At 27 years old, Reggie Adams ranks No. 3 in his weight class in the state of Tennessee as a professional mixed martial artist. Although he’s been climbing the MMA circuit for the past seven years, his journey as an athlete started well before then. 

While still in school, the North Memphis native sampled the regular round of sports—football, basketball, and soccer. But wrestling is what finally helped him stay focused and productive instead of getting into trouble with his peers. It was the only sport that made Reggie feel like he had something to lose, so it set him on a straight path.

He was introduced to mixed martial arts as a senior in high school, but he already had a wrestling scholarship to King University, where he earned a degree in business management. After graduation though, it’s a whole different story. “I instantly fell in love,” Reggie says about his first time trying MMA. “Most people think it’s just a fight or technical type of street fighting but it is so much more than that. MMA is a lifestyle.”

Now a signed fighter for the respected UFC affiliate, V3Fights, Reggie spends around eight hours or more every day in the gym—training, prepping for fights, and coaching his own clients. His passion extends beyond the cage though. Reggie spends his “off hours” volunteering with the kids at Law School MMA, helping shape the next generation of champions.

The organization was founded by one of Reggie’s mentors, Brian Hall, who’s devoted years of his life to helping underserved kids stay off the streets through the Memphis Police Boxing Gym. Brian’s dedication to helping kids led him to create Law School MMA, which helps kids express their love for fighting while also giving them an opportunity to give back to the community. 

Soon Brian’s vision became Reggie’s passion. “I want to be the man that I needed when I was their age,” he says. He also serves as an inspiration to students who were like him. He visits local high school wrestling practices to show them how far dedication to the sport can take you. He also sees himself as proof that you can choose your path in life instead of following a predetermined one. 

The community, the courage, the discipline—these aspects of MMA are more impactful than the many strikes a fighter will encounter. “It instills certain morals and codes of conduct. It taught me that not everything will always go your way and that whatever you’re going through at the moment, there is always a way to overcome,” Reggie says. 

Reggie cites resiliency as one of the biggest skills it can teach someone with a challenging childhood. “When life gets you down and hits you hard, don’t give up!” he says. “Sometimes when there is a 200-pound man on top of me I might want to tap out, but I have to quickly find a way to get out of the situation without getting overwhelmed.”

While wrestling and MMA matches may be one on one, there’s still a whole team supporting the person in the ring. It teaches you to value that sense of community. “Life will put you in difficult situations, but when you have your team and your support system cheering you on right when you think you have reached your breaking point and you hear them telling you to get up and keep going, it pushes you to overcome the challenge. And that makes you level up and grow as a person,” Reggie says.

For as long as his body will endure, Reggie plans to fight professionally. And after that, he has an eye on opening his own gym. What won’t change though is his desire to help kids lift themselves up through the sport. Mixed martial arts has honed Reggie into a fierce competitor with a thick skin, but inside he’s all heart.

By Alejandra Machin

Photo by Tindall Stephens