I have always been terrible at math. So much so, that my mother made me go to summer school several times to improve on it. We lived in a rough neighborhood in Yuma, Arizona with low income, predominantly Mexican-American families. It was riddled with gangbangers and drugs. It was also filled with hard working, labor centric people usually, farm workers. Needless to say the kids growing up there did not have much of a chance, and very little resources. Back when I was 11 and known as “Arnulfo” (what Arnie is short for), I found myself surrounded by them in my summer school math class with Mr. Baumgardner at C.W. McGraw Elementary School. I hated the class, so I spent most of the time drawing superheroes. A table away sat a gentle giant of a kid by the name of Efrain and his younger brother whom I didn’t care for too much because he was always mouthing off and acting up. During the course of the summer I befriended Efrain and got to know him. I avoided his brother though, I figured the kid would end up being a cholo or something of a sort. Eventually, I ended up helping Efrain with his math and much to my chagrin, his annoying younger brother. His brother was very bad at math, he made me look like Einstein, in fact. Moreover, the kid would not pay attention and seemed more displeased than myself to be there. I learned from talking to Efrain that we would be attending Gila Vista Jr. High School the following year in 7th grade. I learned from his brother that I have no patience for troublemakers.
The next year I was pleased to see Efrain sitting in my social studies class with Mr. Gribble. I also took up wrestling at a paltry 90 lbs. I ended up being a second stringer and saw Efrain get into it as well. He was a heavy weight and did pretty well. In 8th grade I stopped going because I was working under the table cleaning a barbershop and had to be at work at 4p.m. and my parents believed a good work ethic was more important than being a “luchador.”
Time passed and I ended up in Kofa High School, again, with Efrain. I saw less of him, but found out he joined football and wrestling. He slimmed down and was wearing a letterman jacket now. He ditched the flannels and Dickies and got himself a pair of Doc Martens and Dockers. I was glad he was on what seemed to be a positive track for his life. My sophomore year, I heard his brother had made it to Kofa High School. I cringed and hoped I wouldn’t have him for any electives. Later on, I heard he also took up wrestling, and was even better than Efrain. I was shocked, seeing as how wrestling took a large amount of discipline and that kid seemed not only to lack it, but to avoid it at all costs. I then attended the Uof A and lost track of Efrain and most of my Yuma friends. I had heard from my good friend, Robert, that Efrain’s brother ended up at ASU on a wrestling scholarship. I was quite pleased, and surprised that he even got to college. But, more so because he could have ended up in the local gang. Then I heard rumblings that he had lost the scholarship due to injury. I figured, oh well, at least he made it out of the bad neighborhood and got an education.
Fast-forward to today, I haven’t heard from Efrain in over 10 years, but I saw his brother Saturday night. He now has a couple of tattoos, a shaved head, is a whole lot bigger and gets in a lot of fights. What was he doing? Well he was beating the living crap out of this guy:
Efrain’s little brother is Cain Velasquez the new UFC heavy weight champ.
In what appears to be the most amazing display of mixed martial arts technical skill, the much smaller and lighter Cain demolished the seemingly unstoppable, hulking behemoth that is Brock Lesnar in the first round. Being at a considerable disadvantage when it came to strength and size, Cain maneuvered and attacked Lesner from every possible angle. Lesner tried to take Velasquez down from the onset of the match, but Cain defended and deflected every attempt. Landing punch after punch and managing to take Lesnar down via a single leg shot. Eventually, the hulking behemoth became the lumbering giant as he wobbled around in the cage and fell on his back and “turtled up.” Cain was connecting so much that Lesnar turned his back on him right before referee Herb Dean had to step in and stop the fight. The result was a new UFC champion from the state of Arizona. A guy from Yuma that I begrudgingly helped out with his math and went to high school with. The first Mexican-American UFC champ. A poor kid with minimal resources wearing a championship belt from one of the toughest combat sports. A heavy weight, champion son of a farm working immigrant who came to the U.S. in search of a better life. A guy who did the impossible. I wish I could have been watching this in Yuma.
To Cain, thanks for proving me wrong and not becoming a cholo, I doubt the Yuma PD would have the resources to take you on. May you continue to succeed and inspire.
Arizonans rejoice, something good finally came out of this hostile environment we call a state.
To the people that say immigrants don’t amount to much and don’t contribute, this guy now contributes more to the U.S. economy in income taxes than most of you ever will, you can thank his dad, the immigrant.
“The best piece of advice I ever got was to buy a black suit when I became an adult, because I would use it at least once if I ever happened to get married…or die. Either way, it was a good investment.”-Me