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A Review of Justin Wren’s Autobiography: Fight for the Forgotten

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By Dave Madden @DMaddenMMA

Photo credit to Google Images

If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping in a closed room with a mosquito.

-African Proverb (Fight for the Forgotten p. 228)

Justin Wren, a professional mixed martial artist and heavyweight humanitarian, slammed the idea to the mat that an MMA fighter can’t submit someone with warmth in Fight for the Forgotten (2015), his autobiography written with Loretta Hunt:

I found out that I am a tender warrior. I want to fight, but I want to love at the same time. (p. 273)

What Is It About?

Fight for the Forgotten is a love story. Wren articulated a definition of love, an emotion where necessary vocabulary mysteriously vacates. The reader embarks on a journey with Wren through pressure-packed obstacles: fostering a career in MMA and bettering the lives of the Mbuti Pygmies of the Congo. Tugging at the strings of hearts, “The Big Pygmy” narrates the reader through dark times, for himself and his enslaved Pygmy family, shedding light on how powerful a voice can move you, especially after having been muted:

I knew what it was like to not have a voice. I’d been bullied in my childhood, alone in my suffering. I had lived my own private prison of depression and drug abuse and it had nearly killed me…(p. 9)

At the conclusion of Wren’s jarring tale, the reader becomes more sensitive to those who may feel forgotten, pushing empathy to the forefront of their thoughts.

Writing Style

Love never lies, and Fight for the Forgotten is an open book that’s nearly impossible to close. If eyes are windows to the soul, Wren’s honesty touches the soul of every reader. The writing excavates into darker trenches than most could imagine, for Pygmies big and small.

Photo credit to Google Images

Wren mines his memories and dug up an episode of bullying that could have tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs:

But I have the invitation she hand-delivered, which clearly states that this is a costume party. It slips from my hand as I realize she and rest of my school’s cool kids are pointing and snickering at me. I’m the only kid wearing a costume. (p. 29)

If Wren always gave up when he met a rocky surface under the initial layer of topsoil, he never would have successfully engineered a well for the Mbuti Pygmies, allowing them to, finally, access clean water:

I couldn’t imagine growing up drinking filthy water, having worms, amoebas, and parasites living inside me, having stomach pains, hunger pangs, and constant diarrhea that leads to malnutrition. (p. 165)

Much like the Pygmies didn’t possess a filter for obtaining bacteria free water, Wren removed any filters when communicating the travesties the enslaved Pygmy people faced, such as the story of Yoda:

At gunpoint, Yoda watched his nephew, who was a master hunter, get shot, cooked, and eaten. Yoda watched his nephew’s wife get kicked to her knees and, with a machine gun to her head, she was force-fed her own husband. It was one of the most evil things I’ve heard of on this planet…(p. 19)

The translation of Yoda’s story for Wren mirrored my own incomprehension throughout my time reading of this beautifully written book,

Hearing this story gave me such a mix of emotions because I was falling in love with these people, but at the same time I hated what was happening to them. (p. 19-20?)

Photo credit to Google Images

Family

Blood runs thicker than water, until water supports the lifeline of a forgotten people. Wren recognized:

Love is needed in every nook and cranny on planet earth, and we can be the ones to share it with our fellow man, our brothers and sisters. (p. 275)

The reader witnesses an unlikely family reunion. Using Wren’s perspective, readers infer the bond between him and the Pygmies as tighter than any links on a cage, begging the question: Who really needed who?

When Wren was birthed from the city into the Pygmies’ village, they named him,

…Efeosa, which means “The Man Who Loves Us,” and if I was really going to be this man, I wouldn’t let these starving slaves dig a grave. I was here. I was able. I wanted to ease their burden in any way I could. (p. 6)

If you can’t force love, nobody ever informed Wren:

As I researched more and more about the atrocities the Pygmies endured, my sense of urgency increased. (p. 143)

Fight for the Forgotten reads as a family album with Wren at its hub. Overcoming rough patches are what families do together.

Rating

For stepping into conflict-stricken zones, bordered by fencing or foliage, Wren’s work deserves to be strapped in the same championship gold that his heart is already worth. If exploring the darkest facets of life and turning the spotlight on a unique path to assist others isn’t worth five out of five stars, I don’t know what is.

Photo credit to Google Images

Conclusion

A normal thud of the back cover exits my time in another world, but Wren heightened my cognizance in returning from the Congo. Aware of how fully one can give to another after reading Fight for the Forgotten, I scratched out some new goals for myself in my notebook. By in large, I intend on locating someone who may feel forgotten about and intervene. Secondarily, I programmed Fandango’s number into my phone with the expectation: Wren’s unique story will light up on the silver screen. The scene in Fight for the Forgotten when the first well functioned would play out as a timeless classic and remind readers of the celebration in putting up a Fight for the Forgotten:

Photo credit to Google Images

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Interviews

UFC 219’s Jimmie Rivera to TJ Dillashaw “Defend Your Belt or Vacate.”

Harry Davies

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MMA Latest had the chance to talk to #4 ranked UFC bantamweight Jimmie “El Terror” Rivera ahead of his fight at UFC 219 against John Lineker.

Rivera (21-1) extended his unbeaten run to twenty when he defeated Thomas Almeida at UFC Long Island in July. Originally scheduled to face former bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz, we began by asking Rivera how the opponent change had affected his preparation for UFC 219.

