At Long Last, Athlete With Down Syndrome To Compete
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — A Cooper City mixed martial arts athlete with Down syndrome has fought fiercely for a chance to fight in a sanctioned match. The long wait will come to an end Saturday.
But Garrett Holeve, 25, must leave his home state to get in the cage and face his opponent — “Cerebral Assassin,” a fighter from Nebraska with mild cerebral palsy.
Holeve, who uses the moniker of “G-Money,” is scheduled to fight against David Steffan, 30, in Sullivan, Mo., a town about 70 miles away from St. Louis. He is traveling to Missouri on Thursday.
Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
“He’s excited. He’s really focused,” said Mitch Holeve, of his MMA fighter son. “He’s always wanted to win a (championship) belt. The opportunity to do that is really motivating him.”
A possible win in a sanctioned fight inspires the young fighter who vows to “never stop fighting.”
“People respect me — like a man,” Garrett Holeve told the Sun Sentinel during an interview in July.
It’s not the first time Holeve and Steffan have tried to set up an amateur match between them that is sanctioned by the state. In August 2013, the pair was ready to face off at the Seminole Casino in Immokalee when the bout was called off.
The Florida State Boxing Commission prohibited the match because it was unsanctioned, officials said at the time. An advocacy group later filed a federal lawsuit on Holeve’s behalf alleging that the commission and other entities denied him the chance to participate because of his disability.
The lawsuit is pending.
The “G-Money” v. “Cerebral Assassin” fight is being sponsored by Fighting for Autism, an autism awareness and advocacy group.
Steffan on Wednesday said he was traveling to Missouri and ready to live out his dream on Saturday. And even though he and Holeve will be opponents in the ring, he says they have a united purpose.
“I do belong in this sport,” Steffan said. “Hopefully, after we get this done, people will see that. This is just one more step. I’m just as capable as anybody else.”
Holeve told the Sun Sentinel: “I love the sport. I won’t back down. I won’t quit.”
Holeve will be joined by his parents, brothers and two coaches. But although he relishes any opportunity to fight in an amateur bout, “there’s a little less glimmer because, unfortunately, he’s not going to be fighting in front of his friends,” his father said.
“They’re going to have an opportunity to show people this can be done safely and that they’re skilled martial artists,” Mitch Holeve said. “At the end of the day, everybody wins.”