Ramos matched Garrett with people of the same skill level. He wasn't great, but he was dedicated.

"We didn't coddle him or baby him at all. After the first day, I didn't see him as a guy with Down syndrome," Ramos says. "Poor guy, my ass."


Stretching in his driveway, Garrett gets ready for his morning run. His parents are at work — his mom is in jewelry sales, and his dad is a financial planner. Six days a week, Garrett trains. Usually it's a combination of running, swimming, and weight training, capped off by sessions at an American Top Team facility.

Before embarking on the run, he holds up a stopwatch that's paused on 13 minutes. Not fully understanding how the device works, he says it means he ran 13 miles yesterday.

As he jogs slowly along the sidewalk, he lays out his dream: Become a professional fighter, move to his own place in Weston, buy a boat, and get an MTV2 reality TV show on which he interviews fighters and other celebrities. He doesn't want any kids because "they're a pain." As for a wife, his top choice is Tatyana Ali, the stunning actress best-known for her role as Ashley Banks on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

After a cool-down, he takes out his stopwatch and pauses it on 34 minutes. "Thirty-four miles," he says and then lets out a satisfied sigh.

As he opens the door to his house, he tears off his shirt, drops his shorts in the living room, and strips down to a pair of silver spandex shorts to check his weight. Next it's a quick shower and a breakfast of a single protein pancake that his dad premade. When a song by 50 Cent ends on the radio and the DJ announces a Chris Brown track, Garrett looks up midchew and says, "I'll beat the shit out of him," referring to Brown. Why? "Because he beats women."

He swigs from his glass of Arizona diet green tea with ginseng and douses what's left of his pancake in organic blue agave. Next he heads to a barbershop around the corner to get a flattop. Before the talcum powder settles, he's posing in a fighter stance — shoulders squared, fists raised — and handing the barber his iPhone to snap a picture.

He immediately tries to post the image on Facebook but encounters problems. He explains he just got the phone for his birthday and hasn't figured out the finer points of the application. Growing increasingly frustrated, he takes out an older smartphone that he's more familiar with and uses it to snap a picture of the picture, which doesn't work. After 20 minutes and one video call to his dad, the photo is online with the caption "Tv mma fighter."

The rest of the day passes as it would for most dudes in their early 20s who don't have jobs (because of his disability, Garrett receives $450 in social security each month as long as he doesn't work). He has pizza for lunch and spends some quality time playing an Ultimate Fighter videogame while listening to the radio.

Garrett's denial of his condition hasn't made it easy to find friends or land a girlfriend. He dated a young woman with Down syndrome, but it quickly fizzled after some drama involving public displays of affection at school.

When pressed on the subject of girls — ones who haven't starred in sitcoms or posed for Maxim — Garrett becomes flustered. "I don't do drama anymore," he says. "I got tons of girls right now... I'm hot and sexy." Then, like a media-savvy celebrity, he quickly steers the conversation to how he'll shed pounds for his next fight.

"He thinks he can date typical girls his age, but that's just not going to happen," his mom says. "I tell him that I wanted to marry Brad Pitt and I got your dad, so you have to lower your standards somewhere."

As for friends, Garrett has clicked with some of the guys at American Top Team. If there's a big fight on TV or at one of the nearby casinos, he'll have some beers with them. For his birthday, a few fellow gym rats threw him a party, and Garrett got duly trashed. He likes Corona and Bud Light but doesn't drink often. Since turning 21, he's gotten hammered only a handful of times. It's not that he doesn't enjoy it; it's that drinking is a surefire way to throw a fighter off a training regimen.

"I saw him at the gym a few times with his dad, and when I finally met him, it clicked," says Chris Haddican, a 34-year-old electrician who trains at American Top Team in Davie. "We mess around with him; we don't treat him any differently. The first couple of times I trained with him, I kind of took it easy. I was letting my guard down a little bit, and he would wail on me. There was one time where he dropped me... Now we beat him up too."

Garrett confesses everything without thinking twice. After one particularly boozy night, he told his father how he smoked weed for the first time. He has also described receiving oral sex twice but never intercourse. This candidness is a relief to his parents.

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12 comments
kimberleyl9
kimberleyl9

I LOVE HIS MOTIVATION! I have a 27 year old with Downs Syndrome. I would love if he was passionite about something. Garrett has inspired me.

neko687
neko687

I love it, this is a young man doing what he wants to do, and he has a supportive family behind him.

I'm willing to bet that those questioning the choice of sport for this young man (apparently due to the risk of injury) wouldn't have a problem sending their kids to football/cheerleading/gymnastics.

paulkchoi1
paulkchoi1

It's great that this person has a passion for something but there is no future in it.  He could get the same passion in tai chi or fencing without the violence.   He is like a dog with a bone.  Once you take the bone away he can clear his mind and think about other things.

alehound
alehound

I can count to potato......

lenny14
lenny14

In the late 1960's, Miami had the Sunland Training Center, a euphanism for a place for Downs Syndrome kids left in the care of the state. There were both boys and girls there. They lived in cottages. I dated a girl who worked as a "house mother" in the cottage that housed anti-social boys. There were occasional fights and I can tell you these boys were strong. They all seemed short. One thing though, was that when you dealt with them one on one, they were the sweetist kids you can imagine. Reaching into your gut, you may get the anger that these kids never had. I do not think the sport of MMA is right for them, but good physical education is very helpful in reaching them. Any sport would do them good, so they should stay in the gym, but I would hate to see any of them get hurt.

ThunderValleyKO
ThunderValleyKO

@benfowlkesMMA love it. As a father to a young boy with autism I take heart it anything that provides purpose & hope for special needs kids

drakemallard
drakemallard topcommenter

But I heard you can get killed at that Kumite.Why are the mentally challenged so physically strong?

mega_bytes
mega_bytes

I think it is wonderful he is passionate about this and the training is an added physical benefit. That being said I find the fact a person who has limited ability on an intellectual level to make the choice to have a “real” fight disturbing. People with Down Syndrome have other limitations physically or complications besides their intellectual capabilities. How can the punishment and risk of injury impact that as well? Perhaps there is a reason the Special Olympics does not have a punishing sport like MMA.

Decent_American
Decent_American

Finally America has reached the pinnacle of good taste  - Tard Fights!

MMABeatdown
MMABeatdown

No. RT @benfowlkesMMA Take a sec to read an interesting, well-written article about a man with Down Syndrome who wants to be an MMA fighter:

Metoproziva
Metoproziva

@benfowlkesMMA good read. Awesome to see he has a passion for something and enjoys training. Good for him.

mega_bytes
mega_bytes

@drakemallard  You realize that is a myth that mentally challenged people are somehow physically stronger. Some are strong some are not and there are many reason for that. In cases of Down Syndrome they are in fact less strong do to physical limitation they all share. Some people can who are mentally challenged can be strong but perhaps they come from a family where people are stronger. Some conditions affect the mind and not the body. Some like Down Syndrome which is a genetic disorder affect mind and body.

 
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