CES 52’s Jason Norwood: fighting for those who fought for us
There are moments when you’re watching a fight and your eyes lock onto a fighter with such drive and determination it’s hard to look away. How did this individual get there? How did they get so talented?
Aside from the strikes to the face and double leg takedowns, a lot of what happens inside the cage stems from what you’re doing outside of it. For MMA welterweight and former military veteran, Jason “Righteous” Norwood (18-5) is a prime example of that.
On Friday night, Norwood will have his second crack at the CES MMA Welterweight Championship as he takes on Jeremiah Wells (5-1-1). A member of Renzo Gracie Philly, Wells carries a current 2 fight win streak before the main event this Saturday on August 17th for CES 52 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The winner will gain the vacant welterweight title and become the new champion. Before the fight takes place, it’s important to recognize where Norwood has come from.
“Yeah, so before when I first got into it I was obviously a wrestler,” explained Norwood in an interview with MMA Today. “Anyone can track my record and determine that — look at my old fights. I tried to evolve that to try to become a more complete grappler and obviously that is the first evolution when you come over to the sport of wrestling.”
As the clock ticks, a decade has already passed in Norwood’s fight career. “The hardest thing for me to grasp was boxing I think,” continued Norwood. “I know for a fact that is a dominate part of mixed martial arts. In my opinion even more than kickboxing, although I did and I have been studying kickboxing feverishly.”
There are certain things that can motivate and push fighters forward mentally. With Norwood his drive stems from his role as a natural family man. To his fans, it is evident those closest to him serve as his main motivation. Does his passion for his family always make it easy? Maybe not.”Before I had kids I was fighting for my brothers and sisters, which was my family, so yeah I have always been fighting for my family. It really is just how you define that term. It does get easy.. I’ll tell you what is easier to do..” Norwood proceeds to quote the former professional boxer, ‘Marvelous’ Marvin Hagler, “It is hard to get up at 5am and run when you’ve been sleeping in silk pajamas.”
“I don’t wear silk pajamas,” furthered Norwood. “If there were silk pajamas to buy, my daughters would have them first. So yeah that makes life a little easier.”
Norwood’s family isn’t the only squadron of individuals he cares about. We Leave No One Behind (WLNOB) is a non-profit run in Killeen, Texas. It helps support veterans who have supported and fought for our Country — especially those who need help getting back onto their feet.
As Norwood is heavily involved in the organization, one important thing is to break the stigma of mental health. There is a provident need for awareness. With that, “Righteous” strives on giving the combatants a reason to wake up in the morning. Fort Hood holds the largest military base in the United States where the dense population of the veteran community is right outside of it.
“So what we do with that is, we connect directly with first responders predominately Killeen Police Department,” explained Norwood. “We are there for all of the veterans who have not committed a crime, but have had the police called on them because they are under the arrest.”
“So we’re there when they say all the right things the police can’t detain them, they don’t want to detain them, uh they haven’t committed a crime, there’s no reason for them to forcibly take over their civil rights and transfer them into a medical institution.”
“We connect with them and we make connections where we do our best work in making connections. We have had 17 calls. Out of those 17 calls, 14 of them were people who were suicidal. I’ve had a zero recidivism rate which means 14 of those people are still breathing. Because of connection.”
Norwood continues, “Mental Health in the United States is not emphasized the same way in our social structure in our infrastructure (…) I will tell you if you call a counselor they may see you today if you’re lucky and then they aren’t going to see you again for 6 weeks. So, that doesn’t work. That doesn’t work. We are in a constant connection.”
One problem at a time, one veteran at a time, one life at a time……https://t.co/AUcyuWIrFl— Jason Norwood (@rightfight170) July 30, 2018
When it all comes down to it the Texas family man faces his own mental villains before stepping foot inside a cage. His help of others is as a prime example as to what the WLNOB is doing and how that can benefit Norwood as a fighter. There is a reason why this specific organization was created as opposed to seeing a regular counselor.
“It is the right thing to do, you know? It is very very hard (again from personal experiences) it is very very hard to go talk to somebody; to talk to a counselor and dig in your hurt box because they like to say. ‘We are gonna dig it, we are gonna pull out of it, we are gonna go back and try to make it work’.
Norwood goes on, “And my question to my counselor of course is, ‘Does your hurt box include a man with half of his face blown off? Cause mine does!'”
