McGregor, Adesanya, Rousey — top 10 fighters who experienced bullying in their childhood

Alisa Barladyan
01 Mar 2022
13:12

Many MMA fighters started taking up sports to achieve great results. Olympic gold, being a champion in top leagues, and worldwide recognition is what drives many athletes. But there are those who had to take up sport to learn to stand up for themselves. Even multiple UFC champions and medalists of the Olympics were mocked which made them try martial arts. Here is a selection of ten MMA fighters who decided to engage in sports because of bullying and humiliation.

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Conor McGregor

Georges St-Pierre

The MMA legend, former UFC welterweight and middleweight champion, Georges St-Pierre was often ridiculed. The athlete confessed he was very thin and suffered from skin problems in childhood, and was often mocked because of that. His fellow students could steal his clothes and money and chase him after classes. The future champion started to learn Kyokushin to stand up for himself. When Georges was 21, he had a debut fight by the rules of MMA and soon wrote a book "The Way of the Fight," where he described how three senior students attacked him and took all his money. After St-Pierre became almost the main MMA star, he visited his school and told the students how to protect themselves from bullying.

Daniel Cormier

Cormier's childhood had a lot of events that played a vital role in the molding of his character. He grew up in a large family. His mother, Audrey Cormier, worked as a teacher in a local school. This was the reason why young Daniel began to be bullied by high school students. One of them, Gilbert, pestered the future champion most of all. Cormier never dared to fight back until he started freestyle wrestling. He mastered some techniques and dropped his offender. After that, nobody wanted to mess with Daniel. As the years went by, Cormier became the medalist of major international freestyle wrestling competitions and won two UFC championship belts. Since Daniel started to crush his opponents in the octagon, no one has thought of hurting this guy.

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Anderson Silva

A person whose name is linked with the history of the UFC. The PRIDE Cage Rage champion, he is one of the best MMA fighters. Silva held the UFC middleweight championship belt for nearly seven years, one of the best records in the organization's history. But few can suspect that he had a terribly harsh childhood. He was raised by his uncle and aunt who sent young Anderson to ballet and tap class as punishment. Needless to say, this immediately led to ridicule from his peers. Silva admits this period has built his character. When Silva was 14, he started to engage in taekwondo. Four years later, he got a black belt, and when he was 21, debuted in MMA, forever forgetting what it feels like to be weak.

Ben Rothwell

The UFC veteran, 40-year-old Ben Rothwell was a usual child. He was no different from his peers. But when he was six years old, small Ben suffered an attack of spinal meningitis. He was in a coma and temporarily blind. His disease has also led to weight problems. Rothwell's corpulence was mocked by his peers, and Ben often got into fights when he was a school student. At the age of 17, realizing the importance of self-defense, he began practicing sports. Three years later, he had his first fight by the rules of MMA, and in 2009, he debuted in the UFC. The memory of a difficult childhood accompanied Rothwell throughout his career. It was in his childhood that he got the nickname "Big Ben," which the fighter still uses.

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Ronda Rousey

The bronze medalist of the 2008 Olympic Games, the first female UFC champion Ronda Rousey is an example of how sports help people avoid problems with bullying. Ronda was bigger and more muscular than her peers from a young age. Her mother, AnnMaria De Mars, was the first female American who won the world judo championship. Maria's athletic physique was inherited by her daughter. Many peers called Ronda wild, and she wore broad sweatshirts to hide her body. Once she even beat two guys who were disturbing her while she was watching a movie in the theater.

In high school, Rosie decided to follow in her mother's footsteps and started judo. When she was 21, she represented the USA at the Beijing Olympic Games. Ronda lost in the quarterfinal bout but got a chance to compete for the bronze medal. The victory in the consolation bout gave Ronda the bronze medal, forever inscribing Rosie in the history of the country. She became the first woman in the history of the USA who managed to earn an Olympic judo medal. Ronda's name will also remain forever in MMA history. She is the first female UFC fighter and the first female champion of the organization.

Paige VanZant

Paige VanZant is another woman on our list. In her childhood, she was engaged in ballet and jazz dances. Paige always differed from her peers. She looked prettier and more spectacular than them, which made her regularly bullied in high school. Rumors began to spread among her peers that Paige Sletten (the girl's real last name) had a sexual relationship with several guys. In fact, she was the victim of rape after her classmates poisoned her at a party. Paige changed her surname to VanZant and decided she would take up MMA to stand up for herself. Paige had a debut fight by the rules of MMA when she was 18. Today Paige VanZant is one of the most beautiful women in MMA.

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John Dodson

The champion of the TUF 14th season, John Dodson is one of the lowest MMA fighters. His height is only 160 centimeters. Needless to say how difficult it was for young Dodson to build relationships with his peers. Everyone deemed it a duty to remind John of his height or hurt him. They could grab him by his neck and sprinkle him with garbage. Dodson did not intend to tolerate this attitude. He joined a freestyle wrestling club where his small height helped him open up fully. John turned out to be an enduring and talented athlete: he was twice New Mexico state champion in freestyle wrestling. When he was 20, he debuted in MMA, and in seven years became a winner of the 14th season of The Ultimate Fighter. Now, when John had 37 MMA bouts, hardly anyone would laugh at his height.

The Korean Zombie

Chan Sung Jung was born in a small Korean village. As a schoolboy, the future athlete moved to Seoul, where he spent his youth. Because of his country background and lean physique, the Korean Zombie often had to be mocked by his classmates and get into fights. The boy's aunt didn't want to tolerate that and sent him to a hapkido (Korean martial art) section. Soon, sports became something more in his life — Chan Sung began to practice judo, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and kickboxing. At the age of 20, the Korean Zombie had a debut fight by the rules of MMA. The scrawny boy from a village managed to achieve nine consecutive wins and become recognized all over Asia. He didn't become a UFC champion but he was and is a top-notch athlete.

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Israel Adesanya

Adesanya was born in the biggest Nigerian city, Lagos. He was the eldest of five children. His father was an accountant, and his mother was a nurse. A usual family who moved to New Zealand in search of a better life. At that time, Israel was 12. After the move, Adesanya decided to take up dancing. He wanted to dedicate his life to choreography. Besides, he was fond of anime. In secondary school, Adesanya was often bullied because of his origin. As dances wouldn't help Israel stand up for himself, he joined a taekwondo club. But after some time, he broke his arms, and his mother forbade him to engage in sports. However, at the age of 18, Adesanya came to a gym again. This time, he chose Muay Thai. Israel went to college to become a computer designer, combining his studies and training. But in two years, he decided to give himself completely to sports. His ranking among the amateurs in kickboxing is 32-0. Today, Adesanya is the most accomplished middleweight fighter and the second in the P4P rating.

Conor McGregor

The main bully of the MMA world was once a victim of bullying himself. Conor was connected with sports since childhood: he played for Lourdes Celtic and was a fan of Manchester United. But football couldn't give Conor self-defense skills. To protect himself from attacks from his peers, McGregor started boxing. Later, sports became a source of income for Conor. After making a name in Europe, the future champion decided to conquer the West. Now Conor McGregor is the most high-paid MMA fighter who has turned from a victim into the most dangerous predator.

Despite various problems, bullying, and constant conflicts, many fighters achieved incredible success. Their tough past hardened them, therefore they easily beat their opponents. The life journey of each of the above athletes is worthy of respect and has motivated millions of people around the world to take up martial arts.

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