RAYDEN GETS HIS STRIPE
We met our friend Rayden in 2019, when a heartbreaking video of this brave, resilient young man living with autism sparked a social media firestorm. The video showed him being bullied in a school bathroom and jumped by his middle school classmates.
We are THRILLED to report that almost three years later, Rayden has gone from feeling powerless and all alone, to TAKING BACK HIS POWER in life and earning his first Jiu-Jitsu stripe.
Rayden started doing mixed martial arts a year ago and was recently awarded his first stripe on his white belt – a HUGE moment in his healing journey. He and his little brother Brock both received scholarships to train under Jiu-jitsu black belt and former Bellator MMA Middleweight Champion, Rafael Lovato Jr. and his martial arts team of instructors at Lovato’s OKC gym.
For Rayden’s parents, seeing their son get his first stripe was a surreal moment, but the greatest gift has come from getting to witness Rayden transform into a confident, motivated young man. “I’m super stoked,” his dad Danny says. “We’ve been able to get him off some of his medication, and his attitude has changed tremendously.”
Fight for the Forgotten founder & MMA fighter Justin Wren was also bullied as a kid and has become a big brother of sorts to Rayden.
When Justin heard the 15-year-old was getting his stripe, he rallied a few of his high-profile friends to record encouraging video messages for Rayden. Pro surfer Laird Hamilton, actor Jared Padalecki, motivational speaker Nick Santonastasso & UFC superstar Dustin Poirier all gave Rayden an extra boost of support moments before he took to the mat, and it made all the difference!
Now that he’s found Jiu-jitsu and a safe space at Lovato’s school to learn, grow his confidence, and channel his emotions, the sky’s the limit for Rayden.
He says he doesn’t hold a grudge against the kids who bullied him. “It was a rough journey to forgive them, but I forgive them,” he says.
Rayden’s dad has found the same peace in his heart adding, “This is justice enough for me, because (Rayden’s) around people that care, that want to be around him. They’re not making fun of him. They’re helping him and you can’t ask for anything more as a parent.”
It’s one of life’s great comeback stories … still being written. A boy once bullied, now in a leading role, on a crusade with his family to knock out bullying worldwide.