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MMA Fight Between Athletes with Down Syndrome, and Cerebral Palsy Sparks Controversy
Garrett Holeve has Down Syndrome. David Steffan has mild Cerebral Palsy. On August 3rd, they will meet in the cage for an amateur MMA fight at the Seminole Immokalee Casino in Immokalee, Florida.
For Holeve, this will be the second attempt at getting a sanctioned amateur fight -- financial backers for an Oklahoma promotion threatened to pull funding for the event on which he would have had his first fight. Indeed, the Florida State Boxing Commission, under the auspices of the Association of Boxing Commissions, discouraged early plans for the fight, forcing promoters to opt for staging it on tribal land and using an independent sanctioning body.
Kirsten Seckler, Vice President of the Special Olympics, has expressed some support for the event. "People with intellectual disabilities might read slower or learn slower than others, but they can run marathons, hold jobs, go to school, get married and have babies. One of the things we like to show is that there are no limits." Seckler did not state any concerns with the difference between MMA and the athletic events included in the Special Olympics.
Garrett's mom also weighed in on her son's quest to be a fighter, though she seems to be somewhat unclear on the rules: "I can't change being supportive of my son just because he's going into a contest where he's not being protected by the referee or his opponent."