OC Register: BullyFight.com & MMA fighters take on bullies at H.B. High
LA Boxing hosts Tito Ortiz and Rob McCullough at anti-bullying assembly on Tuesday
By JAIMEE LYNN FLETCHER / THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
Using mixed martial artists seemed a good way to bring home a message to Huntington Beach High students about the dangers and impacts of bullying.
They’re famous. They’re big. They command attention.ADVERTISEMENT
But most importantly, they’ve been bullied themselves.
Fighters Tito Ortiz and Rob McCullough, both from Huntington Beach, talked to students Tuesday at the high school as part of Santa Ana-based LA Boxing’s anti-bullying campaign.
Ortiz, known as the “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy,” is a light heavyweight who went on to be World Champion and start his own gym and product line, Punishment Athletics. He teaches youth mixed martial arts classes at his Huntington Beach training center twice a week.
McCullough, known as “The Razor,” fights in the lightweight class and is the former World Extreme Cage Champion.
“We connect with kids,” Ortiz said. “They see us as fighters, yes, but they see us as normal people too. It’s coming from guys who’ve been in these same situations.”
The men stood on the school’s gym floor in front of thousands of students hoping to get a simple message across: Stop bullying.
“We need to support each other, let’s stop the cycle,” Ortiz told the students. “Let’s not be bullies, let’s mentor each other.”
The kids applauded when both men shared their stories of bullying and told students to be accepting of others, no matter their race or sexual orientation.
“It was inspiring,” said junior Brianna Owens, 16. “I think everyone here learned something today.”
McCullough, director of training at LA Boxing, kicked off the campaign earlier this month at a kindergarten in Anaheim.
“This is really an epidemic,” he said. “Kids need to be held accountable.”
The Huntington Beach presentation was Ortiz’s first lecture as part of the LA Boxing program – which has gone nationwide and hit seven Orange County schools.
“These kids look up to me. I guess I’m just a role model for them,” he said. “If I’m making a difference, I’m doing my job.”
Ortiz and McCullough both attended Huntington Beach High – Ortiz for four years and McCullough for one.
They both came from similar backgrounds – forced to learn to care for themselves at a young age with little parental guidance.
Ortiz said his family lived in hotels and cars because his parents battled drug addiction. McCullough said at age 14 he moved out of a Santa Ana hotel room where he lived with his mother because he could tell she was struggling to make ends meet and take care of him.
“I lived with friends,” he said. “Yeah, I grew up fast, but I wouldn’t change any of that.”
Ortiz, 37, said he was scrawny when he entered high school, which made him an easy target.
“I was a little kid with no muscles. I was 5’6″, 120 pounds,” he said. “My freshman year, I was sick of getting bullied so I started lifting weights.”
By his senior year, he grew five inches and packed on 60 pounds, thanks to wrestling at school, he said.
McCullough, 35, attended four high schools in four years – three in Orange County and one in Alaska. With every new school, came new bullies.
“I was always the new kid,” he said.
He said he used athletics to build confidence and battle frustrations that come with being a teenager.
“That was something that changed my life,” he said.
Both men eventually found mixed martial arts, established confidence and built a career.
Students said the message coming from Ortiz and McCullough was easy to receive and made a big impact.
“It really made you feel like you’re not so alone and isolated,” said freshman Emily Bird, 15.
Although some students said they have heard talks about bullying before, the assembly with the MMA fighters offered a new perspective.
“I thought it was pretty cool,” said freshman Mike Alexander, 15. “I learned what’s better to do … instead of getting in a fight to stop the bullying, because that’s normally what I would do, you should tell someone.”
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Link to story: http://www.ocregister.com/news/ortiz-376183-mccullough-students.html
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