“Guns down gloves up” crusade makes it’s debut in Arizona
The first and second rule of fight club are about to be broken. “Street Beefs” was founded in 2009 by ex-convict, Chris “Scarface” Wilmore, in Virginia as a way to bring an end to gun altercations. Since origination, Street Beefs has racked up 2 million subscribers on YouTube and over 88.8K followers on Instagram.
The idea is to bring men, and occasionally women, into a safe environment with referees and legal regulations where they can hash out their differences and live to tell the story. It’s a community of individuals who have been in and out of the prison system as well as people who solely want to scrap for the experience or just to relieve stress. Fighters are not allowed to compete if they have a professional record or are currently competing in sanctioned events. Even after blood is shed, opponents embrace and deeper connections are made.
Street Beefs launched their west coast affiliation “Street Beefs West Coast” and had their first successful fight in California on August 15, 2020. Since then, they have traveled around cities in California, Arizona and Nevada with hopes of expanding throughout the west coast.
Street Beefs West Coast made their Arizona debut in the east valley of Queen Creek in the backyard of 37-year-old Brian Evan’s home. “As far as hosting, I just love fighting. I want to do it, spread the word and get more people involved. I believe in what Street Beefs is doing and want to facilitate their growth to reach as many people as possible” said Evans.
24-year-old, Tyler Crow a.k.a. “Longcut” trained for this fight for 4 weeks with his dad in his garage in Reno, NV. Crow traveled down to Arizona to be a part of what Street Beef stands for. “I signed up to fight because they are founded on guns down gloves up. My best friend was murdered last year by a gun when he was trying to fight a guy” said Crow.
Other fighters involved have had similar backstories with gun violence. When Matthew Perez was 10 years old, his father was fatally shot in his childhood home. Now 24 years old, Perez is an advocate for the “Guns Down Gloves Up” campaign by participating in Street Beefs as a fighter. “If more people would put the guns down and glove up then my whole life would be different but instead, I’m fighting so people would not have to go through what I went through” said Perez.
One unique aspect of Street Beefs is their wide scale of weight classes. Lighter weight fighters struggle to find fights when weighing under 120 pounds. Street Beefs provides a 115-125 pound class for light weight fighters. “I can never find a fight because I only weigh 115. I have been mismatched three times with someone who was 20-30 pounds heavier than me, it sucks” said Perez “but I’m super happy with them about that (light weight class)”. Being mismatched with an opponent makes a huge difference.
All walks of life participate in Street Beefs. Originally pursuing acting aspirations at the Tisch School of Arts at NYU, 20-year-old Isaiah Jimenez was inspired by Wilmore’s platform. Jimenez faced racism and classism on campus and an alcoholic father that eventually led him to leaving school due to spiraling depression. With emotional stress on his back, Jimenez found relief in an outlet where he could showcase his potential. “I’m tired of the rampant gun violence in America and have lost family to gun violence, but I loved the idea of settling disputes in the yard” said Jimenez.
In November 2020, Wilmore started another youtube channel called “Surviving the System” with his first video posted January 2021. Many individuals have been written off as lost causes after committing crimes or given unlawful convictions. Shedding a light on how to grow in a difficult system can give people hope.
For more information on the effectiveness of an integrated mixed martial arts and psychotherapy intervention for young men’s mental health, please click here.
Some particularly interesting points that stood out:
“According to a National Suicide Research Office report (Begley, Chambers, Corcoran, & Gallagher, 2010), young men are the least likely to access mental health services.”
“For example, research indicates that young men perceive professional help seeking as compromising their masculine identity (Burke & McKeon, 2007; Lynch, Long, & Moorehead, 2018) and fear that disclosure of mental health difficulties will cause them to be perceived as weak or vulnerable (Grace, Richardson, & Carroll, 2018).”
“Sport in itself has been consistently identified as having a positive impact on mental health and is associated with lower instances of depression and anxiety (Brunet et al., 2013; Kvam, Kleppe, Nordhus, & Hovland, 2016; Weinstein, Koehmstedt, & Kop, 2017).”
“One form of physical activity whose benefits to mental health have been well researched is martial arts. Martial arts are credited with providing participants with enhanced self-esteem, self-control, mental and physical relaxation, and decrease in anxiety and depression (Cai, 2001; Fuller, 1998; Weiser Kutz, Kutz, & Weiser, 1995).”