Surrounded by MMA legends Renzo Gracie and Matt "The Terror" Serra, Ian Matsuzak received his blue belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu on October 3rd.Photo by Dave Patton
Ian Matuszak, a 20-year-old from Westbury, has cerebral palsy. It is a debilitating disease that impacts the lives of millions of people. He was also recently diagnosed with stage three esophageal cancer.
On Saturday, October 3rd, in front of around 200 people including the current UFC Middleweight Champion and Serra BJJ black belt Chris Weidman, Eddie Gordon, Al Iaquinta, and Aljamain Sterling, Ian was given his blue belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu from instructors Dave Patton and Pete "Drago" Sell.
Sell is a former UFC fighter and black belt under former UFC welterweight champion Matt Serra, who himself, is a black belt under Renzo Gracie. Patton trains and teaches regularly at the Serra BJJ Academy located in Levittown and Huntington.
It was all part of a special event at Longo and Weidman MMA in Garden City to raise money for Matsuzak's mounting medical bills.
"He trained before the cancer diagnosis at least twice weekly" Patton said. "He's done two tournaments. One was for people with disabilities and the other was a regular tournament. We had people come from as far as North Carolina to the fundraiser. He's one of the hardest working and driven people I've ever trained with."
Serra BJJ instructor and black belt Tony Quagliata says Ian is a very unique young man. "He loves jiu-jitsu and is a great ambassador for this great martial art" Tony said. "He doesn't use anything for an excuse. He just gets on the mat and does it. When you're around Ian you don't have any excuse not to train. You can't say I have a bad knee or I am too old to train. This young man fights obstacles every day. Things we take for granted, Ian would love to be able to do."