Congenital amputee Kyle Maynard's long road to Saturday's MMA debut
Kyle Nagel, MMAjunkie.com
Apr 22, 4:48 pm EDT
This time, Kyle Maynard left home and made his way to Auburn, Ala., a week early.
Two years ago, when he almost made his amateur mixed-martial-arts debut, Maynard held a greater concern about all his fight meant and how much it was despised in the MMA community. He had been home in Suwanee, Ga., where his MMA interest began more than two years before as a high school senior.
But too many people didn't want him to fight. They didn't like the idea of an accomplished high school wrestler who was born with no arms or legs below the elbows or knees with an awesomely inspirational personal story participating in an Atlanta amateur event. The Georgia body that sanctions such events didn't like the idea either, so officials denied Maynard a license to fight, and the issue went dormant.
Georgia native and congenital amputee Kyle Maynard is a former champion wrestler who is looking to break into mixed martial arts.
Until recently. With another push made mostly on his own behalf, Maynard is scheduled to make his delayed amateur MMA debut on Saturday at Auburn Fight Night at the Auburn Covered Arena in Auburn, Ala. The fight's announcement caused major ripples in the international MMA consciousness and reopened the debate about Maynard's place in MMA.
Maynard has tried to avoid that debate this time, changing his Internet home page away from the number of MMA websites he reads daily and moving his training camp to Auburn instead of Georgia.
Still, he's surprised his fight has caused such uproar, and this time he's not reading about it.
"With the Internet being an open, anonymous forum, people feel like they can say anything, things they probably wouldn't say to my face," Maynard told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com
) on Tuesday. "That doesn't really surprise me as much.
"It just surprises me how many people fear the sport is so fledgling that if I got hurt, it would end it."
Many in the MMA community have worried this fight is simply a freak show with a money-hungry promoter pulling the strings and talking Maynard into a fight because of a guaranteed big gate.
But Maynard and fight officials say the opposite is true. Maynard initiated the idea, fought for his Georgia license, appealed after its denial and is the public-relations front man for the Auburn show. He's making many of the calls himself, setting up many of the details.
When a reporter calls the Auburn Covered Arena to ask about the buzz surrounding the fight and says his name is Kyle, the receptionist quickly chirps, "Oh, hi Kyle!" But it's not Kyle Maynard, and she apologizes. She explains that it's pleasant to get a call from Maynard because of his passion for the event and his attention to the minor details.
So he calls, what, once a week?
"He calls all the time," she says.
Still, many hold concerns that Maynard will not be safe in an MMA cage. Even though the rules won't allow him to be kicked or kneed in the face, many wonder how he can protect himself from blows, and how could he expect to win a fight except for decision?
"Would I allow a fighter with limited arms and legs in the state of Ohio?" said Bernie Profato, executive director of the Ohio Athletic Commission. "Put simply, no."
But the fight is on, ending a nearly two-year-long saga that made national news for a license denial in Georgia and perhaps even bigger news for the fight's move to Alabama, where there is no licensing body for MMA.
Promoters are not making the opponent's name public because they feel Maynard and fight officials are facing enough heat that they don't need to add another name to the list. Maynard supporters feel he has a strong chance to win because he has the strength of a much larger person but will be fighting 135-pounders.
Whatever happens, the weekend's event will gather plenty of MMA attention, and supporters say that detractors will be surprised with how competitive the fight will be.
"I was extremely concerned about Kyle fighting mixed martial arts until I got to know him better and saw all the things he can do," said David Oblas, president of Undisputed Productions and the fight's promoter. "Once you get into Kyle Maynard the athlete, you see he's quicker and stronger than most people, his arms extend long enough to protect his head, and his power to punch is tremendous.
"As the sport of MMA grows larger, we're getting more amateur fighters who don't have a damn clue. They train in their dad's garage, and because they watch 'The Ultimate Fighter,' they think they can fight. Kyle studies this; he knows what he's doing. I feel safer putting Kyle Maynard in the ring with no arms and no legs than almost all of the 0-0 fighters out there."
And this time, Maynard says he isn't fighting to show people he can. He says he's doing it to show himself that he can.