The following is a blog post from Craig Rankin. It was published on his blog earlier this week and we'd just like to thank him for sharing a genuinely inspiring story.
Hey my name is Craig Rankin. I’m 22 and 4ft 11 (fun fact). I was born with a condition, I say condition and not disability for a reason. The reason is as soon as the word disability is mentioned people ask “oh what’s wrong with you?”, “what can you not do?”. So I don’t label myself or let it hold me back.
I was born with a condition called Spina Bifida which in layman’s terms means my right leg is paralysed from the top down and I wear a cast to help me walk, you may think this is bad, it's not. I can literally stab myself in the leg and not feel a thing so I count that as a win. I joined SBG 10 months ago with 3 simple goals: LOSE WEIGHT, GAIN CONFIDENCE, and learn how to DEFEND MYSELF. I’ll explain all of theses reasons shortly. But first I want explain how I went from regular gyms to a mixed martial arts gym.
I was in one gym then I fell into the habit of talking the length of time I was there, slacking from workouts and having no structure for working out at all. I’d just show up, waffle the ears off the lad or lady I knew then go home put up on social media “Great session in the gym 2day”. Completely lying to myself and wasting my money.
One day I joined a new gym out of my area so I didn’t know anybody and had no excuses to not train. Happy days right? Wrong. I was loving my time the first month I was there then the manager came to me and said “Hey you’re here a month so I’d like to go through different deals with you”. I thought no big deal.
So when we’re both in his office he says “So 3 months for a certain price?” I said “yeah fine”. He responded with “are you disabled, Carl?” I said "I am indeed. And it’s Craig”. “Oh yeah. Sorry mate can you get me a doctors note please?”
Got the note, gave it to him, then went training. He called me aside the next day, “Craig, I’m sorry to say this but I’ve reviewed your situation and we don’t have the insurance to cater for your needs I’m afraid, but you can train for today then move on”.
I wish I could tell you that this motivated me into proving that guy wrong, but it didn’t. I spiralled into an eating frenzy, I put on weight and was wheelchair bound for a year. I was hopeless, and at the time I didn’t think, but looking back I was definitely depressed. I had no ideas to pull me out of this rut I was in and nothing seemed to be inspiring me at all.
One day I was watching tv and “cage fighting” came on. They were talking about a new mixed martial arts fighter that had become a sensation within my age group. Conor McGregor. I was intrigued with him as he was Irish so I kept watching. Two days later, I’m in McDonald’s with my friends and Conor McGregor walks in to get a coffee. I said to my mate “will I get a pic with him?”. So he walked out of the bathroom and I said “Excuse me, Conor?”, he replied "A picture is it brother, yeah no problem at all”.
Got the pic. I was expecting him to leave straight away but he didn’t, he stayed and talked to me for ten minutes maybe more. In those ten minutes I’ve never listened to someone with so much self-confidence nor have I been more fascinated by a human being in all my life. He said to me “would you do the training yourself?”. Me being shy, I said “Eh, I can’t. I’d love to, but I’m disabled”. Conor looked at me and said “So?” then shook my hand and left.
I was curious as to why he didn’t label me like other people and gyms did, maybe he was being kind I thought. Few weeks later on a Monday morning I was watching Ireland AM. Conor was on it with his coach John Kavanagh promoting their newly built gym ‘Straight Blast Gym’. I watched and listened to how they’d take anyone from all walks of life. It got me thinking about joining myself. Maybe they could help me. Doubts in my head set in so I left it a few weeks before making the call.
I called up, said my name, booked a consultation, spoke to a really nice guy named John. (I didn’t know it was the "Godfather” of MMA, John Kavanagh at that point). He told me they could cater to my needs so I went down to SBG and it was a fantastic set-up, but the negative side of me said “you can’t do this”, so I bottled it once more.
I got fatter, lazier and more depressed. During this time my friend joined SBG so I got to watch the classes while he did them. Every fibre of my being wanted to do it but the voice in my head said “yeah right, you can’t do that and even if you try you’ll just slow down the others”.
So one night, at around 1.20am as I drank a whole 2l bottle of Coke, I reached breaking point, and just said “fuck it, I wanna do this”. So without thinking or consideration to John I messaged him on Facebook. “Hey, I know you have people you hire to answer these questions but can your gym cater for wheelchair users?"
He replied , “I can answer your question, yes we can.” So a few weeks later I got back on my feet as I was given a new cast to help me walk and I was full of motivation and happiness. I took a picture of myself standing in the mirror for the first time in twelve months. That was the best feeling I had in a year, then a comment on the picture that made me giddy as a schoolgirl.
“That’s fantastic news, congratulations” John Kavanagh wrote. I was taken aback that someone with such a high profile would take the time to contact me and wish me well. So I booked into another consultation with the gym. A guy called Conor, who would later be my rep, showed me around again, I said yeah, sounds brilliant, I want to join. Until they asked me to get a doctor’s note, I was terrified that they would say no. But they didn’t, in fact they welcomed me with open arms and offered me lots of help.
I said thank you to my rep but he replied, "you’re welcome but you should really thank John” so I did just that. Later on in the day I messaged John on Facebook and said “Thank you John you’re very kind with the help you’ve offered me” and his response was something I’ll never forget.
“Hey it's an honour to have a real fighter in my gym, you’re welcome”. That reply meant the world to me. So now ,ten months into the journey, I’m steadily losing weight, my confidence is sky high and, although its 2015, I still get the odd guy (and it’s always a guy) who shouts “cripple” or limpy stuff like that. Well now I can defend myself from people like that and SBG has taught me not pay attention to small minded idiots. Now the best part of Straight Blast Gym is I’ve made a lot of good friends, even with the trainers. It’s a home away from home and I can’t imagine life without it.
Thanks to Martin Wall for sharing Craig's story with us and, once again, thanks to Craig himself for having the confidence to tell it.