Former Collegiate Wrestler Zion Clark, Who Was Born Without Legs, Wins MMA Debut

Image Credit: Amy Graves / Getty

Zion Clark, a former collegiate wrestler, born without legs, won his mixed martial arts debut. The 3’2 bantamweight made his professional MMA debut against an opponent with two legs on Saturday during the Gladiator Challenge: Season’s Beatings show in San Diego, winning the three-round affair via unanimous decision.

Clark celebrated the win with a backflip in the cage. He posted an inspirational message to his one million-plus followers on Instagram earlier on Saturday’s fight night.

“My Pro MMA debut. You will always have haters and doubters, remember in life people are going not question what you can and can’t do the same way they question their own abilities. I’m here to show you, YOU CAN DO WHAT YOU SET YOUR MIND TO,” Clark posted before his unanimous decision win.

Anything Is Possible

Billed as “The Worlds First Professional MMA Paraplegic Fighter,” Clark is an athletic phenom who continues to show that there are no boundaries in the pursuit of greatness. Clark fought Eugene Murray, who has a 0-5 record since going pro in 2018. The win sets off a career that is already legendary in other sports and life, as Clark has overcome more challenges than most people.

The 25-year-old from Columbus, Ohio, was born with a rare congenital disability called Caudal Regression Syndrome, where a person is born without legs. Put up for adoption at birth, Clark bounced around the foster care system and looked for an outlet to release his anger. It was then that he found the wrestling mat and he embraced the grind as a form of escape from abusive living situations.

Earlier this year, he expounded on his journey to Forbes.

“My journey through life has been tough. I’ve been through some very dark places and experiences in my life,” Clark said to Forbes. “Especially the first 17 years of my life going through the foster care system bouncing around between nine different homes.”

The Consummate Athlete

Eventually, Clark honed his athleticism enough to become an All-America wrestler after an initial start in wrestling while in elementary school. Additionally, Clark became a beast in the weight room, developing his upper body strength, which elevated his wrestling game. By his high school senior year, Zion went 33-15 in the season with only one match shy of qualifying for the D-I Ohio High School State Wrestling Championships. Despite a 20-pound difference and going beyond the six minutes of regulation, Zion wrestled his opponent to two overtimes, falling 1-0 in sudden death.​

Still, Clark excelled athletically beyond high school and received many recruitment offers for wrestling. Eventually, he settled on Kent State University in his native Ohio, excelling on the varsity level of the sport. Ever the multisport athlete, Clark also captured two racing titles in high school in track wheelchair racing at the Ohio state championships. The second came just a few months after his high school wrestling championships qualifier.

Clark was also the first American athlete to compete in the Olympics and Paralympic Games when he did so in wrestling and wheelchair racing in the Tokyo Games last year.

Zion Clark’s tenacity and diversity as an athlete are legendary as a true testament to anything being possible. Now he shows he’s a straight warrior jumping in the cage and embarking on an MMA career in dominating fashion.

Rhett Butler is a Boxing Writer Association of America Journalist, Play-By-Play Commentator, Combat Sports Insider, and Former Mixed Martial Arts and Boxing Promoter. The New York City native honed his skills at various news outlets including but not limited to: TIME Magazine, Money Magazine, CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports, and more. Rhett hosts the PRITTY Left Hook podcast, a polarizing combat sports insider's take featuring the world's biggest names.