Throughout his life when Kyle Maynard has been told he couldn't do something, he's proved people wrong.
Two years ago, Maynard was denied by the Georgia Athletic and Entertainment Commission for a fighting license to compete in mixed martial arts.
This Saturday, the Collins Hill grad will make his long-awaited MMA debut at Auburn (Ala.) Fight Night. It's a chance for Maynard to fulfill his dream as an MMA fighter and to prove doubters that he can compete in the sport.
"It's just cool in a sense when the Georgia Athletic Commission stuff went down and they didn't sanction me it seemed like a pipe dream and it wasn't going to happen," Maynard said. "Now it's here and I feel like I'm living a dream."
Maynard was born a congenital amputee, which means he has no limbs beyond his elbows and knees. The rare disorder has made it tough for Maynard to get approved to fight in Georgia.
However, there is no governing body over mixed martial arts in Alabama, allowing Maynard to get his first amateur fight.
"This has been almost two years in the making and I can't believe it's right around the corner," fight promoter David Oblas said.
Despite Maynard's disability, there will be no rule changes for the fight in the 135-pound weight class. However, he will be considered a downed opponent, which by Alabama amateur rules means no kicking or kneeing to the head. Maynard can take kicks to the body and punches to the head and body. Other aspects of MMA, such as submissions, will be allowed.
"People are going to want to see this fight and see how a guy with no arms and no legs is going fight up against a cage," Oblas said.
Maynard's opponent will be an able-body fighter from Wisconsin. Due to the publicity of the fight, Oblas has held off from releasing the fighter's name until today's weigh-ins. However, he did say the fighter had two fights under his belt.
Maynard has been training in MMA for more than two years. The combat sport blends jujitsu, judo, karate, boxing, kickboxing and wrestling. Maynard has a history in wrestling, competing for state power Collins Hill in the early 2000s. He was 35-16 his senior year and was one match away from placing at the state tournament.
To prepare for the fight, Maynard has been training with Paul Creighton at Creighton Mixed Martial Arts in Duluth and at The Hardcore Gym in Athens. He credits Creighton for taking his jujitsu to another level and has earned a blue belt.
Two years ago when Maynard first applied for a fighting license in Georgia, it caused a stir among MMA fans on message boards. Some fans felt Maynard would make a mockery of a sport that has had a difficult time building a respectable reputation. In the early '90s, the sport was viewed by many as human cockfighting. However, since the revival of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, the largest MMA organization in world, in the 2000s MMA has become the fastest growing sport.
"I have no doubt it's a big fear for a lot of MMA fan boys," Maynard said. "Believe me, I know, I'm one of the biggest fan boys. It has crossed my mind that people may think it's a disgrace to the sport. But this is my opportunity and if I can perform no one will think that."
Added Oblas: "We know people are going to view this different from other MMA fights. If they look at this as a freak show, then they do. But I see a guy pursuing his dreams."
In 2004, Maynard was the recipient of ESPN's Espy Award for the Best Athlete with a Disability. The 23-year-old is also the author of the autobiography "No Excuses: The True Story of a Congenital Amputee Who Became a Champion in Wrestling and in Life."
Maynard works as a speaker for the Washington Speaker's Bureau, specializing in motivational speeches. He recently opened No Excuses Gym in Suwanee, which focuses on CrossFit training. Just a few months ago he worked with wounded soldiers, certifying them in CrossFit. If that wasn't enough, Maynard also has a film crew following him for a documentary about his life called "A Fighting Chance," which is scheduled to be released in 2010.
Maynard has shown throughout his life that a physical disability shouldn't hold you back from your dreams. Saturday in Alabama, in front of thousands of fans, will be another example.
"Honestly, I think with uproar on the Internet last time I wanted to prove to people that I could do it and that was the wrong mentality," Maynard said. "I'm just going in ready to fight and we'll see what happens."