Last month, the New Times Broward-Palm Beach featured Garrett “G-Money” Holeve, a 23-year-old amateur fighter from Cooper City, Fla., with aspirations of turning pro. One problem: Holeve has Down syndrome, and that has made it exceedingly difficult for him to find an opponent, or even a place to compete.
From the article by Chris Sweeney:
Even though he has spent countless hours training at American Top Team Weston, Garrett can’t find a fair fight. People who run the Special Olympics have given little indication they will ever allow the sport, and it’s unclear how many parents of special-needs’ people would even allow their children to pursue MMA. And though he has fought two exhibitions against abled competitors, few fighters want to be the one who knocks out a guy with Down syndrome or, worse, gets knocked out by him.
In reality, Garrett will never make it as a professional. No matter how much time he spends in the gym, no matter how much weight he can bench-press, that one extra chromosome has imparted a permanent disadvantage.
“The issue with Garrett’s fighting is this: reaction time,” his dad says. “He’s never going to have the reflexes that a regular kid is going to have... 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.”
I am undeniably happy to see any person with cognitive disabilities find their niche and explore what makes them happy. On the other hand, this is an even stickier situation than MMA’s most infamous “Hey, should that guy be fighting?!” debate, that of congenital amputee Kyle Maynard.
Maynard, despite having four stumps for limbs, had been a high-school wrestler and football player and -- unfortunately, there’s no way around this -- he didn’t have Down syndrome. When MMA fans, in their classic sky-is-falling mentality, imagine the kinds of political horrors this sport could bring to light, I’m sure a young Down syndrome man bleeding and injured in the cage is about as bad as it could get.
Kyle Maynard’s situation, however, taught us that there will always be someone who wants to take that step. Kyle Maynard had Bryan Fry, who nonchalantly opined that it was unfair no one would face Maynard. I am sure that Garrett Holeve has his own foil. You mean to tell me that this kid -- nay, this 23-year-old man -- can’t put on some head gear, shin guards and have an amateur fight for a couple minutes? As hard as it might be to buy Holeve as a rational, independent actor on his own behalf, he is a grown man who puts his time in. He isn’t going to be a UFC champion, and hell, I’m not even sure how appropriate a full-scale pro MMA bout would be. However, so long as he has a foil, he should have a fight -- some kind of fight.