DEAF fighter Matt "The Hammer" Hamill has never let his disability get in the way of his dream and next weekend he reaches a new peak when he headlines UFC130, taking on Quentin "Rampage" Jackson in Las Vegas.
Born deaf, he was inspired into wrestling by his grandfather and has never looked back.
"He taught me, when I was young, that I could either run away from things or stand and fight. It's because of him that I'm the fighter I am today," Hamill said from his Vegas training camp.
Hamill had a stellar college career, winning three NCAA titles and holding high hopes of making the American Olympic wrestling team.
He never quite got there but UFC came along at an opportune moment, rekindling his fighting desire.
"I have an electrical engineering degree and was working as an electrician and as a bouncer. Someone with connections to the UFC urged me to try out for The Ultimate Fighter," he said.
"To be honest, I got into this sport to make some money. But now I have a passion for MMA and I feel the hunger I had while trying out for the Olympics."
The 34-year-old light heavyweight also keeps himself busy with charity work and fronting seminars but sport is his passion and he reckons MMA is ideal for him.
"What I love about it is it's just you and another person testing skills against one another and there are no judges," he said. "The winner is whoever is better that day. There is no need to hear so it fits me very well. Being deaf has never really impacted any performance for me so far."
He's had the same training team working with him since day one – Duff Holmes, Tim Greene, Bruno Tostes and Dave Kingwater.
"I read lips pretty well and they have all learned a little sign language, so with the combination of the two we communicate very well."
Hamill's story has been so inspiring he's the subject of a self-titled Hollywood movie that will be released later this year with deaf actor Russell Harvard in the lead role.
"I had complete input in the project," he said. "Eben Kostbar and Joe McKellar, the producers, made sure my story was told correctly. It's a great movie and it will be in theatres this autumn. I can't wait for everyone to see it."
Right now all his focus is on Jackson who has earned his "Rampage" nickname for a reason and this promises to be a brutal battle, worthy of its top-billing status.
"Rampage is a former champ and a legend of our sport. It's truly an honour for me to fight him. He has great power in both hands and a killer instinct like no other.
"Main event or first fight of the night doesn't matter to me. Either way I have to lock myself in a cage with one of the toughest men on the planet."
Hamill has a 9-win 2-loss record in UFC. His Greco-Roman wrestling background makes him a force on the ground. He's supplemented that with Brazilian jiu-jitsu and is working hard on his boxing skills to be an allround fighter.
"The journey to this point has been a major learning experience for me," he said. "I feel like I'm getting close. I still have a lot to learn but I feel more confident in every area of fighting."
UFC130 ON SKYQuinton "Rampage" Jackson v Matt "The Hammer" Hamill World lightweight bout, Las Vegas, Sunday May 29, 1pm. Contact Sky Arena for booking details, phone 0800 759-782.
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