In a tale that embodies heart, commitment and a never-say-die mentality, Aaron Aby has battled the worst of the worst and come out the other side, as a stronger man than most of us could ever dream of being.
After being diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at an early age, it would’ve been easy for the Welshman to avoid physical activity. But it simply wasn’t in his nature. With the help of his adoring parents, Aby didn’t just take part, but excelled past his peers, unlocking the sporting potential that saw him become a top-level footballer, representing his country, and a martial artist capable of fighting for Oktagon gold.
In an exclusive interview with Sporf, he admitted: “My journey hasn’t been simple. There’s been ups and downs. Life is tough, but I’ve never wanted to play the victim, even at a young age. I’m fortunate that my parents brought me up in that way, pushed me and treated me like everyone else. They were never easy on me. They just wanted me to have a normal lifestyle. Without them, I wouldn’t be where I am today. So, I’m very grateful for that, and the people who’ve supported me along the way.
“My early years played a massive part in where I am and where I’ve got to. I grew up watching the Rocky and Karate Kid films, but along the way, I’m still growing and developing and going through things in adult life that are still forging who I am. People will see cystic fibrosis as a disadvantage, but it’s taught me things that I can use to my advantage.”
Aaron Aby went toe-to-toe with cancer and came out the victor
Despite living with cystic fibrosis, Aby proved all the doctors who’d said he wouldn’t live past his teenage years, wrong, by becoming an esteemed mixed martial artist.
With lightning hands, a sublime fighting IQ and an unrelenting will to win, he proved himself as one of the best prospects on the planet. But then, tragedy struck, when the Wrexham-born athlete received a diagnosis for testicular cancer.
However, while the situation would’ve understandably broken even the hardest of men, Aby stayed strong, exhibiting his incredible powers of self-belief, to make it through yet another devastating situation.
He explained: “Life is tough. Would I say it’s been easy? ‘No’. Would I say it’s been plane-sailing? ‘No’. But I’d always find a way to keep going. I won’t be broken. I’ll never quit. It’s just not in who I am as a person. There were times when I needed to find a bit of hope when I didn’t think there was any, or set a goal to help me get through a difficult time I was going through, or just find a light in the dark. I’d just find a reason to keep going; I use the analogy, ‘Right, I’m gonna put my gumshield in and walk forward and take everything life throws at me until I come out the other end’.
“Sometimes a friend would give me a kick up the a**e. I feel like this chance I’ve got in front of me is an opportunity to repay people.”
Aaron Aby makes his eagerly-anticipated comeback
While overcoming cancer would’ve been enough to fill most with joy, for Aby, he wasn’t truly healed until he returned to the craft he holds so dear to his heart. And in a moment that filled the fighter with an indescribable feeling of triumph, he did the impossible and made his walk back to the cage.
He reminisced: “That was my greatest achievement in my life and in the sport. It was on UK Fighting Championships, and I remember looking down over the balcony and I was in the main event, and I could see people in the crowd who’d wiped up my sick, carried me up the stairs when I needed help, pushed me to keep going, doctors and family. And I looked down, and I was like, ‘We’ve done it’.
For me, I wasn’t cured of cancer until I got back competing. Even though I’d had the all-clear from the hospital, I wanted to get back to where I was before the cancer, so I had to compete to do that. That walk, that night, that feeling of togetherness and ‘Look at what we’ve done’, that will stick with me forever.”
Aaron Aby aims to complete his incredible story at Oktagon 48
In a story that proves the importance of never giving up, Aby has gone from a man staring death in the face, to fighting for championship glory inside the AO Arena in Manchester.
On November 4, with his family and friends cheering him on, the role model will have his shot at the Oktagon title. And he’s over the moon that his dear friend, Bryan Lacey, who helped him through the toughest times of his life, will be at cageside, calling the action.
He asserted: “There are people you meet along your way in life, I don’t want to say by fluke, but they come along at the right time, and they end up becoming special people in your life. Bryan is one of them. He used to work for UK Fighting Championships, and I started meeting him when I was going through a tough time, and he ended up becoming one of those bits of hope.
“He’d always make me laugh and make me feel better, but after my comeback fight, some people want to get interviewed by Joe Rogan, but for me, it was Bryan Lacey. That’s because of who he is as a person and what he’s done for me. That’s not a dig at Joe Rogan; that’s just what Bryan means to me. I’m grateful that he’s part of the Oktagon team, and he’ll commentate on my fight on the night. I don’t really believe in fairytales or anything, but this is my shot at one. Some things are meant to be. You work to make things happen. It’s madness that this could happen. I’ve just gotta do it now.”
Aaron Aby has an enormous challenge ahead of him at Oktagon 48
While the warrior’s army is filled with excitement to see their hero reach his destiny, the fight ahead of him will be anything but easy. In the opposite corner stands a man who’s coming to upset the apple cart.
Elias Garcia is a veteran of the UFC and Combate Global. Possessing awe-inspiring technique and a terrifying submission game, he’s got the talent to win a title in any promotion. However, having smashed down every obstacle in his path, Aby has a feeling deep inside that on Saturday night, he’ll make all his dreams come true.
He concluded: “It wouldn’t be an Aaron Aby story if the opponent wasn’t good. It wouldn’t be an Aaron Aby story if the odds weren’t against me. This is my shot; this is my opportunity. I’m going to give everything I’ve got to take it. This is the moment I’ve worked my whole life towards. It’s happening.”
Featured Image Credit: Aaron Aby