UFC fights bullying

CHRIS DOUCETTE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:52 AM ET

TORONTO - Any concerns about UFC fighters being appropriate anti-bullying ambassadors were put to rest at the Rogers Centre Tuesday.

Some 500 kids from Toronto and London, Ont., schools spent the afternoon in a massive classroom listening to some of the biggest names in MMA share their stories of perseverance and experiences with bullying.

Afterward a boy reached out to Toronto Police Sgt. Kevin Hooper — who spoke at the event and helped plan it with the UFC — for help dealing with his own bullying situation.

“That’s the reason for doing this,” Hooper said, after giving the boy his contact information so they could talk more later.

There have been questions raised this week about athletes involved in a violent sport lecturing kids on bullying.

But Hooper said the young victim he met, who is about 10, felt comfortable coming forward after listening to the fighters.

“In my opinion, we hit a home run,” the officer said.

The event — hosted by MMA analyst Showdown Joe Ferraro, who admitted he has been bullied — kicked off the week-long lead-up to UFC 140 at the Air Canada Centre.

Video messages from Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and his brother, City Councillor Doug Ford, were played on the scoreboard.

Both said that bullying will not be tolerated.

Then Jonah Mowry’s face appeared on the screen.

In his video, which has gone viral on YouTube, the teen fights back tears and holds up one cue card after another, each with a few words of his bullying story.

The students watched intently, reading how Jonah’s troubles began early in life. By Grade 2, the tormenting was so bad he began cutting himself.

Then the UFC fighters took the stage.

“What a sad video,” London’s Sam Stout said. “(Bullying) is something that has to stop.”

Stout, 27, makes his living in the Octagon now but he recalled standing up for a boy who was being picked on in high school and he encouraged the crowd to do the same.

“No one should ever feel like Jonah does,” he said.

Before joining the UFC, Matt Mitrione, 33, said he spent many years chasing his boyhood dream of playing in the NFL.

He overcame many obstacles and refused to listen to those who told him it was impossible. His football career was brief due to injury, but he achieved his dream.

“I always believed in myself,” Mitrione said. “So whatever you want to do ... get up and go after it.”

Local fighter Sean Pierson and Thamesford, Ont., native Mark Hominick, who fights at the ACC Saturday night, also spoke.

“If you’re being bullied, reach out, tell someone you trust — your teacher, your principal, or the police,” Sgt. Hooper said.

Victims can also contact Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868 or online at kidshelpphone.ca.


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