ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Jackson Wink MMA Academy is known for training some of the best fighters in UFC, now the world-renowned gym in Albuquerque is taking on new students to show that regardless of the cards they’ve been dealt, anything is possible.
“I feel like I’m living the dream. It’s a once in a lifetime thing and I’m just lucky,” new student Branden Hussey says. He says he could only imagine what it would be like to step into the octagon at Jackson Wink, training in the same gym where names like Holly Holm, Diego Sanchez and Jon Jones have left their mark.
“My first couple days I was really thrown for a loop because I was thinking this is the guy that trains the fighters, what would he be wanting to train me for?” Hussey said.
Coach Mike Winkeljohn has been working with Hussey for three years. He says he’s inspired. “When I first saw Branden, I said to myself ‘This is going to be a challenge, I’m not sure what he can or can’t do but I’m going to make it happen,'” adding, “I was amazed… it’s just been great, I never end my day without a smile if I worked with him.”
Winkeljohn has seen first hand how much a person with special challenges can benefit from mixed martial arts. His daughter has special needs. “I’ve never seen anything but great things happen from it, everybody’s always happy, it’s always made everybody better for it,” Winkeljohn said.
“He always pushing me, there aren’t a lot of people that’ll think it’s okay to push a kid like me,” said Hussey.
Coach Winkeljohn is hoping to have a farther reach with IncredAble Adaptive MMA, a new non-profit at Jackson Wink. “There’s a lot of kids out there like Branden that I think will benefit from it,” Winkeljohn said.
Kids and adults who face unique challenges will start training next month, alongside professional fighters.
“It’s amazing, it’s really humbling to see, to meet the other fighters,” said Hussey. “The fighters that were my idols when I was growing up and now I’m sitting here training with them.”
“I also think it’s going to inspire my fighters,” Winkeljohn said. “I think that’s important. I think there’s a benefit on both sides.”
Hussey’s next goal: “One day I want to compete in one amateur fight.” And his message to others: “I want to show them that a kid in a wheelchair is so much more past a kid in a wheelchair,” he said.
Classes for the IncredAble Adaptive MMA program will begin next month.
They are holding a benefit gala on March 9th at Isleta Resort and Casino, with guest speakers Diego Sanchez and Michelle Waterson.