Tom DeBlass stood across the octagon from his opponent moments before his last mixed martial arts fight began.
“My mindset going into every fight was to destroy the object in front of me,” Tom said. “I didn’t really look at them as human beings. I looked at them as objects that were physically trying to impose their will on me, so I wanted to execute my will against them.”
The fighters had traded strikes for 93 seconds into the first round when Tom connected with a tight left hook. His opponent dropped to the ground but immediately popped back up, and the fight continued. Only 13 seconds later, Tom landed the same left hook, and the fight was over.
That is the moment when most fighters explode with excitement to celebrate their moment of glory, but Tom dropped to his knees to embrace the other fighter, who was unconscious on the mat.
“The moment I knocked him out, I questioned what I was doing there,” Tom said. “It was hard to celebrate when I knew he also had a daughter and his whole world had just come crashing down.”
Hurting opponents was never Tom’s goal, but to win in MMA, you have to hurt the other person; otherwise, that person is going to hurt you.
“It was just a weird feeling,” Tom said. “For sure, I want to be the one winning, but another person had to lose viciously. That’s when I knew my run was coming to an end with this MMA thing.”
Continue reading “Tom DeBlass: Success Through Pain and Suffering”
When Mahamed Aly left Rio de Janeiro, he walked away from almost everything—his home, friends, family, and training partners—but he brought with him his determination to becoming a world champion.
“It was rough, man,” Mahamed said. “I could not communicate because I didn’t speak English, and the people were cold. It was different in Brazil, because kids were running in the streets, and making friends comes naturally when you’re young.”
The weekends in the U.S. were especially rough for Mahamed when he looked at social media and saw his friends in Brazil having fun without him.
“I would be alone the whole weekend,” Mahamed said. “But I did not have a plan B. My two options were to win or win. There were times I would cry at home because I was so lonely, but I didn’t have an option to quit. There was no other way. I had to keep going.”
That was the beginning of a four-year journey of intense training and competition that earned Mahamed world championship titles at purple and brown belt levels as he worked his way to the black belt division. When he finally reached the final seconds of the last black belt match of the world championships, Mahamed struggled to process what had just happened. Continue reading “Mahamed Aly: When Becoming a World Champion Is Your Only Option”
— Written by By Cindy Cyr —
Growing up, Chuck Rylant was driven to become a real-life hero.
Not having a healthy father figure in his life, Chuck sought out male role models, which ultimately came through the fictional characters he saw in movies. He was naturally drawn to action movie heroes of the eighties such as Sylvester Stallone in Rambo, Bruce Willis in Die Hard, and Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon, and these heroes were his inspiration throughout a traumatic childhood that was filled with chaos.
In and out of foster homes when he was young, Chuck grew up on welfare and in government housing projects from the time he was born until he was 16, at which point he moved out to live on his own. Continue reading “Chuck Rylant: How Jiu-Jitsu Led to the Hero of His Story”
Steve Austin started learning martial arts for the same reason a lot of young men do, but the pain that fueled him through overwhelming adversity was quite unique.
“I was always bullied,” Steve said. “When I was a little kid, I did not realize how different I was from everyone else, but I had all these people ridiculing me. I felt like an outcast. By first or second grade, kids were already ruthless. It was not until I got a little older that I could see that something was different.”
Steve was born with a hip disease called Legg-Perthes, but it was misdiagnosed when he was 3 years old. That mistake led to a rushed medical procedure, during which the surgeon passed out while abusing pharmaceutical narcotics. It was a botched surgery that Steve did not even need, and its by-product was a series of medical and emotional hardships that still affected him decades later. Continue reading “Steve Austin: What Does Not Kill You Just Puts You In The Hospital”
When Ricardo Liborio’s youngest daughter was 1½ years old, she spent three months in the hospital and 15 days in the intensive care unit. Doctors discovered that the soft part of her head had fused together before her brain was fully developed. As her brain developed, it compressed the optic nerve against the skull, which left her permanently blind.
Ricardo’s daughter endured two complicated brain surgeries, with doctors breaking open her skull to allow room for her brain to grow. After the second surgery, she started having seizures.
“It was a rough time,” Ricardo said. “I have two pictures in my wallet from when we were in the ICU and my wife and I had to learn to sleep in the chairs. Every time something goes wrong in life, I think about that time. It gives me perspective.”
Ricardo recalled being in the cafeteria of the Miami Children’s Hospital’s neurology wing at 2:00 in the morning with three other fathers.
“I talked to these guys every night for three months,” Ricardo said. “I was worried that my daughter was going to be blind, but all three of their kids had brain cancer. Two of them died, and I felt so sorry for their families, but it gave me perspective. My daughter was blind, but when you see what I saw, you think, ‘This sucks,’ but you lived through it.” Continue reading “Ricardo Liborio: The Sport That Has Given Me Everything”