Zion Clark, who was born without legs due to a rare birth defect known as Caudal Regression Syndrome, has served as an inspiration throughout his life after overcoming odds on his way to becoming a wrestling champion, a Guinness Book of World Records holder, and now a 1-0 mixed martial artist.
The 25-year-old Ohio native got here through sheer hard work and dedication, but as he continues setting bigger and bigger goals moving forward, he knows he didn’t get anywhere by himself.
Clark considers his adoptive mom to be his greatest fan. He’s also known as Team Bodyshop, the gym which counts A.J. McKee among its members — as his home as he made his transition into MMA. But he still remains a fan of other athletes he looked up to when he was hitting the wrestling mats or first becoming interested in fighting professionally. Clark considers his two greatest influences to be friends who he can turn on whenever he has a need.
“Jon Jones, personally. Clark revealed how vicious he was when he was asked to discuss the MMA fighters that inspired him. Clark said, “I was young and he was my youngest champion. This was something I could idolize. Jordan Burroughs and him instilled in me something.
“Now, later down the line, I can just call both of them on the phone and ask for advice or talk to them about life. It’s a great opportunity to get in touch with them and learn from them. Just the fact that I’ve been motivated enough to push myself to where I’m on even talking terms with my idols makes it easier to learn from them. It’s a great feeling .”
Jones is widely considered one of the greatest MMA fighters of all-time, while Burroughs is an Olympic gold medalist in wrestling and a six-time gold medalist in the World Championships of wrestling.
Clark admits it is still surreal to have Jones and Burroughs in his circle of mentors. But he also tries not to lose sight that his idols can be just ordinary people chasing their dreams.
“I try to look at people as people,” Clark explained. Clark said, “Don’t get it wrong, I have a tendency to go crazy in my head, but you need to be professional. If you are given the opportunity to advance your career and you can use them to your advantage, don’t hesitate to take it. While I don’t use Jon Jones, nor any of the fighters I work with, I have had the privilege and been thankful that they allowed me to gain insight into their lives so that I could advance my career. These guys don’t waste their time. They don’t want to waste time.
” I’ve only learned one move from someone before, and that got me to national championships. Just looking at it like that, my ears are always open to new ideas, new ways of thinking. Instead of focusing on one individual, why not try learning from everyone? Don’t get me wrong, I train under the Bodyshop, but when I’m not at the Bodyshop, I’m somewhere else.”
In the future, Clark hopes that he’ll have the chance to actually share the mat with Jones and Burroughs as he continues evolving his own game as a fighter and wrestler.
Clark said that he is now more focused on making professional MMA his profession.
” I’m immersed into the MMA industry,” Clark stated. The hard part is having access to many of the top guys in the MMA world to learn from, Clark said. The question is, are they sure I believe they have enough heart? Or do they think I am really committed to this project and going all in. I’m not trying to prove that to them, but I’m trying to prove that to myself time and time again.
“Fighting isn’t easy. MMA isn’t easy. And doing it on this level that I’m doing it, it’s even harder. I’m excited to see where this is about to take me.”