He continues, “And that is some shit I don’t want to go back to. You know? So yeah, if you have.. and very few counselor’s can actually say ‘Oh yeah sure. That’s in my hurt box, yeah!’ So if you have the ability to talk to somebody.. ‘Yup. Route 1’. Or you know, ‘Korengal Valley.. I got it.’ You know? ‘Terrible spot.’ Um, ‘Complex ID Ambush.. got it.’ You know what I mean? And they.. you don’t have to try and relive that crap because that is the worst stuff ever. When you say, you know ‘Complex ID Ambush’ or ‘Daisy Chain’.. ‘Quarter Mile 155’.. all that stuff I just said to you is French. If I say that to somebody that has been through it they would know exactly what I’m talking about. I don’t have to dig down in that and then go back and smell the burning flesh, the smell of the cordite in the air. I don’t have to do that stuff.”
Norwood’s last fight came back in April at CES 49 when he fought Chris Curtis. At the time, Curtis was ranked #1 in Northeast and was the CES welterweight champion. Following his bout on the Contender Series, Curtis retired and vacated the belt.
Even though losing to a unanimous decision through all rounds there is no bad blood between the two. They first met filming Bellator MMA’s Fight Master some years back however Norwood claims. “So I told you I was a consummate student of boxing, right? Chris Curtis.. Chris Curtis now as I will say this for the record, Chris in my friend, if he gets this interview I’m not trying to kiss your ass Chris, alright? You’re a good guy; you’re the greatest thing ever.
“But Chris Curtis arguably is one of the best boxers in mixed martial arts, right? To deal with that I had to spend a god awful amount of time boxing which was great! But time is the only thing that prevents me from being a superhero, right? If I could create time I would be a superhero.”
Knowing that time was a bit limited before getting into the actual fight, Norwood’s “bread and butter” was unused because of the lack of training time. However, he goes on to mention, “So I had answers for Curtis’ boxing slightly outside of the realm of boxing cause if you answer a boxer with a boxing.. if you present the boxing problem with just a boxing solution he’ll beat your solution (…) Curtis was just a great boxer and I had to spend a lot of time boxing. I could of spent 12 weeks boxing and probably still been in the same predicament.”
Then Norwood ends the topic of Curtis by saying, “I learned from that. To re-establish, to re-coordinate my bread and butter back into stuff.”
When asked how his opponent compares to him this is what “Righteous” explained, “There are 2 problems for Mr. Wells. #1 Mr. Wells is not the boxer Curtis is by any means and not the striker by any means. So I could of beaten Mr. Wells that night without learning that lesson but I did learn that lesson. So, yeah he’s screwed.” Furthermore, “So I haven’t met a top down grappler as good as him since I fought at 185 lbs I think. He is a really good top down grappler.”
“If he gets on top of you it’s not necessarily going to be a good day for you. With that being said I’m a much better grappler so there’s that. He is a very unconventional striker. He strikes from weird ranges and weird angles predominately to shock you to close the distance and then get on top of you. And if they connect they connect and that is just gravy for him.”
While the comes nearer Norwood predicts his opponent will not see passed the 4th round. “He will be very very hurt,” said Norwood. “If he comes out of the 4th I will probably submit him. If it happens before then he will probably get knocked out. I could see a TKO happening but don’t get me wrong, his chin.. is normally in the air, but he doesn’t seem like the guy who has a glass jaw.”
Lastly he continues, “So KO’s are hard on those guys but TKO’s are not. He isn’t gonna come out on the 4th. Probably submit him. I see a TKO happening before the chin is normally in the air. Doesn’t seem like he has a glass jaw.”
After this Saturday what is in the future for Jason “Righteous” Norwood? “So yeah, I want to fight for the biggest organizations out there and I want to get the biggest belts that they have,” laughed Norwood. “And why do I want to get the biggest belts? Because it’s the biggest stage to talk about all the stuff I’m doing outside of the cage and it’s the most money and my kids don’t eat belts. They eat cheeseburgers and those cost dollars. So you know what I mean? That is the truth of it. I’m a prize fighter and I fight for prizes. Give me a bigger prize and I will be there.”
Going inside the cage to stare face-to-face with your opponent in hopes for validation of getting your hand raised is the feeling why most fighters fight. But for Norwood, it’s not only about what you can physically do in that cage, but his voice on that microphone can go a long way. Using a huge targeted platform where all eyes are on you to share about Mental Health Awareness and WLNOB to a high trafficked audience is not only inspiring, but someone with real superhero qualities.
You don’t want to miss the main event for CES 52 showcasing Jason “Righteous” Norwood and Jeremiah Wells this Saturday on August 17th. If you aren’t attending live you can watch through AXS TV with a cable subscription.
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