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Wrestling his way through a learning disability

Marc Fiore grew up in Carol Stream, Illinois ó a suburb of Chicago ó and adopted his hometownís sports-related competitive spirit. His enthusiasm was catapulted by his fatherís passion for all kinds of sports.Fioreís father made sure his son went the distance in sports, starting him in football, wrestling and baseball at age 5. ìMy dad was the guy that sports was first before anything,î he said. ìThatís how I grew up. It was all about sports.îThroughout high school, Fiore ran track and was an all-state athlete in football and wrestling. ìI started getting college letters for Division I schools when I was a junior in high school for football,î he said. Although adept in sports, Fiore struggled in the classroom because of a learning disability. Today, a studentís disability is recognized and dealt with; instead, all Fiore had to do was ìshow upî to get the grades necessary to play sports.In his senior year, Fiore dropped a high school geometry class because of a failing grade. He said he knew he couldnít pass the class, which was required for college. He also missed the required score of 16 on his ACT test for college. ìBecause of my learning disability, I had the test read to me and missed it by one point,î he said.In 1989, Fiore graduated from Glenbard North High School at a third-grade level. ìI was illiterate. I didnít know the days of the week,î he said. Because of a limited vocabulary, Fiore had a quiet demeanor. ìHere I was the top athlete in the state, and I felt betrayed. I felt used,î he said. ìIt was hard to go on with my life. I couldnít even fill out a job application.î His dream of becoming an Olympian or professional athlete began to fade, and Fiore grappled with plans for his future that summer after graduation.With connections through his brother-in-law, Fiore met a boxing trainer. ìThey had heard that I was an athlete, and I had done a little boxing before,î he said. ìIt came naturally to me.î It didnít take long before Fiore landed a tryout at a gym on the south side of Chicago. ìThey put me against a Golden Gloves national champion,î he said. ìAnd I threw about 100 jabs and made this kidís eye swell up.î Impressed with Fioreís skills, a trainer took him in and set him up to work alongside 1976 Olympic Gold Medalist and Heavy Weight World Champion Leon Spinks. Over the next several months, Fiore built up a winning record until he went against his trainerís orders and participated in an underground fight and lost. As a result, his trainer suspended him from the gym. ìI was young and dumb at the time and hard headed,î he said. ìSo I never went back up to the gym.îIn 1992, Fiore returned to his high school and became the assistant wrestling coach. In addition to coaching, Fiore was wrestling in open tournaments. During one of the tournaments a coach from Lincoln College in Lincoln, Illinois saw Fiore wrestle and invited him to join the collegeís team. ìThe first week I go to an English class and our teacher wanted us to write about ourselves, and I couldnít do it because I didnít know how to write,î he said. ìSo I went back to my room and packed all my stuff up.î Two days later, the college coach tracked him down. ìI went back and basically the same stuff that happened in high school happened in college,î he said. In 1994, Fiore graduated with an associateís degree and became the assistant wrestling coach at the college.In 1995, Fiore married his high school sweetheart, Annie, and was named Coach of the Year and ranked third in the nation for wrestling. Not long after, he was also approached by a wrestling coach for the U.S. Army. ìHe told me about the World Class Athlete Program,î he said. ìIn order to be in the program you had to be an All-American at nationals and I was.î Fiore thought the program sounded too good to be true. After researching the program, he decided to join the U.S. Army. But because of his learning disability, he failed the entrance exam multiple times before he received a passing score.After his acceptance, Fiore began training for the World Class Athlete program. ìWe represent the Army and the Army sponsors us,î he said. ìWe are soldiers first and athletes second, but our job was to train and make the world team and train and make the Olympic team.î To participate in the World Class Athlete program, athletes have to be ranked on the Olympic ladder, Fiore said.In 1996, the training program moved to Fort Carson in Colorado Springs, Colorado. When he arrived at Fort Carson, the powers-that-be asked him to help build a million-dollar athletic training facility on the post. Fiore trained at the new facility, as well as the Olympic Training Center. Also during this time, Fiore and his wife welcomed their first child, a son.Because of an injury, Fiore returned to coaching and assisted the U.S. Armyís head wrestling coach. Around 1998, Fiore returned to training and wrestled for the Military World Games in Italy, where he landed the No. 4 spot worldwide.A few years later, after another injury, Fiore went back to coaching. As head coach of the U.S. Armyís wrestling team, he had 23 men qualify for the Olympic trials in Dallas, Texas. In 2002, after another surgery, the U.S. Army medically discharged Fiore. Not long after he was discharged, Fiore received a call from Matt Hughes, a nine-time world champion in the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Hughes asked Fiore to be his coach; and, from that point on, Fiore and the UFC became well-known.Fiore became a dad to twin girls; and, shortly after they were born, Fiore and his family moved back to central Illinois. Fiore began combining boxing and wrestling with martial arts. He helped train hundreds of athletes for a variety of Mixed Martial Arts venues. In 2005, Fiore was named the fifth best coach in MMA.Fiore, Hughes and Robbie Lawler, a UFC champion, opened their own gym, Hit Squad, in Granite City, Illinois, in 2006. ìWe had fighters from all over the world come and train,î he said. ìWithin a year and a half, the gym was ranked as the 15th best gym in the world.î In 2011, Fiore sold Hit Squad and opened his own gym, Fiore MMA, in Springfield, Illinois. After a couple of years, Fiore closed the gym and became a contract coach. ìThe problem was I was traveling so much with the fighters that I couldnít be at the gym to train the fighters,î he said.In 2013, Fiore and his family moved to Falcon, Colorado, after his wife was offered a teaching job in Falcon School District 49. Fiore continued coaching. ìRight when I got out here, I had three UFC fighters from around the world follow me,î he said. ìAs a contract coach, they either come to me or Iíll go where they are and train them.îFiore has started training female fighters. ìItís like by the time you get to the NFL you already know how to throw a football,î he said. ìAt this level, they already know how to fight, I just have to train them and make them better.îFiore is paid 20 percent of his fighters final take, along with paid expenses. ìI have trained fighters that made $300 to fight in smaller shows,î he said. ìI have trained fighters in the UFC that make over a million.îFiore is also planning to open an elite sports complex in Colorado Springs. ìI want parents to send their kids to the gym,î he said. ìIt will pay off when these kids are getting scholarships and pursuing their dreams in college.î

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