Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Florida Law Cancels Bout Between Two MMA Fighters with Disabilities

by WINK CBS News:

A controversial Mixed Martial Arts fight between two fighters living with disabilities is canceled just minutes before the match.

One of the fighters has down syndrome and the other cerebral palsy. The state stepped in and shut it down claiming it was unsanctioned. On of the fighter's fathers say it's discrimination.

That fight was set to take place at the Seminole Casino in Immokalee. It's something both of these men told me on Friday was a dream come true. Now they are fighting to find a way back into the ring.

It was a fight that was supposed to be a first of its kind. One both Garrett Holeve, 23, and David Steffin, 28, had been dreaming of, but five minutes before the first punch, the state presented the promoter with a cease and desist letter.

"He cried. It genuinely upset him," says Mitch Holeve, Garrett's father. "He's worked eight weeks in a training camp, training four and a half hours a day for eight weeks getting mentally and physically prepared to do this."

Garrett has Downs syndrome and his opponent David has cerebral palsy. The fight was supposed to happen because the match was being held on tribal land, but a letter from the DBPR says the scheduled bout between the two amateur fighters is unsanctioned and against Florida Law.

"He's upset because he knows he's being told he can't fight because he has Down syndrome and that hurts his feelings and that angers him" says Holeve.
A representative with the World Fighting Organization tells WINK News, "the safety of the fighters is our number one priority and he doesn't think the decision was made on the basis of discrimination, but solely on fighter safety."

Holeve says his son got medical clearance and show have been able to fight. "I think their decision was pretty arbitrary, discriminatory," says Holeve.

"We have two guys with disabilities and we don't want them to fight here. This is his life and they're stopping him. As his dad I am just going to make sure he can do it safely and his rights are infringed upon and I'm not stopping anywhere until that happens."                    

Holeve is talking to the Boxing Commission and he says he has also reached out to the National Down Syndrome Society.

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