14 UFC and Bellator stars who were bullied growing up

April 2, 2018 | Author: Mike Dreiblatt | Views: 769 | Comments: 0

By: Steven Marrocco | April 1, 2018 2:30 pm
Do you think sports can help people overccome bullying?  Tell us your story of resilency.  Thanks for sharing.
You’re doing your job right if you bully opponents in MMA. But you’d be surprised at the number of MMA stars who were bullied before they ever stepped into the cage.
Some of the world’s toughest men and women, from Georges St-Pierre to Anderson Silva to Conor McGregor, were tormented as youngsters. Learning how to fight back started as a necessity, and then it became a passion.
Mike Brown, who’s worked with dozens of MMA fighters over two decades in the sport, thinks bullying is one of the main reasons ordinary people find the will to participate in an extraordinary sport.
“There’s a reason they want to become a great fighter,” he said. “It’s wanting to be able to defend yourself and be confident in any situation.”
Not everyone who gets picked on becomes a professional fighter, of course. It takes a lot more than bullying to keep someone coming back day after day to take punches to the head.
But for some fighters, the experience never fully goes away. No matter how tough they are, it’s always close to the surface, waiting to rear its head.
Javier Mendez, a head coach at the famed American Kickboxing Academy, thought he was having a laugh when he imitated a student from France who mumbled his words with a thick accent. After practice, another student told him the truth: It was a stutter.
Mortified, Mendez took the student aside and apologized for his behavior. The student thanked him, and started to cry.
“I felt like a piece of (expletive),” Mendez said. “I hope to God I never make that mistake again, because it’s not cool at all.”
Many MMA fighters have made anti-bullying their passion project outside the cage, traveling from school to school to share their stories and urge students to treat one another with respect.
This past December, UFC fighters were among dozens of celebrities who professed their support for Keaton Jones, an 11-year-old whose tear-filled plea against bullying went viral.
Ex-champ St-Pierre took a more direct approach – by accident. Prior to winning the UFC middleweight title after a four-year layoff, he encountered his childhood bully, who was homeless on the street. St-Pierre gave him money and told him to shape up his life.
Later, that bully visited his parent’s home and thanked the UFC star for turning his life around.
Here are a few MMA fighters who were bullied growing up:
Israel Adesanya
Fast-rising UFC middleweight and former kickboxing champ Israel Adesanya admits he was a “runt” growing up in New Zealand, and one of the only black students in a high school filled with Polynesians. He credits his fight-filled early days with an improved self-image that made him into the fighter he is today.
“People say, ‘Oh, he came up overnight,’ or, ‘He’s just this big, confident person’ – nah, I learned how to talk to myself properly,” he said. “And that’s something that not many people have in this game.”
Daniel Cormier
Daniel Cormier, the current UFC light heavyweight champ who’s gunning for the heavyweight strap in July, put his childhood bully’s name on the street – Gilbert Francis – in an interview with ESPN’s “Highly Questionable.” From second to fourth grade, the bully abused him and “literally controlled” his life. It was only when he learned wrestling that he could physically turn the tide. But even after he became an MMA champ, the bullying didn’t stop. Back home for a visit, the bully called him out at his mother’s house.
“I’m like, ‘Hey guy, it’s not 1985 anymore,'” Cormier said. “‘You cannot bully me. You know I fight for a living?’ And he’s like, ‘Just wait at your mom’s house.’ I should have stayed and beat his butt whenever he got there. But I let him pass.”
Paul Craig
UFC light heavyweight Paul Craig recently pulled off one of the most eye-popping comebacks in octagon history. But when he was growing up, he ran from daily beatings after school.
“My go-to move was going into the fetal position and just try and avoid it,” he told Daily Record. “I had my nose broken when I was 14, and when I got home I told my mum nothing had happened, even though I had seen every guy that was there.”
John Dodson
Irrepressibly happy UFC bantamweight John Dodson didn’t grow up in the happiest of places. The New Mexico native was subject to racism and bullying while attending high school in Moriarty, N.M. He was hogtied, shoved in trash cans and shot at with paintballs, according to SI.com. One classmate even fashioned a noose and told him, “This is how we used to deal with them darkies.”
Junior Dos Santos
The source of childhood torment for former UFC heavyweight champ Junior Dos Santos also has a name. Far from being the hulking, heavy-handed striker he is today, Dos Santos grew up in Cacador, Santa Catarina, Brazil, and remembers many uninvited fights. The most memorable – and traumatizing – was a beating dealt by a guy named Rodridgo.
Uriah Hall
A native of Spanish Town, Jamaica, Uriah Hall’s family moved him to New York as a teenager. He quickly found himself the target of bullies, once fleeing a school bus amid a beating. At one point, he even contemplated suicide. But eventually he found martial arts, which brought a newfound confidence and the discovery of a fierce talent that ultimately would lead to UFC stardom.
Roger Huerta
The rough childhood of returning Bellator star and onetime Sports Illustrated cover subject Roger Huerta is well known. Homeless at the age of 9, he slept on rooftops and joined a street gang after countless encounters with bullies. It was during that time, he said, that he discovered his will to fight, which translated instantly when he found wrestling and later, MMA.
Cung Le
Retired former Strikeforce champ and UFC star Cung Le settled in San Jose, Calif., after his family fled war-torn Vietnam. Bullied for not speaking English, he endured racist taunts and beatings until his mother signed him up for taekwondo.
Conor McGregor
UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor is the most famous MMA fighter in the world today. But growing up in the Crumlin section of Dublin, he remembers fights touched off by verbal assaults on the street. For a time, he walked around with a dumbbell in his backpack, ready to wield it against any attacker. It was those situations that motivated McGregor to step into a boxing gym to learn how to defend himself.
Tito Ortiz
It’s hard to believe it, but Tito Ortiz – the “Huntington Beach Bad Boy” – said he was picked on as a scrawny high-schooler in Southern California. He started lifting weights before taking on wrestling, which helped him bulk up – and get some respect from his tormentors.
Anderson Silva
Anderson Silva, the once-dominant UFC middleweight champ from Brazil, first was targeted by bullies for his high-pitched voice. Things didn’t get better when his aunt put him in tap-dancing lessons. He suffered through the abuse, but all of the skills he’d learned sure came in handy when he ducked and dodged opponents in the cage.
Georges St-Pierre
Former UFC welterweight and middleweight champion Georges St-Pierre said it was his constantly chapped lips that drew taunts from his classmates. He was 9 and on his way to school when a pack of 12-year-olds stripped him of his pants and lunch money as his classmates laughed.
Paige VanZant
When Paige VanZant was in high school, the now 24-year-old UFC starlet’s family moved her from Oregon to Nevada to escape verbal abuse from classmates. She wrote a book about her experiences and brought an anti-bullying message to a Women of the UFC panel this past year.
Chris Weidman
Former UFC middleweight champ Chris Weidman’s own brother was his first bully, once splitting open his head with a weight for not retrieving a cookie. When he broke his collarbone attempting a bike jump, the brother made his friends punch him in the arm to see if it was really broken.
“It makes you a tougher person,” he said. “I think whatever you’ve been through in your life makes you a tougher person. I’m very grateful for the background I have, every tough situation I’ve been through, because it’s made me who I am.”
Do you think sports can help people overccome bullying?  Tell us your story of resilency.  Thanks for sharing.

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