Silencing All Doubts About Deafness In Professional Sports
Education and Advocacy Matt “The Hammer” Hamill has overcome many opponents in his life — the toughest being born deaf.
Mediaplanet How did you first get involved in wrestling and what led to your transition towards mixed martial arts?
Matt Hamill I first got into wrestling when I was younger, I was getting into trouble at the time because I couldn’t hear. My stepfather was a wrestling coach. He brought me to a wrestling practice and put me against another kid. As soon as the other kid touched me I felt goose bumps. I took him down and knew wrestling was my sport. I was hooked. I went on to win three national championships in college for Rochester Institute of Technology. I also won two gold medals in the deaf Olympics.
As far as transferring into MMA, I was working at a bar as a bouncer and two university football players came in. They were causing problems; I kindly asked them to leave. One tried to attack me. I snapped him down and dragged him out the door. The other tried to grab my legs. Being a world class wrestler — I snapped him down and threw him out.
Afterwards, the owner came over to me. I thought he was going to fire me. He said, “Hamill, read my lips, Why don’t you join the UFC?” It was a good idea. The next day I went to the library and filled out an application. One week later I received a letter that I was selected to be on The Ultimate Fighter 3.
MP Being born deaf, what is it like to be facing an opponent one-on-one in a wrestling or MMA match?
MH Being deaf, there are a lot of advantages and disadvantages in MMA and wrestling. I cannot hear my corner yelling or giving advice when I am in a match or fight. I also cannot hear the crowd cheering, which is an advantage and disadvantage. Also, being deaf, I do not have any distractions and it is easy to rest and concentrate before a match or fight.
MP Have you ever been told you shouldn’t be fighting and to give up?
MH My whole life, I had people say I shouldn’t do this or I shouldn’t do that. I prove them wrong every time. It gives me motivation.
MP What advice would you give to children who are deaf, who may struggle with being bullied or have been told they cannot achieve their greatest aspirations?
MH I travel the world giving motivational and anti-bullying presentations to schools. I am living proof that if you set goals and pursue your dreams — it will happen and come true.
MP Who has inspired you the most on your journey to becoming such a successful deaf athlete?
MH I have many mentors and people I look up to. My grandfather was always an inspiration for me. He had amazing work ethic and made sure I never gave up.
MP What’s next for you?
MH I am in the best shape of my life. I am going to continue fighting and I will be a world champion. It is a new beginning for the Hammer! Wooooooooo!