ByManny Fonseca, writer at Creators.co
Author, Screenwriter and Podcaster. Admitted Detroit Lion's Fan. Find me on Twitter: @mannyfonseca
Manny Fonseca

MMA is one of the toughest sports on the planet. Even for the most highly-trained and well-prepared competitor, every fight is a huge mental and physical challenge.

That's why the sport has strict conditions that an athlete must meet in order to be allowed to compete. Many of those with physical disabilities or medical conditions have found themselves barred from participating in professional fighting.

That's simply not fair according to Colin Wood, the founder of Modified Mixed Martial Arts Wheeled Warriors, an organization that gives the opportunity to combat sports athletes with disabilities to train and compete. Originally announced in 2012, the organization has taken on quite a bit or criticism.

This isn't Wood's first rodeo, in 2006 he started a Wheeled Warriors promotion for boxing. Now Wood is moving into the MMA scene, but finds himself running into a few problems. Although announced in 2012, their first show never happened because of, as Wood put it, "behind-the-scenes politics."

However, Wood has spent the past few years ensuring the safety of the competitors, and plans on holding the event next year.

Wood sat down with Nick Chester of VICE.com, to talk about his plans and how he feels about the criticism the proposed event is taking on.

The competition will "involve four guys who are all trained in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu," Wood said. "They're all paraplegic."

The competitors will compete in modified wheelchairs that will allow the participants to move around without using their hands. A wheelchair that Wood himself designed.

"I've invented a wheelchair that can be used with no hands. A smaller version will be used in the MMA competition," Wood said. "With the wheelchairs that you've got at the moment, when you throw a person to the floor, there's a fair distance to go down, which is why they will need to be small."

These modified chairs don't end there.

"There will also be other adaptations so that people can be safely toppled out of the chair. That's something we're working on," Wood continued. "It'll involve new technology that I don't really want to say too much about at the moment. We won't go live with it until all four of the gentlemen who are competing are happy with it."

But what about the criticism? Obviously there's a concern that this is simply not safe. That doesn't seem to concern Wood.

"To tell you the truth, I'm not fussed if people want to criticize us," said Wood. "There are a lot of people on this planet, so there's always bound to be someone who doesn't like what you're doing."

Which brings the larger question, just how "capable" are the "handicapable," when you put them in a professional-level fight?

Wood, along with most disabled people, want to be treated just like everyone else.

"We need to stop mollycoddling people and open our minds to adapting things for those who can't fit into the known structure associated with a sport," he said.

To do this, society needs to be more inclusive.

"At the end of the day, whichever sport you're involved in, you've got to look at ways of including everybody, which is where a lot of people go wrong in their thinking," Wood feels. "They don't fully examine all the opportunities for inclusion."

The biggest issue for Wood is, obviously, safety. It's the biggest concern and Wood promises every precaution.

"We've got a 'no cutting corners' policy," said Wood. "A lot of people don't give due care to the health and safety side of things in combat sports, and we're aiming to look after the well-being of any athlete who wants to compete."

While it's easy to agree that society needs to be more inclusive of people with disabilities, that doesn't mean there's an audience that wants to watch disabled people fight.

According to Wood though, Wheeled Warriors has the possibility of going mainstream:

"It's going to take time, like anything else, but what people have to realize is that we need to help and include the guys who want to take part, and also need someone to make sure that his or her health and well-being is considered at all times."

Wood has some lofty goals, but if he gets his way, he'll be able to bring something new to the world. A world that gives people the same opportunities that everyone else has. Whether or not the world asked for it, Wood plans on marching forward.

"What we should be working toward is a world where people can do any sport they want, whether they've got a disability or not."

(via VICE.com)