In a matchup that may mark a first for the rough-and-tumble sport of mixed martial arts, two athletes with developmental disabilities are set to face off in a cage fight this August.
Garrett Holeve, 23, who has Down syndrome, and David Steffan, 28, who has mild cerebral palsy, are scheduled to meet Aug. 3 at the Seminole Immokalee Casino in Immokalee, Fla. The men are expected to fight for three rounds of three minutes each in what will be considered an amateur bout.
Holeve’s father told USA TODAY that it’s been tough to get promoters in the sport to give his son a chance because of his disability.
“They’re entitled to fulfill their dreams, too,” Mitch Holeve said. “There’s no place for people with special needs to compete (in MMA), and they wanted to compete. So we’re trying to make it happen.”
Officials with Special Olympics — which does not offer competitions in MMA — were supportive of the athletes, saying that they should have the same opportunities to pursue their sport as anyone else.
And, Steffan said he and his opponent are ready to prove doubters wrong.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for both of us to show the world that we belong in there just like everyone else,” Steffan told USA TODAY.