Garrett Holeve is a 23 year old bantamweight fighter out of American Top Team in Davie, Florida. He likes rap music, has a regrettable looking tattoo, is buddies with Stephan Bonnar, and had his first fight back in February. Holeve also has the cognitive ability of an 8 year old and reads at a third grade level. He has Trisomy 21, which you probably know as Down Syndrome. Bonnar set up the non-profit organization Garrett’s Fight last summer, which focuses on providing the special needs community with opportunities to participate in mixed martial arts, but has been getting criticism ever since poster boy Holeve made his amateur debut. ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” documented Holeve’s story, which had some people in begrudging tears of inspiration and some people crying child abuse:
Yesterday, the Fight Doc weighed in on whether or not someone like Holeve should be allowed to participate in mixed martial arts:
“I have no relevant knowledge or expert opinion regarding the motivation of those associated with Garrett Holeve… The social commentary related to this feel-good story doesn’t interest me much, but the potential medical issues are a very different matter.”
Nice cop out, but it’s obvious he’s got to cover his ass on this one. So what is concerning about Holeve’s fighting lifestyle? People with Down Syndrome have an increased incidence of heart defects, glaucoma, and ligamentous laxity – loose ligaments – especially in those of the neck, which can make big problems when it comes to submissions. Dr. Benjamin says the real concerns are whether Holeve was given proper pre and post-fight physical examinations, if his parents were made aware of the risks, if Garrett’s fight was overseen by an athletic commission, etc. This would all be well and good if Holeve were to actually have a “career” in fighting, but the reality he is not. The reality is that Garrett and his parents made a decision based on the quality of life he would like to have and this has cause massive amounts of panties to bunch up.
Since he started training two years ago, Garrett’s whittled 35 pounds off his frame, grapples better than your standard Tapout meathead, gained the confidence that comes with stepping into a ring, and, most importantly, come to accept his own condition. Garrett once told his father Mitch “I don’t want to be called Garrett because Garrett has Down Syndrome, and Garrett is dead to me.” Now Garrett teaches at ATT – kids’ classes, and his first student with Down Syndrome – and calls himself “hero.” At the risk of eye-rolling cheesiness, isn’t that the real win? No? Okay, go make your tired “MMA goes full retard” jokes in the comments.