Deaf Sports Stars21st October 2014

Adam Evans - Family Man, Cage Fighting and MMA

A Deaf family man, Adam decided to give MMA cage fighting a go, he hasn't looked back since

by Sarah Lawrence

In recent years, Mixed Martial Arts, or MMA as it is more commonly known, has been gaining in prominence on both sides of the Atlantic. Now popular in locations across the UK, MMA also enjoys high profile TV coverage.  Its rise in popularity has not been lost on the deaf community with 700 deaf spectators attending the Fusion FC12 event held as the Epsom Downs Racecourse in Surrey on the 24th May 2014. The attraction for so many deaf viewers – Adam ‘Crusader’ Evans, a professional Deaf MMA fighter who was seeking his 4th win in as many fights.

Now 42 and preparing for his 6th professional fight, I was delighted to catch up with Adam and ask him a little about himself and his rise to prominence in MMA.

Born hearing, Adam was adopted when he was 6 months old. A serious accident shortly afterwards saw Adam hospitalised for 3 months when boiling water from a kettle accidentally poured over the left side of his body. Seriously hurt, he had to take medication and this caused him to become Deaf when just 13 months old.

Like many Deaf children brought up in a ‘hearing’ family, Adam was brought up orally at home and at his school in Exeter. However, in 1983, aged 11, he transferred to Burwood Park School in Walton-on-Thames in Surrey. A secondary school for Deaf students, Adam thrived, attaining 10 GCSE’s and throwing himself energetically into the sports opportunities offered by the school.

Experiencing some bullying because he was “small and an easy target” whilst in school, Adam was keen to try out some of the self-defence sports, enjoying judo in particular. Following his achievements at GCSE, Adam stayed on at the Norfolk House Sixth Form College, a college opened in 1973 for Deaf students. Studying A levels in Maths, Technical Design and Art, Adam was one of a number of 106 students who progressed from Burwood Park School to the college.

Aged 18, a release of money from a Trust Fund set up for him, saw Adam become something of a partygoer, although he also spent a lot of his time pursuing hobbies, such as modeling planes, fishing, fitness training, kick boxing and football. Good with his hands, Adam also enjoyed buying second hand cars and doing them up. Exposed to Deaf sport through school and college, and despite the partying, Adam played for Salisbury Deaf Football Club until he was 21 and then Bristol Deaf Football Club.

Adam began to settle down in his mid 20’s and started thinking about going to University. Undertaking a Deaf Studies degree at Bristol, Adam achieved his Diploma and achieved his BA (Hons) following a further year’s study at Wolverhampton. “Deaf Studies were good for me and allowed me to discover my identity as a Deaf person,” Adam signed to me. “It made me a better person, understanding myself, and it made me feel better. I became interested in British Sign Language and its linguistics and ultimately led me into working in Deaf related jobs.”

However, realising that he was unfulfilled, he decided to broaden his thoughts in respect of work opportunities. Because of his love of driving he set himself up as a self employed delivery driver.  Making this a successful business, Adam expanded so that he was also employing others. In the absence of communication support workers in Swindon, he also set up a successful interpreter agency. Due to difficulties with Access to Work, the recession and a new addition to the family, Adam sold both businesses in 2007 to become a full time dad.

So, fast approaching 40, why did this ordinary man, making a good life for himself, suddenly turn to MMA? “A friend of mine took me to an MMA event,” Adam explained. “Fighters competed in a cage using a mixture of martial arts, some of which I already practiced, so getting a bit bored at home with the children now in nursery, I thought I would give it a go.”

In the early days of MMA, there were very few rules with fighters able to use almost any technique to strike, grapple and choke their opponents. To ensure the sport had wider appeal, rules were introduced to improve the fighter’s safety, but it is still a tough sport, often resulting in cuts and injuries, so getting involved should not be entered into lightly.

Adam’s discipline around his martial arts, general fitness, food and well-being, meant that he was soon able to train specifically for cage fighting. Muscular when the decision was made, he trained hard to change his shape so that his weight did not see him clashing with fighters significantly taller than him and with a much longer reach. Working his training around his family and his part time delivery driver work, Adam was eager to get started.

Fighting in the amateur arena in the first instance he had some mixed results, but each fight gave him new experience. Win, lose or draw, Adam enjoyed it, and despite concerns from his wife, he made a decision to cut down on his work and to become semi professional and then a professional MMA fighter.

In a sport not exactly littered with Deaf MMA fighters, Adam’s first Pro fight was in Epsom against another Deaf fighter, James Freestone on the 4th May 2013. On the run up to the match, Adam admits to being apprehensive, I was nervous for weeks before I walked into the entrance of the building. When I entered the cage, the nerves just disappeared and I looked forward to the bout.” In a tough encounter, Adam broke his wrist in the first of the three rounds, but continued to fight on, ultimately taking the judges unanimous decision to record his first professional win.

His second fight came just 4 months later, on the 7th September 2013 as part of the Fusion FC 9 High Voltage Event in Epsom. Fighting a fellow Britain Craig Hammond, Adam recorded a quick fire second win with barely a minute on the clock through submission.  “I was still learning but this fight did a lot for my confidence and I became totally hooked,” Adam told me.

His third fight, 6 months later against Linas Maistavich was a much tougher affair with Adam again having to draw on his cardiovascular stamina with the bout going to the final bell. Maintaining aggression throughout, Adam was relieved to get another unanimous decision from the judges, maintaining his winning record as a professional.

As ever in the fighting sports, winning usually brings you face to face with tougher opponents, and his bout in Fusion FC12 was against a tough Polish competitor Danas Deciukonis. With his burgeoning career in the cage, hordes of supporters turned out to cheer Adam on. Repaying the faith of his supporters, Adam inflicted a heavy cut on his opponent 2 minutes 35 seconds into the first round, a cut that prevented his opponent from continuing, allowing Adam to claim a further victory and much acclaim.

Maintaining his wonderful unbeaten record, Adam recorded another quick fire submission in the first round of his fifth professional fight against Matt Webb just six weeks ago.

Now a full MMA professional, Adam trains for three hours a day, six days of the week. Working out of the Swindon Martial Arts Centre, Adam’s coach Jason O’Grady is full of praise for Adam, commenting specifically on his determination and big heart during his bouts. Adam explained that for most cage fighters, their hearing is important as they listen to instructions being shouted to them from their trainers outside the ring, including advice about how to get out of holds and how to get on top of their opponent. Whilst Adam acknowledges that this is an advantage to hearing fighters, he also believes being Deaf works to his advantage.

“Because I can’t hear what my coaching team are shouting during the fight, I just concentrate on what is happening and what I am doing,” Adam explained. “Concentration is important, and I know it’s just down to me to work out how to win my bout.”

Proudly adorned with Maori tattoos, I had to ask Adam why they were important to him. “I had them done in respect of traditional Maori culture. The tattoos make Maori’s look fearless and I very much admire that look.”

Whilst Adam is already preparing for his next bout on the 22nd November he is also hatching plans to start a Deaf MMA Workshop which he hopes to launch in 2015.

If you would like to keep track of Adam’s progress or see him in action at a future bout, Adam has set up a successful Facebook page which can be found at:  DeafMMA

Article by Sarah Lawrence

posted in Deaf Sport / Deaf Sports Stars

21st October 2014