Like an MMA Fighter, I Won’t Give Up When Things Get Uncomfortable

Matt Lafleur avatar

by Matt Lafleur |

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Tonight’s the big night. He’s been preparing for this moment for a long time. He will win. He has to.

In about half an hour, I’d watch Damon Vincent’s first professional MMA fight. I’m not a big mixed martial arts fan. (I figure if I want to watch belligerent people fighting for no reason, I can watch C-SPAN.) However, Damon is my personal trainer, as I’ve written before. I’m proud to support him any way I can, even if it’s simply by livestreaming his match on my phone.

Before I settled down to watch, I checked my email. I mostly keep my mailbox clean and read all of my messages, but I’d never even opened one message from over three months ago. It was a yearly reminder to update my personal information on the FA Global Patient Registry.

This global registry is one of the most important things that we as Friedreich’s ataxia patients can sign up for. It provides a list that medical research development teams can use to recruit candidates for their upcoming studies and clinical trials. Because FA is so rare, the registry is incredibly important to identify those patients and enlist their help. Patient participation leads us closer to a treatment or cure for FA.

Although I recognize the importance of keeping my information updated in the registry, that reminder had remained unopened in my email inbox. I dreaded answering dull health questions, or even worse, any uncomfortably personal ones.

I imagined questions like, “Have you seen any new doctors in the past year?” (No.) Or, “Which of your daily activities are severely affected by FA symptoms?” (I hate thinking about that.)

Facing FA and its effects on my health is uncomfortable. I prefer to avoid uncomfortable situations. So, I continued to leave the email unread. After all, the MMA fight was about to begin.

I parked my wheelchair at the kitchen table and opened the fight livestream at just the right time. The announcer introduced my buddy in a “let’s get ready to rumble” voice: “Making his professional MMA debut, from Lafayette, Louisiana, Damon ‘Sweet Dreams’ Vincent!”

“Sweet Dreams”? I’d never heard that. Sounds like the brand name of pajama onesies for toddlers. I’ll have to tease him about that.

Damon showed up on screen and didn’t embellish in the theatrics of his epic intro. However, he was clearly in his element. He didn’t gloat or try to intimidate his opponent. Months of grueling training had led him to this point. He was ready.

Damon’s three-round fight with his opponent began. The first round was mostly submission holds; sometimes Damon pinned his opponent, sometimes his opponent pinned him. The round ended without an obvious winner. The second round was the most brutal, both for Damon and his fans. Damon spent most of the round trapped in a hold by his opponent, unable to get out of it even after multiple attempts. The second round ended, and I worried that he might not win. The third round held the most action, though neither fighter seemed the clear victor.

After the fight, the judges deliberated for about five minutes, then both fighters made their way to the center of the octagon. The announcer reported that by unanimous decision, the winner was … DAMON VINCENT!

Damon “Sweet Dreams” Vincent wins his first professional MMA fight. (Courtesy of the American Kombat Alliance)

Though I was worried during Damon’s second round, maybe the performance he gave then was a prominent reason he won the fight. Even when he couldn’t escape his opponent’s hold, he persevered and never submitted. Even when it was uncomfortable and he probably felt overwhelmed, he didn’t give up. He stayed strong and won.

I didn’t watch any fights after Damon’s. I returned to my computer, opened the unread email, and updated my entry on the FA patient registry.

True, I’ll probably never be declared a victor in any type of octagon. Heck, I may not even live to see any victories that come from FA research. But maybe by participating in the registry, I can help future generations be rid of FA.

That’s a win in my book. Until a cure for FA is discovered, I won’t give up, even when it gets uncomfortable.

As a wise man often says, “Let’s grow.”

If you are a patient in the FA community, help researchers by adding your information to the FA Global Patient Registry here


Friedreich’s Ataxia News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Friedreich’s Ataxia News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Friedreich’s ataxia.


Jeffery Guidry avatar

Jeffery Guidry

Excellent article! I strongly support Matt and all individuals struggling with debilitating diseases. Your mind and actions are power tools in this fight, encouraging others to keep punching is vitally important to those within the FA community and others outside which includes myself.


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