

If you are unfamiliar with MMA, or it’s famed pro league the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship), it is a combative sport where athletes duel within a cage using a variety of martial arts to subdue their opponent.

In summary, if it’s likely to give you a bloody nose, these guys are experts at it.

Garrett has been training as a MMA fighter for over four years in Florida.  He runs Garrett’s Fight Foundation, an organization that supports children and persons with disabilities to learn MMA.

He has been denied the right to fight or sponsor fights for other fighters through his gym.  The Florida State Boxing Commission decreed that Garrett’s safety is in question and therefore he cannot compete.

I signed Garrett’s petition because I believe in equal opportunity.  Garrett has given informed consent, chooses to compete with carefully selected athletes equal to himself, and has been given the go ahead by a doctor, his parents, and his professional trainer and coach.

That said, I wasn’t so enthusiastic the first time I saw Garrett’s petition go by.

It was deeply uncomfortable watching ESPN’s mini documentary on Garrett’s first fight against a typically abled athlete.  Watching him take a beating set my nerve’s a jangling.

So what changed my mind?

Firstly, Garrett’s obvious pride and happiness at completing a ‘real match.’

It was a compelling reminder of how satisfying achieving our own goals is.  And how hugely important it is to be treated as an equal.

Secondly, people with disabilities are often denied the right to risk.

Garrett’s passion and commitment made me question my own squeamishness as the fight went on.  He forced me to look at my prejudice and realize that I was judging him based on his disability; not the long hours of practice at the gym, professional knowledge he acquired there, or the thousands of hours of support he received to make his goal a reality.

Thirdly, self-respect creates positive transformative change and its work is obvious in Garrett.

Mitch Holeve, Garrett’s father, says that Garret used to be aggressively hostile towards people with disabilities, including himself.  He quotes Garrett having said,

“I don’t want to be called Garrett, because Garrett has Down Syndrome and he’s dead to me.”

Since having taken on MMA, Garrett has found his calling and his self-respect.  He coaches other’s with Down syndrome, and is at peace with his own identity.  He is comfortable in his own skin and he’s accomplished that in his own unique way, as should we all.

I encourage you to sign Garrett’s petition.

Still uncomfortable with idea of Garrett fighting as an MMA athlete?  This article, Garrett Holeve vs David Steffan – What Went Wrong?, written by Chuck Grace on MMA Insider went a long way to quelling any lingering doubts I had about Garrett’s right to fight.

What do you guys think?  Comment and give me your feedback on what you think of this.


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