Combat sports of any sort – particularly mixed martial arts competitions like those organized by the UFC – are controversial. Some consider them barbaric or cruel, or compare the practice to human cockfighting. In most cases, an argument can be made that these fighters are able-minded adults who enter into the ring willingly and are fully capable of making their own decisions, but what if the fighter has a cognitive disability? Twenty-three year-old Garrett “G-Money” Holeve has Down syndrome, but trains in mixed martial arts and loves the sport. He wants to compete, but many people consider it exploitative and potentially too dangerous for someone with Holeve’s condition. Where’s the line between encouraging people with disabilities to pursue their dreams and deciding for them that some of these dreams aren’t appropriate? Would you let Garrett fight, provided he had the requisite skill and physical conditioning? An additional question: I would bet that there are already some fighters out there with cognitive problems, from low IQs or brain damage: Are we not concerned about them? Why don’t we step in and make decisions for these supposedly “normal” competitors?
When 23-year-old mixed martial arts fighter Garrett Holeve was told he couldn’t enter the ring to fight an opponent on August 3, he was more than just frustrated — and it wasn’t because he’d trained tirelessly for the fight for two months.
Garrett Holeve said he believes the fight was canceled because he and his planned opponent, David Steffan, both have disabilities. But he’s not ready to give up yet. With the help of his dad, who spoke to HLN in a phone interview, he’s seeking another way to enter the ring.
“It’s our belief, based on conversation with people within the MMA community, that getting it done in any state isn’t going to be easy,” Mitch Holeve said.
Garrett Holeve, who has Down syndrome, discovered martial arts as a teenager. His father, Mitch Holeve, invited Garrett and his brothers to join him at the gym to improve their health. Garrett was the only taker. Soon, he found that he loved to spar, and that passion ignited a fire in him.
Garrett once told his dad, “I don’t want to be called Garrett, because Garrett has Down syndrome. He’s dead to me,” Mitch Holeve said in an ESPN interview.
Mitch Holeve said that, at that time, his son wanted to ignore his disability and make his way in the sport by being a sparring partner.