Seventeen-year-old Jack says he took up mixed martial arts (MMA) – which combines elements of kickboxing, wrestling and jujitsu – three years ago for “the wrong reasons”.
Jack has cerebral palsy and was getting bullied at school for being the “fat disabled kid”. He wanted to do something to boost his confidence, so he started boxing with some friends.
“But then a couple of weeks into doing the boxing, my coach turned out to be an MMA coach as well, and started teaching us some ground game”, explains Jack.
“Then from that I’ve just been doing MMA ever since.”
The right side of Jack’s body is a lot weaker than his left and he has limited use of his right hand – but Jack fights confidently against able-bodied men, often much older and bigger than he is.
Three years since taking on the full contact combat sport Jack is leaner, stronger and more confident.
Jack trains with a coach three times a week for three hours and does extra training during the week. His hard work pays off – Jack often wins fights and has the titles and trophies to prove it.
“Cerebral palsy has given me the determination to never give up and I think that if I didn’t have this disability, I wouldn’t even like MMA – I would be too scared to do it.”
Jack’s determination does come at a price: “MMA is a physical sport with a physical consequence – you can’t come into this sport not wanting to get hurt – we’re not baking cookies in there.”
“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve broken my nose, I’ve been knocked out five times I think, and I’ve had black eyes, I’ve had busted lips.”
Jack is sure he’s the only disabled MMA fighter in the UK – and aims to be the first physically disabled MMA fighter in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).
“Being in the UFC would mean everything. I may never get to the point where I am a champion, (but) I’m gonna give it my best try. It would mean I’ve made it, it would mean I’ve proved everyone wrong – everyone that’s said I can’t.”
“Someone said, ‘those who say they can, and those who say they can’t – they’re both right, because those who say they can’t give up, and those that say they can, strive and they make it.”
Now, Jack doesn’t worry about bullies: “After a couple of months (of doing MMA) I realised that I just needed to chill out.”
“There are going to be people in the world that are just idiots, they have no idea what they’re on about, they throw the word spastic around like it’s funny, and it’s not.”