From Volume 1, Issue 3, 2017
Justin Wren had it all … a recognized Ultimate Fighting Champion, part of a reality show, fame, money, you name it. But it wasn’t enough. Justin still struggled with life and began to falter. Then he found Christ and went on a mission that would change his life forever. Read on as he discusses his experiences with the Pygmies of the Republic of Congo. Now he gives his life to Christ as he fights for them, the Forgotten.
EOF: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us and sharing about your mission. How are you doing today? WREN: I’m doing really well; extremely blessed and just excited to have this opportunity with Art of Faith to share about what God is doing in the ministry that we have. We are talking today about your book, Fight for the Forgotten: How a mixed martial artist stopped fighting for himself and started fighting for others. Perhaps you could share what made you decide to go into cage fighting?
Cage fighting is even better described as the sport of mixed martial arts and so it combines the Olympic sports of wrestling, both freestyle and Greco, and the NCAA folk style. It also combines the Olympic sports of judo, taekwondo and boxing and it puts them all into one sport against each other. The standout is the striking aspect of boxing and kickboxing and the ground game is the wresting, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and joint manipulation. So, for me, the reason I decided to go into it (probably secondarily) was because of the human chessmatch of it. I just loved the technique and the discipline and the strategy. I absolutely love it. But the first and foremost reason was that I grew up getting heavily bullied and when I found the sport when I was 13 years old, I had been sitting at the lunch table by myself getting pelted in the back of the head with chocolate milk and spit wads. I had no confidence and was picked on, bullied, beat up on, and when I found the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) and the sport of MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) I thought, “Well, these guys probably don’t get bullied. These guys are big. They are strong and they know how to defend themselves.” I just loved it. At that time, it was not a mix of the sports, although it was called mixed martial arts. Most of the fighters knew just one aspect, so they were very one-dimensional. So, it was boxing versus literally Sumo; or karate
versus Olympic wrestling; or Brazilian jiu-jitsu versus kickboxing. And so, there were these veryunique matchups. It was advertised wrong, forsure. The promotors wanted to promote it as kind of a blood sport. But the fighters and the people who were drawn to it, Olympians, were drawn to it because of the discipline and because of the challenge. The challenge of having to learn multiple sports and think that way all at the same time. That’s what made me decide to get into it. One, I got bullied and two, the dynamic aspects of the sport.
I’m sure it’s very dynamic. Being in even one of the disciplines requires that everything has to be instinctive. You don’t have time to think it through. So, to have all those flying through your mind at the same time would definitely require a lot of discipline. You made it to the top. You were on a reality TV show. But you still didn’t seem quite fulfilled. Why was that?
The easy answer is that I don’t think that a human being can be fulfilled without a relationship with God, who created them. That was me. I had all my hopes and dreams, and my childhood dream became a reality. But it quickly turned into a living nightmare that I couldn’t even wake up from when I became a depressed, drunk, drug addict. And then even that was ripped away from me. I was kicked off my training team, one of the best fight teams in the world with a really great reputation of producing champions. Champions in the sport several times with many different guys all defending their belts. I was the youngest guy with them; twenty-one, twenty-two, twenty-three, but hit rock bottom and got a voicemail one day after a six to eight week long drug binge where I was hitchhiking through the mountains of Colorado. On the voicemail a voice said, “I can’t believe you missed my wedding. I can’t believe my best man didn’t show up.” It was my best friend at that time and I just completely let him down and left this dark cloud over his most special day. I was just a messed-up dude. I was messing up all my relationships and breaking them all. I was just a hurt dude that was hurting people. It wasn’t until Christ came into my life which was, as we are doing this interview, six years, eleven months, and six days ago, that I tapped out; that I gave up which, as a fighter, you think that ends in defeat, but this was the one time it ended in victory. And that was committing my life to THE ultimate fighter, which was Jesus who fought the perfect fight; who lived the perfect life and invited us in on thatvictory with him.
That’s fantastic. We are all fallen and I guess we have to get to that spot, and it’s a different spot for all of us, but you can see where it’s humbling because it’s our egos that stop us from submitting to God. You’ve dedicated your life to God and helping the helpless and forgotten so why don’t you share a little bit about your mission.
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