How an MMA fighter found Jesus—and discovered his calling in the Congo.
Growing up, I faced pretty severe bullying. Maybe it’s because I was chubbier and had pimples on my face. Maybe I was too nice and let other kids walk over me. At 13, I was diagnosed with clinical depression, and I battled suicidal thoughts.
Luckily, I had a loving home and my parents did everything they could to help me improve my self-esteem. They encouraged me to get involved in athletics. And that’s what started me on the trajectory to professional cage fighting.
I’ve loved the sport of wrestling since the moment I stepped onto the mat. It took my focus off my struggles. I didn’t start off as a great wrestler. In fact, I was terrible. But a coach saw something in me and he never gave up. Eventually I became one of the best and won multiple state and national championships.
After graduation, I moved to the Olympic Training Center to pursue my dream of wrestling in the Olympics. In a match with a world champion, I ended up in a bad position. Rather than give him the point, I let him gut-wrench me against the mat, twisting my arm the wrong way. In a freak accident, my arm snapped like a twig.
I was in terrible pain from my neck down to my hand. My elbow was broken and dislocated. I’d torn the ulnar collateral ligament. There was nerve damage. And my insurance company didn’t want to pay for my surgery.
In the meantime, I took painkillers, and I was hooked immediately. The drugs dulled not only my physical pain, but also the emotional pain and depression that had tormented me since elementary school. I would go through a month’s supply of Oxycontin in a week. Eventually, I had three doctors, in three different states, prescribing me narcotics in rotation; none of them knew about the others. …