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Former MMA Fighter Now Wants to Help Bullies Change

Deon West, a self-proclaimed “knucklehead” in his younger years, is a fighting entrepreneur who wants to help bullies change their ways.

“Not only am I operating my own business right now, but I’m starting an anti-bullying program for troubled youth,” said West, 45, of Covington. “It’s my way of giving back. I want to help kids with my example. I wasn’t supposed to make it, but I did. I want to show kids that they can change their ways. Not matter what you’ve done, it’s not who you are.”

How it began

Just out of high school West opted out of college, got into some serious trouble and ended up with a record. Options for work, especially well-paying jobs, were not easy to come by. But with a supportive family and good old fashion elbow grease he made his way.

About 20 years ago, his troubled past caught up with him after he lost a good job.

“I was trying to figure out what to do, was recently married and needed money,” he said. “There was this Tough Man Contest where you could win $1,500. We needed that money. I entered and I won.”

Shortly after promoters started contacting West who stood 6-feet tall and clocked in about 300 pounds. He decided to throw a punch and start a career in Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). MMA, sometimes referred to as cage fighting, is a full-contact combat sport based on striking, grappling and ground fighting, incorporating techniques from various combat sports and martial arts from around the world.

He went to train in Nashville at Shawn Hammond’s Glamour Gym. West was hooked and fought pro for 15 years. He worked with big named guys like Ken “Butter Bean Shamrock.

“I loved it,” he said. “It was awesome to be paid to hit someone in the face. It was also a time when the sport wasn’t so popular and there was a real brotherhood between the fighters. Looking back, it was a heck of a journey.”

Time to ‘grow up’

After 15 years in the MMA, West’s wife Mindy West, asked him, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Taking her cue, West decided to retire from fighting and start his own business. He and Mindy settled in St. Louis and worked Mister Sharpening, a business that did sharpening for barber shops and hair salons.

Once the pandemic hit, many of his customers closed shop, forcing West to re-tool his business venture.

West and Mindy moved to Northern Kentucky last December, to be closer to family, and started Tri-State Industry Services. The business offers pressure wash cleaning outside of buildings and sealcoating and painting of parking lines.

“Business has been good and we’re starting to grow,” West said.

Helping the bully

West’s real passion, however, lies with the organization are working to grow called Integrity Boxing.

“This is a program for troubled youth,” he said. “Once you’ve been named a bully or have had your finger pointed at you for your wrongs, it’s easy to say that’s who I am. But, it’s not who you are. It’s something you’ve done. You can be anything you want to be. You can be a good person, your own person, your own leader.”

West is looking for local partners and planning to seek non-profit status for Integrity Boxing.

Written by Melissa Reinert, RCN contributor

Photos provided

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