I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.
— Nelson Mandela
Our teammate, coach and friend Omar Lee was involved in a single car accident on Sunday of last week, resulting in multiple fractures that required a lengthy surgery last Monday. He has been recovering in hospital and is in good spirits. Many weeks of rehab lay ahead, but he has already proven his determination to fight for every inch of progress.
It’s obviously been a stressful time for all of us, but I know with certainty that Omar will get through this challenge and emerge on the other side even stronger than before. I know this with such certainty because I’ve witnessed him overcome challenge after challenge the last four years. Challenges that would send most people running.
We all know Omar is an amazing technical fighter, but not many know just how brave he is. Only five fights into his amateur career, I told him we had a shot at the state title against someone with over 20 fights. He agreed to the fight with no hesitation and proceeded to win convincingly.
He’s fought injured many times, finishing fights with broken ribs and broken feet, winning over previously hostile crowds with his spirit and style. He’s often completed tough fight camps on little to no sleep while pursuing an engineering degree and supporting his family.
Within three short years of training, Omar had won National and North American titles against far more experienced opponents. Last year he tested himself against the best in the world at the IFMA World Championships in Bangkok. The entire Jax Muay Thai family came together and helped raise the funds to make his dream a reality.
Our preparation for World Championships was severely hampered by a shoulder that kept popping out of joint, and we were told it required surgery. That wasn’t an option, so he battled on and modified his training, even fighting at Friday Night Fights in NYC with the shoulder out of joint.
In Thailand last summer, our little team of two, representing Omar’s homeland of the US Virgin Islands, lined up next to massive teams. The big international teams came complete with physical therapists, sports doctors, team managers, and many more staff. Omar’s A-Class division featured six professional world champions. Most had well over a hundred fights compared to his 15. We didn’t even have a second corner person as required by IFMA rules. Fortunately, our friends at Team USA helped out, and Omar won his fight in spectacular fashion. He earned the respect of everyone present despite his shoulder popping out.
He faced a former IFMA gold medalist for his second fight. The shoulder was clearly troubling him from the get-go. This time it was up to the ref to save him from his own bravery and the risk of serious injury. As I climbed into the ring and told him how proud I was, all he could say was “I didn’t quit, I didn’t quit!”
That’s how I know Omar will come through this new fight, because he never quits and because he has the support, once again, of the entire Jax Muay Thai family at his side, every step of the way. Thanks to everyone throughout the Muay Thai community around the country and the world. With your support and his own hard work and courage, he is already winning again.