Some athletes wow us with their toughness. Others move us as inspirations. Twenty-three-year-old Garrett Holeve is one of the few who does both.
Holeve is one of the brave and the bold. He’s a young man with Down syndrome who chooses to believe in his ability instead of focusing on his disability as he trains to be a mixed martial arts fighter.
“From the minute Garrett was born, we never put limitations on him,” said Holeve’s father Mitch in an interview with Fuel TV. “And he’s made us realize just how much he can achieve.”
At his gym in Weston, Florida Holeve turns plenty of heads, but not because he has Down syndrome. After training for more than two years, he’s gaining attention from his peers because he is becoming an extremely skilled competitor. He’s earned so much respect at the facility that his training partners affectionately call him “G Money.”
“Me and him have the same exact training. We both want to be fighters. His determination and his level of commitment helps me get up everyday,” another aspiring fighter told Fuel TV.
His training has also improved his self-esteem and his confidence. After getting in the best shape of his life, Holeve has begun to compete in actual mixed martial arts fights and wants to take his passion for the sport to the professional level.
“I will go for a contract for the UFC, get the contract, sign it, and be on UFC,” Holeve told the Broward Palm Beach New Times.
Holeve has proven he has the ambition, the dedication and the drive to be successful within the sport, but unfortunately he hasn’t gotten much opportunity to compete because some are still weary of fighting someone with a disability. There are also few other special needs fighters like Holeve and events like the Special Olympics haven’t given much thought to including mixed martial arts as a sport.
The Holeve family is hoping to change that, but at the very least wants to encourage other families with special needs children to pursue MMA. Along with the help from Holeve’s trainer and former UFC fighter Stephan Bonnar, Holeve’s father Mitch has started a foundation called Garrett’s Fight. The foundation aims to bring more awareness to the benefits of MMA training for disabled young people, as well as to present MMA training as a viable option for families who want to become more active.
“Garrett was in denial about his Down syndrome. Now, he’s proud of it. We’ve gotten to the point where we want to get others involved in it because we know the good that’s come from it,” Mitch Holeve said.
With his new-found confidence and experience, Holeve now helps train children and even other young people with disabilities such as Down syndrome.
“Our goal is just to get the word out and maybe we’ll find some special-needs kids we can start training and have our own little Special Olympics for the kids who want to do this,” Mitch Holeve said.
Although MMA will not likely be included in a Special Olympics-type event anytime soon, one thing is certain. Garrett will never give up and continue to fight for what he believes in and what he is passionate about.
You can help the cause by donating to Garrett’s Fight. Simply check out Garrett’sFight.org for more information.