By Dave Madden @DMaddenMMA
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.
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.
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?)
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.
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.
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:
Aldo vs. Lamas 2 and Ponzinibbio vs. Perry Added to UFC Winnipeg
The UFC has added Jose Aldo vs. Ricardo Lamas 2, and Santiago Ponzinibbio vs. Mike Perry to their UFC Winnipeg card on December 16th.
The two fights were announced as official today on the UFC’s Twitter account.
THIS. CARD. pic.twitter.com/bc4AyNncqy
— UFC (@ufc) October 13, 2017
Aldo (26-3) last fought at UFC 212 in June, where he lost by third round TKO to Max Holloway. After being promoted to the undisputed 145-pound champion last November, he was looking to make the first defence of the title against Holloway.
Lamas first faced Aldo back in 2014 at UFC 169. Aldo, who was again featherweight champion at the time, defeated Lamas with ease winning by unanimous decision (49-46) on all scorecards. Lamas is on a two-fight winning streak after defeating both Charles Oliveira and Jason Knight with impressive finishes.
Since his last UFC loss to Lorenz Larkin back in 2015, Ponzinnibio (25-3) has won five consecutive fights. His most recent victory was a upset win over Gunnar Nelson in July at UFC Glasgow. There was some controversy after the fight, as replays seemed to show a short grab and several eyes pokes from Ponzinnibio before knocking out Nelson in the first round.
Mike Perry has taken the UFC by storm since making his debut for the promotion last August. Picking up four wins all by knockout, the only loss ‘Platinum’ suffered was too Alan Jouban by decision. Ranked at #9 in the welterweight division, a win over Ponzinnibio could definitely propel Perry into the top ten at 170-pounds.
With the additon of these two fantastic fights, the lineup for UFC Winnipeg is as follows:
- Robbie Lawler vs. Rafael dos Anjos – Welterweight bout
- Glover Teixeira vs. Misha Cirkunov – Light heavyweight bout
- Antônio Rogério Nogueira vs. Jared Cannonier – Light heavyweight bout
- Tim Elliott vs. Justin Scoggins – Flyweight bout
- Chad Laprise vs. Galore Bafondo – Welterweight bout
- Alessio Di Chirico vs. Oluwale Bamgbose – Middleweight bout
- Vitor Miranda vs. Julian Marquez – Middleweight bout
- John Makdessi vs. Abel Trujillo – Lightweight bout
- Nordine Taleb vs. Sultan Aliev – Welterweight bout
Why the UFC Needs to Introduce 165 and 175-pound Weight Divisions
- The debacle that were the UFC 216 weigh-in last Friday further highlighted current weight cutting problems in mixed martial arts.
More specifically in this case it was in the UFC’s lightweight division. A fight between Nik Lentz and Will Brooks was pulled due to Lentz having ‘medical issues’ according to a UFC statement, hours before he was due to weigh-in.
Title challenger Kevin Lee then took to the scale seconds before the deadline and was over the limit by a pound. Fortunately he made weight after being given an extra hour. But these are not isolated cases, especially at 155-pounds.
There isn’t necessarily a solution to this problem but there may be a short term fix in the form of new weight classes approved by the ABC (Association of Boxing Commissions and Combative Sports) in July 2017. These include 165 and 175-pound divisions.
While not specific to the lightweight division, the problems with weight commonly occur there. In March this year, Khabib Nurmagomedov was rushed to hospital during fight week when cutting down for his title contest with Tony Ferguson. Subsequently the UFC 209 main event was cancelled. Khabib has been regularly discussed as a title challenger but he’s often struggled to make weight and failed on numerous occasions.
With drastic dehydration it is still unknown what health implications may effect him and other mixed martial artists in the future.
Some top ranked fighters such as Donald Cerrone, Jorge Masvidal and Rafael Dos Anjos have moved up to the welterweight division to preserve their health from these strenuous cuts, and have all been relatively successful.
However, many fighters are still reluctant and insist on dropping 10-20% of their bodyweight in the hours and days leading up to a bout. For example, Kevin Lee was rumoured to be 19 pounds over the day before he stepped on the scales.
