Back in 2010, some interesting MMA news came into light. 21-year old Garrett Holeve, of Cooper City, Florida is unlike any other aspiring MMA fighter. Holeve has Down syndrome, yet he does not let his disability limit him in any way possible. Since pursuing MMA, Holeve has gained confidence in his new found physical and mental strength.
Two years later, at 23, Holeve still spills blood, sweat and tears in the cage, doing what he loves. But it’s not enough. Like all men who are hungry, Holeve has spent hours and hours honing his craft and now wants to see how well it’s developed. Holeve wants to step in the cage and fight. However, Holeve has come to a serious road block; he is unable to get a fight.
There are very few if any fighters, who would consider fighting a disabled person; it’s no mystery why Holeve can’t get a fight. After all, do you want to be the fighter who KO’s or gets KO’d by a disabled person? Eventually, I believe a fighter, who is both careful in the ring and humbled by the possibility of losing to Holeve, will step up.
I suppose the bigger dilemma is; should a developmentally disabled fighter be allowed to compete in such a dangerous sport? Any time you step in the cage, you seriously run the risk of getting yourself killed. Fighters have either been maimed or killed in the cage.
I am all for equality. But I am also aware that equality can be a catch 22. For example; if Holeve wants to fight just like any other MMA fighter, then he is expected to take the same risks the other fighters take. And is that something we want for a fighter with a cognitive disability? This is where things get sketchy. This is where you try to make compromises, like making it safer for disabled fighters. One alteration would be setting him up, with a very low tier opponent. Another alteration would be, have Holeve’s opponent take extra precaution. Any of these alterations undermines equality.
Being someone who volunteers to work with adults with developmental disabilities, I would have to say allowing Holeve to fight is a bad idea. But if Holeve’s instructors and guardians are confident and Holeve can fully comprehend the risk you take by stepping in the cage, who are we to deny this man a fight?