Aaron Simpson: The Heart of a FighterMarch 22nd, 2013
What makes a warrior fight insurmountable opponents with courage and heart? Aaron Simpson is one such warrior—fighting with honor in the "ring" and for animals outside of it. A champion wrestler and professional fighter, Aaron is also a passionate animal lover who rescues scorpions and birds and protects animals instead of eating them.
A wrestler for over three decades, Aaron has spent recent years building a career in "MMA" or Mixed Martial Arts. MMA brings in the toughest fighters, like Aaron, who dominate their field, and incorporates a variety of skill sets while in the "cage"—the arena where boxers meet wrestlers, strikers meet grapplers. Fighting a war on all fronts, the sport requires incredible discipline and training.
In martial arts, as in animal advocacy, discipline becomes a vital quality. "We all need a certain amount of discipline in our lives in order to be happy," Aaron says. "Those who lack discipline lack drive and the ability to get things done and move forward. In sports like this, you have to put the work in, you have to have discipline in your diet, in your training—whether it's lifting or running or Jiu Jitsu, or Muay Thai or wrestling—because after 8 weeks, when you step out in that cage, your discipline is what you have to go on. There's something about that word that gets my blood going, keeps me focused."
Discipline and compassion guide Aaron as a fighter in and out of the cage. He is an outspoken defender of those who cannot defend themselves—and he sees his fight for animals, and nonhuman animals, as a fight against bullies. "I like to stick up for those who are being bullied, whether its people or animals. I'm a big advocate for human rights and animal rights. I couldn't care less what I'm stereotyped as by being vegan. I welcome it, in a way." As he explains, true animal warriors defend "every animal on the planet—and that includes people. What they're doing is stomping out bullies."
One type of bullying that tears at his heart is the suffering of large marine mammals, like Lolita the orca at the Miami Seaquarium, who are exploited for our entertainment. Lolita has been imprisoned without an orca companion for three decades, without protection from the southern sun, in the smallest orca tank in North America (well below the minimum required by the Animal Welfare Act) and that is why ALDF continues to fight for her freedom. Stories like Lolita's are the sorts of things that keep Aaron up at night. "Animals should not be in amusement parks. There should be no such thing. They should be in the ocean in their natural habitat. It angers me. I put myself in these animals' shoes, so to speak, and I can't imagine losing my family like that… these creatures who are so intelligent."
Aaron knows that for animal advocates, facing the horrors of cruelty can be overwhelming and discouraging. We mustn't give up, Aaron urges, as he returns to the notions of discipline and compassion. "I try to educate myself… and other people. I give what I can give, I donate what I can donate – I really try to spread the word more too. But I don't feel like I'm doing enough. I'd like to be out there on a boat fighting Japanese whalers..." he admits. "There are so many things I think we should do, and we don't. We just sit on our hands and complain about it."
Eating a cruelty-free diet and raising awareness about animal cruelty—these are things Aaron does because of his conscience. He says it's the right thing to do as a human, not just as a fighter. We must all take action for animals and fight animal cruelty in every way that we can. "Animals need lawyers—animals need warriors," he declares. "They need an army. As people, we need to stand up."
Standing up for others, and a coach at heart, Aaron's dedication to younger athletes is discernible in just about everything he says and does. Aaron is co-owner of Power MMA & Fitness (along with Ryan Bader and C.B. Dolloway) an incredible state-of-the-art 27,000 square foot gym that helps train the next generation of elite MMA athletes. The gym is also unlike any other facility in the U.S. because of its innovative basketball program led by the Miami Heat's Mike Miller. Nearly 60 kids a year come to the gym to train at the highest level, before moving on to play for top colleges across the country. Aaron continues to support younger wrestlers too, and probably always will. It's just a part of who he is.
Aaron and his wife raise their children compassionately as well; he is conscious of the responsibilities of being a role model for his children and for other people's children. "We're pretty straightforward with our kids. We're honest… We don't want to push scary things. But we explain that people are mean to animals and we don't eat animals because we love animals." For Aaron, being a father means instilling values of kindness. "My daughter has the same love for animals I had at an early age," he says. When his children are old enough, he hopes they will "have instilled enough love and strength" that his children will help protect animals too.
That determination carries over into Aaron's growth as a fighter. Having risen in the ranks of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), he is now exploring the World Series of Fighting. Tomorrow night, March 23, Aaron will face Josh Burkman in Atlantic City. Animal lovers and MMA enthusiasts everywhere will be rooting for Aaron Simpson: a champion of animals and a fighter with heart.