On the 18th of December, Ben Kunzle was promoted to BJJ black belt by his coach, Roberto Cyborg Abreu, BJJ 5th degree black belt athlete and founder of Fights Sports Club. Kunzle announced his victory on his Instagram account on 4th January 2024. He said:
“This isn’t the Black Belt journey that I had always imagined, but it’s the one life chosen for me. From when I started Jiu-jitsu at 11 years old, I always knew that I would be a black belt. It was never a question of if but more of a question of when I always saw myself being a high-level, black belt competitor, representing my team and my country all around the world but life had different plans I see today that I was put on this earth to show the world that no matter what happens to you. Life is still beautiful and there is still so much to live for”.
Kunzle is a professional Jiu-Jitsu fighter. He started Jiu-jitsu training when he was 11 years old. At the age of 16, Kunzle’s parents got divorced, and he suffered from serious depression. He had to move to Miami with his mom and siblings, but at that time he didn’t lose hope and joined The Fights Sports Club to continue his BJJ training under coach Roberto Cyborg Abreu.
On May 23, 2022, while Kunzle was training in the club just before the IBJJF World Championship, he offered his friend Alexander a last round of practice. Alexander took him down and while Kunzle tried to kick his leg he slipped due to a wet mat and his friend spun over him. His neck was dislocated and he was taken to the hospital immediately. Ben suffered a C5 C6 spinal cord injury that left him paralyzed resulting in a partial loss of sensation, and ultimately, paralysis in his upper and lower extremities. In the hospital, his coach Abreu visited him and motivated the young 23-year-old boy. He said:
“Ben right now you have a choice who do you choose to be? You can choose to sit here and feel bad for yourself or you can show the world that you're how strong you are and that everything's going to be okay”.
Since then Kunzle has stayed strong keeping his hopes high that he’ll soon recover and will continue doing what he loves the most, Jiu-Jitsu. When he was still rehabilitating from his injury Roberto Cyborg Abreu promoted his student Ben Kunzle to a black belt. Despite all the challenges Kunzle has to face he is determined and motivated, and he will come back as a stronger fighter than ever.
Photo credit: @cyborgbjj