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Bucket Lists and Bully Beatdowns: Two Feel Good MMA Stories That Are Sure to Warm Your Black Heart

True story: The last time I traveled home to Upstate NY was a few months ago. While out at one of the only two bars that exist in my podunk town, I bumped into a high school buddy of mine who had moved to Washington D.C some years ago. I asked him how he was doing, and after a very, very, shockingly brief conversation, he informed me that he had testicular cancer that had spread to his stomach.

I stood there in shock for a moment, wondering if he simply remembered my dark sense of humor and was merely screwing with me, before offering my response. What I said I cannot recall, due in part to the combination of shock and grain alcohol running through my system (mostly shock). Long story short, he underwent surgery and chemotherapy shortly thereafter, and yesterday, informed us all that he was officially cancer-free. I was relieved to say the least.

That’s perhaps the craziest thing about cancer; despite nearly all of us knowing someone whose life has been claimed by it, we always assume that it won’t get us until the end, if at all. So a story like that of Jake Stoneking, a 19-year-old from West Linn, Oregon battling a rare form of brain cancer (medulloblastoma) is rarely one that falls on deaf ears for obvious reasons. ABC News ran one such story yesterday, and focused on a bucket list Stoneking had put together in light of his fatal diagnosis.

When he unveiled that his #2 wish was to attend a UFC event (second only to “visit a local West Linn topless bar.” Awesome), the UFC kindly obliged him.

You can read all of Jake’s story over at MMAFighting (and read his entire bucket list here), but in the interest of brevity, let’s just say that Stoneking will be among the 20ish thousand fans packing into the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas for UFC 171: Hendricks vs. Lawler this Saturday. Depending on whether or not he feels up to it physically, that is.

The invitation was extended by Lorenzo Fertitta via Twitter earlier today, and personally, I really hope that this kid is able to make it. Not only for his sake, but because the off-chance of Stoneking finding the strength to defeat cancer after watching a UFC event would really lend credence to my theory that MMA is not slowly swirling down the shitter.

Of course, this other story about a teenage MMA enthusiast using his skills to help a bullied handicapped kid defend himself is pretty great too. The hero in question’s name is Roman Rodriguez, a 16 year-old Springfield, MA resident who after leaving class last week, spotted a group of teenagers picking on a mentally disabled 11 year-old. What he did next was pretty goddamn commendable (via MassLive):

“When I saw the situation, it immediately bothered me. I saw he was crying,” Rodriguez said, during an interview on Thursday. “Everyone should be appreciated for who they are as a person, not made fun of.”

As he walked towards the group, Rodriguez said he asked the main aggressor to leave the younger child alone, adding that he did not wish to fight. “I told them I didn’t want any trouble, I just wanted to walk him home,” he said. “This, I guess, provoked him.”

Rodriguez said the boy, later identified as only 14 years old, was much larger than himself, at approximately 6-feet, 220 pounds. So, when he attempted to hit Rodriguez, his training helped him remain calm.“He’s a lot bigger than me, so I only knocked him down and restrained him,” the 16-year-old, who has earned a purple belt, said. “I wanted to avoid things getting worse.”

Hold up, a 6-foot, 200+ pound fourteen year old? Truly, the Double Down sandwich continues to haunt us to this day. A plague upon your decision to forgo two slices bread for fried chicken breasts, KFC!!!

If I were working for TMZ and reporting on Floyd Mayweather’s latest criminal endeavor, here’s where I’d say that the story enters “Breaking Bad sh*t” territory:

Rodriguez’s strategy worked. The teen, who Rodriguez could only identify as “Angel” ran home, with his group of friends following. What he wasn’t prepared for was the threat he yelled.

“The kid threatened to stab or shoot Roman,” Colón said.

Rodriguez ran back inside the building to tell his father, who was still packing up after class, what happened.

“My son is a pretty mellow kid and I could tell something was wrong as he was pretty hyped up,” Ricardo said.

As they walked outside together, Ricardo said, the teen had returned brandishing a large kitchen knife with his mother by his side.

“I witnessed this kid’s mother encourage her son to stab mine. She was instigating a fight,” Ricardo said. “My first reaction was to protect my son, but also to avoid any kind of tragedy.”

Within minutes, officers of the Holyoke Police Department were on the scene. The 14-year-old was charged with assault with a dangerous weapon. His mother, Jomery Rivera, was charged with disorderly conduct.

Forgive me for my hyperbole, but I honestly, sincerely hope that Mrs. Jomery — which sounds like her parents named her “Jeremy” thinking she was a boy and simply refused to admit their mistake once she hit puberty — gets run over by a bus and a steamroller before being trampled to death by a marching band on her way to court, Naked Gun style.

But there you have it, two feel good stories that might make you reconsider whether or not MMA/the UFC has lost its heart. We now return to your regularly scheduled program.

-J. Jones

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