Two fighters, Garrett Holeve and David Steffan, are set to step into the cage August 3 in Florida, but there is something special about these two new MMA fighters. Garrett Holeve has Down syndrome and David Steffan has mild cerebral palsy. This fight will be a first for the combatants and will take place at the Seminole Immokalee Casino in Immokalee, Florida.
There is controversy surrounding whether their respective disabilities will rule out a fight, but Steffan, a former Special Olympian and current Paralympic Games competitor, is no stranger to proving himself.
As told to USA TODAY Sports, Steffan says, “I think it’s a great opportunity for both of us to show the world that we belong in there just like everyone else.”
In March, Holeve was documented in an ESPN Sports Center feature about his journey to become a fighter with the American Top Team, the “#1 source for Florida MMA, BJJ, Self-Defense, Fitness, and Martial Arts.” Steffan was inspired by watching this piece and contacted Holeve’s father to volunteer himself as a potential opponent.
Holeve’s father admits it’s been a struggle to gain promoters and commissions chance to give his son a chance to fight. He previously tried to schedule a fight for his son against another opponent this month in Oklahoma, but the promoter’s financial support threatened to cancel the event if it took place.
Upon trying to book the fight with Steffan, the Florida State Boxing Commission tried to discourage Holeve further. As an alternative, he approached Mark Shopp, King of the Casino promoter, who employs an independent body not associated with the Association of Boxing Commissions.
Garrett Holeve had to put on the weight to match Steffan, who competed at 155 pounds in kickboxing. They’ll compete over three, three-minute rounds at a catchweight of 140 pounds. Under modified rules that are like those of amateur bouts, they will wear shin protectors and are forbidden to strike to the head of a grounded opponent. Medical professionals will staff the event.
The event is set to take place on August 3 at the Seminole Immokalee Casino in Immokalee, Florida.
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