A blind man is hoping to inspire others with his remarkable success at Mixed Martial Arts – and has urged people to take up the sport he has fallen in love with.
Lee Michael Hoy, of Whiteleas, South Shields, has been registered blind since birth, but decided to give MMA a try two years ago.
He went to Fighting Fit, in Boldon Lane, South Shields, in an attempt to gain self-defence skills, but now regularly competes in bouts against sighted opponents.
Although Lee, 26, can see to an extent – depending on the light conditions – but glare, distance and depth present constant challenges.
However, he has overcame all of those barriers to win bronze medals in two grappling competitions, the most recent of which was earlier this month, in which he competed against men with regular sight.
Lee, who attended the Royal National College for the Blind, in Hereford, said: “I’m a totally changed person because of the sport, and feel a lot more confident in myself and happy. I can walk the streets with my head high, and feel that I can look after myself if I need to.
I love the sport to bits, and I’ve tried to persuade a lot of my visually-impaired and blind friends to take it upLee Michael Hoy
“My lack of sight presents a lot of challenges in MMA, and because of the damage to my retinas, the depth is difficult to get used to. Close range and in grappling, it’s not as bad, because I can hold onto the other person, and I feel more comfortable.”
Fighting Fit head coach Feruz Hussain said: “I’m so proud of Lee, as he didn’t believe he would be able to do any of this when he first started. It’s amazing to see what he has achieved, and everyone at Fighting Fit is delighted for him.”
Lee’s progress will be further underlined on August 8 when he takes part in a boxing demonstration, and he now hopes his story will inspire others.
He added: “When I was young, I was told I’d never be able to read, write or ride a bike, or even go to school. I did all of that, and I’m trying to push myself further now.
“Some of the people I’ve met at the club are the best I’ve met in my life. I love the sport to bits, and I’ve tried to persuade a lot of my visually-impaired and blind friends to take it up.
“I understand it’s a rough sport, but it has really made me feel more confident outside and I’d recommend it.
“I would hope a lot more visually-impaired people would like to give it a try, even if it’s just for fitness reasons.”