For most fighters, stepping inside the Octagon for their first ever fight is the biggest moment of their fledgling MMA career but for Garrett ‘G-Money’ Holeve, he had to fight like hell to even be given that opportunity in the first place.
You see, Holeve has down syndrome and after training for five years, in August of 2013, his home state of Florida issued a cease and desist order to prevent him from competing in a sanctioned MMA bout.
For many, a cease and desist order would signal the end of their dream but not Holeve; shortly after receiving the news, Garrett and his legal team at Disability Right Florida sued the ISKA and the WFO, two of the state of Florida’s authorised sanctioning organizations.
The legal battle ended in January 2014 after Holeve testified in Florida District court to gain his right to compete in MMA. In the aftermath of a verdict in his favour, Garrett was philosophical about how he became a figurehead for fighting for the rights of people with disabilities.
“I’m a fighter first of all,” he said. “That’s what I am. The only thing I want to be is a fighter. I think fighting injustice makes me stronger. More powerful.”
Garrett’s first opponent inside the Octagon was David Steffan, a fighter with cerebral palsy, who was also making his MMA debut. I’m not going to spoil this for anyone who hasn’t seen it already, but fu*k me, I wish the Mrs wasn’t cutting onions right next to me when I watched it!
Holeve’s father and (initially) reluctant trainer, Mitch, is clearly proud of the work that his son has done to pave the way for other adaptive athletes:
“Society is just getting acquainted with what people with Down’s syndrome can actually do. It’s Garrett’s generation that is really proving this. He’s definitely a pioneer as an adaptive athlete in Mixed Martial Arts.”
It’s condescending to call people like Holeve ‘inspirational’ but I’m not gonna lie, he has inspired the sh*t out of me!