In his 27 years, Kevin Arnold has already overcome more adversity than most people deal with in a lifetime. Now, Arnold is hoping to take advantage of a positive after surviving all of those negatives.
Arnold, who grew up in Litchfield before moving to Springfield as a young teen, has been chosen as a heavyweight fighter for the United States national team at the World Championships of Amateur MMA, organized by the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation (IMMAF) in Bahrain on Nov. 11-16
The event brings competitors from 60 countries together to fight for the title of IMMAF champion. The competition holds five MMA fights over a several day period and is known to be one of the toughest in the world.
The only stumbling block is travel costs, which can range from $1,500 to $3,000 for airfare to Bahrain, along with food, hotels and other necessities.
"Kevin is not only the most humble person I have ever met, he is also a man who has lost so much in his life that I’d like to see him be given this chance of a lifetime," Arnold's wife Kimberly said on the family's Go Fund Me page.
That loss started at age 11, when he lost his mother, Rose, in a car accident. Two months later tragedy struck again as Arnold's father, Kevin Arnold, Sr., was murdered by a family member.
It was Arnold's father that first saw his strength and proclivity for wrestling and mixed martial arts when his son was just five years old.
"Kevin’s father (Kevin Sr.) was an avid MMA, boxing, and wrestling enthusiast. When Kevin Sr. noticed his sons raw talent, he decided to put him in wrestling," Kimberly Arnold wrote. "Even at just five years old Kevin excelled at the sport and was a true natural."
After the loss of both parents, Arnold and his two younger siblings moved from Litchfield to live with their grandmother. Before much of a sense of normalcy could set in, the grandmother passed away and the three siblings were sent to live with another family member, who Arnold did not get along with. At just 13 years of age, Arnold would often sleep on the streets or in a car to avoid going home.
Despite the hardship, the young man continued to wrestle throughout high school, where he set a record for most pins in a season. His success on the mats led to several college offers and other opportunities, but bad decisions got in the way of a bright future.
"He was an angry teenager who was mad at the world and had no guidance. Just a few months after Kevin’s 18th birthday he was arrested on several charges of residential burglary," his wife writes. "He bonded out of jail 100 days after he was arrested and was given a future court date. During those 100 days Kevin vowed to never get into trouble again and he swore that his past would not write his future."
True to his word, Arnold served a three year prison sentence and was placed on two years of parole, which was reduced to one due to good behavior.
In 2018, Arnold and his wife decided a new path was in order.
"I asked Kevin 'What do you want to do? What do you love to do? What are you good at?' He responded very quickly with 'MMA'," his wife writes. "Only in this conversation did I learn of any of Kevin’s wrestling accomplishments, or of any of his dreams and his father’s dreams of him one day becoming a fighter. He explained that he never told me any of this information because he just figured it was too late for him and that his dream was gone. After hearing all of the details I immediately told him to quit his job and start training full time."
Since then, Arnold has worked part-time to help support his family, but has also trained six to seven days a week, two to three times a day at the Wolves Den Training Center in O'Fallon, MO, in pursuit of his dream.
Now, all of that work is paying off. The 2018 world championships featured 285 athletes from 51 countries, with expectations that the 2019 event will surpass those numbers. The competition will be tough, but for Arnold, these challenges aren't nearly as tough as the ones he has already faced in his life.
For more information on Arnold's journey, or to contribute to his quest to represent the United States at the IMMAF World Championships of Amateur MMA go to www.gofundme.com/f/kevinarnoldteamusa