At 170 pounds, welterweight is fifteen pounds more than lightweight which is a noticeable difference between relatively low weight classes. Especially when you consider that the divisions increase ten pounds from as low as 115 up to 155. There are many fighters who find themselves too big to be a lightweight, yet too small to compete at welterweight.
The incidents last Friday should hopefully be a wakeup call to the UFC, who can also set an example for other organisations such as Bellator, One FC, and Cage Warriors.
So far in 2017 the UFC has lost 14 fights in 48 hours or less before they were due to take place. That is one fight every two cards. While weight cutting is not always to blame, more often than not it plays a big role. These situations leave the UFC at a loss, fighters without opponents and a pay check, and fans disgruntled. Not to mention the health implications for the athlete involved.
The UFC must recognise these common patterns, remove the 170 pound welterweight division and create 165 and 175 pound rosters instead. Some may see an additional weight class as devaluing UFC titles even further but this would not be the case.
Recently the women’s featherweight title was created without having a roster of women to fill it. However, the difference with lightweight and welterweight is that they are comfortably the two deepest, most talent stacked divisions in the organisation.
Admittedly, there is a lot of history attached to the welterweight title since Pat Miletich first won it back in 1998. The likes of Matt Hughes and Georges St Pierre have also added prestige to the belt over the years.
Even so, the sport has changed since then and it’s in a transitional phase. We are in the era of USADA, the era of banned IV drips and certain commissions tightening their regulations on how much they allow fighters to safely cut. Everyone is accountable and aware of the dangers, yet steps still need to be taken.
The athletic commissions and the UFC in particular must act by introducing super lightweight (165lbs) and super welterweight (175lbs) divisions. Perhaps from a fighter’s perspective it seems like a no-brainer that their health should be the main priority.
From a fans point of view there is plenty of talent that could be used in those two divisions. The novelty of fighters blending into these classes would also have the feeling of a superfight. The likes of Nurmagomedov, Lee, Masvidal, Cerrone and Dos Anjos would certainly fit well into a 165 pound division.
Similarly, at 175 pounds, Tyron Woodley could transition from welterweight champion to super welterweight champion. Top talents such as Robert Whittaker, Stephen Thompson, Demian Maia and Robbie Lawler would be perfect matches for this weight.
If this was a success then super middleweight (195lbs) and cruiserweight (225lbs) divisions could be an option in future too.
As previously mentioned this won’t necessarily fix the issues of weight cutting but it gives martial artists another option and is a positive step towards fighter’s safety. Currently there has been no mention by the UFC about introducing these new divisions.
However, with fighter safety being of upmost importance these new divisions must be given serious consideration.
James Gallagher out of Bellator 187 in Dublin due to injury
Irish fans will have to wait a little longer to see James Gallagher fighting on home soil after Gallagher suffered a knee injury in preparation for his main event fight with Jeremiah Labiano in Dublin next month. This bad news was first reported by MMAFighting.com.
The 20-year-old from Strabane co. Tyrone who trains in the famous SBG gym with Conor McGregor and Gunnar Nelson among others has set the featherweight division alight since joining Bellator in 2016. James “The Strabanimal” Gallagher has gone 3-0 with all three of his wins coming by rear naked choke.
After submitting Chinzo Machida, the brother of former UFC light heavyweight champion, Lyoto Machida in Madison Square Garden Gallagher has become a budding star for Bellator.
Due to the youngster’s attitude and potential, many comparisons between Gallagher and UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor have been made by the fans and media which has made Gallagher one of Bellator’s most recognizable names. This notoriety has ultimately led to the young Irishman getting a chance to headline in Dublin this November but this injury has delayed his rise for the time being.
Gallagher on social media Thursday stated that he has suffered an injury to his PCL and LCL in his knee and would be out for the remainder of the year. He has assured fans we would return next year and carry on where he started with “The Jimmy show.”
His longtime rival AJ McKee, who has engaged in a Twitter war with Gallagher after his last fight, will now headline Bellator 187 in the 3 Arena in Dublin on November 10th against Gallagher’s SBG teammate Brian Moore. Moore will be making his third appearance for Bellator in this featherweight clash.
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