The only thing that’s changed is the game plan, everything else stays the same. Cruz is more of an irritating fight because he just doesn’t stop moving, but with Lineker, he’s going to stay in the pocket and bang, and I love that.

Recently, Rivera posted a video to his Twitter account of him sparring with the recently crowned bantamweight champion, TJ Dillashaw. He told us about the context of this video, and how the sparring went down between them.

It was 3 or 4 years back. I think TJ had just lost to (John) Dodson on TUF. My teammate Louis Gaudinot was actually fighting Tim Elliott at the time, and we were in Milwaukee so I got to train with (Urijah) Faber and Dillashaw.

I just sent it to TJ to say, don’t forget what happened. I was getting the best of him, and I don’t really brag about it. But he wants to leave the weight class and fight DJ for the money fight, and I want to fight for the belt, so it’s defend your belt or vacate.

After briefly referencing the potential superfight between Demetrious Johnson and TJ Dillashaw, I asked Rivera about his thoughts on the somewhat flawed UFC rankings system, and title fights being put together purely for entertainment value.

It sucks. When I become champ I won’t be like a TJ or McGregor, I’m going to be like Demetrious Johnson and defend my belt against people coming up, it’s the right thing to do. If you want to win the belt and leave the division straight away, it’s kind of bullshit.

Rivera concluded by telling me that although he isn’t looking past Lineker at 219, “the only fight that makes sense after this one, is fighting TJ for the belt.”

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Announcement

Mark Hunt Returns to Fight Curtis Blaydes at UFC 221

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UFC 221 in Perth has officially added a another Australian to the main card. Joining Robert Whittaker is the knockout legend Mark Hunt.

The Daily Telegraph first reported that Hunt will be stepping into the octagon to face #9 Curtis Blaydes. Some weren’t sure if we would ever see Hunt fight again after he was pulled from the main event in UFC Fight Night 21 against Marcin Tybura. The UFC removed him due to “medical concerns” while Hunt was stating he was perfectly fine.

After getting evaluated and cleared to fight by Australian and American doctors, it looks like his time has come to return.  Hunt’s last fight was back in June when he derailed the Derrick Lewis hype train with a 4th round TKO win.

Hunt had been adamant about calling out #3 ranked heavyweight Fabricio Werdum and trying to get that rematch booked, labelling Werdum a “chicken shit” and a “coward.”

Curtis “Razor” Blaydes who has an 8-1 record, is coming off a TKO victory due to doctor stoppage at UFC 217 in November. Since losing to now title challenger Francis Ngannou in April of 2016, Blaydes has rattled off three straight wins over Alexey Oleynik, Daniel Omielanczuk, and Cody East.

With all this momentum from the win streak, Blaydes looks to capitalize and win the biggest fight of his career against Hunt.

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News

Valentina Shevchenko vs. Priscila Cachoeira Officially Booked for Belem, Brazil card

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The wait is over. Valentina Shevchenko (14-3, 3-2 UFC) will make her highly anticipated flyweight debut when the UFC returns to Brazil. She will face Priscila Cachoeira (8-0) on the February 3rd card scheduled for Belem, Brazil. Luciana Andrade was the first to report the match-up last week. On Tuesday, the UFC posted an article which stated the bout had been set.

Now that the flyweight tournament is over and the inaugural champion has her crown, many women shall migrate from the strawweight and bantamweight ranks in search of a more suitable weight class. The division is so infantile means a lot moving parts in the rankings. Yet, only women who fought at one hundred and twenty-five lbs. are ranked. Such practices muddy the title picture for the time being. Essentially ruling out the idea of Montano vs. Shevchenko for the first defense of the belt, illogical. An idea that floated around the internet until today’s confirmation of the newest female flyweight match-up. The TUF 26 winner, Nicco Montano called it, “kinda silly”, earlier this week while on The MMA Hour. Montano believes her first title defense, as it stands, should pit her against the original finalist of the flyweight tournament, Sijara Eubanks. Although Eubanks withdrew from the title fight, she is still ranked as the #1 contender in the division.

Shevchenko explained her desire for the flyweight belt on The MMA Hour, a week earlier than Montano, “For me it’s number one, to fight for the title… It doesn’t matter for me, if I have to have one fight before it, okay I will do it… my main goal is to be the champion… It doesn’t matter I move from one thirty-five to one twenty-five. My goal is still the same, to be the champion”. The Russian fighter is coming off an unsuccessful title shot in the bantamweight division against the current reigning champ, Amanda Nunes. The bout went to a decision after close five rounds, Nunes ultimately defeated Shevchenko via split decision (47-48, 48-47, 48-47).

Her opponent, Priscila Cachoeira, is not only new to the UFCs female flyweight division but the promotion’s roster as well. Cachoeira originally was scheduled to make her promotional debut against veteran Lauren Murphy at The Ultimate Fighter Finale 26. The Brazilian fighter withdrew from the bout due to visa issues. As a professional, she is undefeated with four knockouts in her eight fights.

UFC Belem is scheduled for February 3rd, 2018. The card will feature Timothy Johnson vs. Marcelo Golm in the heavyweight division. It will also have Thiago Santos taking on Anthony Smith in the middleweight division.

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