Rising MMA star Claudia Gadelha credits her training in combat sports with helping her beat drug addiction. Could it work for others?
Claudia Gadelha is five-foot-three and weighs 115 pounds. She’s a law student at a university in Rio de Janeior, Brazil. She’s also one of the toughest women on the planet.
Gadelha is a mixed martial artist competing in the strawweight division in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). A champion in Brazilian jiu jitsu, she started training when she was fifteen years old. As MMA became more popular, she saw an opportunity to have a career as a mixed martial artist and made the transition to competing in that sport in 2008. She is currently the #2 female strawweight, and the #10 best fighter pound-for-pound in the world.
She began training because as a teenager she realized that she needed a focus in her life. In an interview (1), she said that she was having family issues and wanted help.
“That was when I started using drugs. I did everything: using (cocaine), smoking marijuana. Sports got me out of drugs when I was 15. I wanted to start working out and doing exercises, but my mother wouldn’t let me. At first, I started working out without telling her. I remember I skipped school to go to the gym.”
Gadelha says that, like many young people, she enjoyed partying, going out and drinking with friends.
“Sports gave me another idea of life. I saw that if I went out the night before, I wouldn’t be able to train well the next morning.”
Another young person who found help with his personal problems was boxer Mike Tyson. Although now he’s known more for the personal and financial problems that made headlines several years ago, when he first took up boxing he was an angry and violent young man. (By the age of thirteen, Tyson had been arrested 38 times.) Recently Tyson revealed that he had been sexually assaulted when he was seven years old.
Upon being sent to a detention center for young boys, Tyson took up boxing, and a trainer there thought he had promise. He introduced Tyson to Cus d’Amato, who eventually adopted the young man. In addition to his boxing training, d’Amato implemented a self-help regimen that essentially transformed Tyson into a boxing champion. Tyson has said that if not for Cus d’Amato, he would probably have died at a young age. While not curing all of Tyson’s emotional and drug-related issues, boxing helped focus on something other than getting into trouble, and saved his life.
While engaging in organized sports has proven successful in helping many people recover from addiction, the particular focus required in combat sports may be one of the most effective tools in beating substance abuse. That discipline may spread to other parts of a person’s life, providing them with an effective weapon against falling prey.
(1) “Sports helped UFC strawweight Claudia Gadelha beat drug addiction”