I’m the kind of guy that doesn’t quite fit a stereotype. I’ve always had an eventful life. As a kid and teenager I had to move many times and overcome the challenges that brought with it. To constantly be the new kid at school and in the neighborhood left its impressions but it also taught me how to master new circumstances, approach others and find my own path.
While coming from a so-called “less educated” family background, I soon realized that there was no way around hard work to achieve a brighter future. At 14 I started working odd jobs after school and on breaks, sometimes up to three at a time. This helped my single mother to keep us afloat. Yet I still managed to graduate from an elite high school in 2001 at AP levels.
For a long time sports were not really my thing. As a little boy I had a hard time in P.E. and I proved completely talentless at other major sports kids play such as Soccer. A career as a professional athlete was my dream, but back then nothing seemed more unrealistic than actually becoming one. Besides working and going to school I also started training Judo at the age of 14.The moment my feet touched the mats something in me changed – my life changed. For the first time I had found something that I wasn’t significantly worse at than others. So I stuck with it for many years. It helped me bolster my self-esteem and was the first discipline to get me excited about physical exercise. Around the time of my High School graduation however, it became too much. Training was a daily routine by now and weekends were booked solid for tournaments or clinics. I had to make a choice between education and athletics and decided to focus on successfully finishing school and to dedicate myself to Martial Arts right after.
It took almost three years and some detours before I got back to Martial Arts. To the age of 23 I played a lot of Basketball and had stayed on top of fitness trends. But all that didn’t quite do it for me so I was always looking to get back to fighting, and found it in different forms. I trained Kick Boxing, Boxing, Wing Tzun and even a bit of Capoeira (luckily there are no videos of this). One day I heard about a full contact fighting event, in which basically everything was allowed and I knew right away: I have to do it! It turned out to be a wild event with some weird fights. But at the end of the day I had caught the MMA bug. Although I didn’t even really know what the sport was called at the time, I knew that it would never let me go because I had never before felt so alive and close to myself.
During that time I was in the middle of my studies of Education at the University of Koblenz-Landau. I was involved in many scientific projects and decided to pursue a doctorate in Sociology and Philosophy after graduation. The reactions of my Professors and fellow students about my fights and training were mixed. In an environment where tolerance was supposed to be a value and prejudices were to have no place, I experienced narrow mindedness from many – but also acceptance from some. Especially those Professors and Deans I held in high regard seemed to be interested in the sport I was practicing. They knew me as a striving student and couldn’t believe that I would partake in such an absurd pastime. Even if the sport seemed brutal and martial at first glance, they asked me to tell them more about it.
These experiences made it clear that the best chance for the sport which I love so much to gain a foothold in Germany is to move people to take a second look at it. So I graduated with a degree in Education in 2009 and fought many times up to that point. With a degree in hand I challenged myself to be an ambassador for the sport in order to convince as many people as possible to give us a chance. The first few years and months were difficult. There was a lack of a network and knowledge. But today I am in the lucky position to be able to live my dream. The little chubby boy still lives on inside me and sometimes shakes his head in disbelief when he looks at the things I have already achieved.
Never would I have thought that one day I would become a noteworthy part of the MMA community. Never would I have expected to make a living as an Athlete. Even in two lives I didn’t think someone would like something that I would do one day. But I dared to dream of these things. This dream and the will to make the necessary sacrifices are the reason I am today Germany’s undisputed, number one heavyweight. I have fans far beyond Germany’s borders and have had professional bouts almost all over the world. I’ve even become a playable character in a video game.
I am literally living my dream. But it is not completely fulfilled yet. Only once MMA has the respect and appreciation it deserves will I be able to step away in peace. It may not happen during my active career but I pledge to do my utmost to contribute towards this goal!