Although there were plenty of head kicks and knockout punches on display at the Xtreme Fighting Nation 21 amateur mixed martial arts show, there was also a moment to remember the lives lost during the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Wearing white hooded sweatshirts that had a set of wings surrounding the word “Hixon” on the back, members of the school’s wrestling team attended the event Sunday at the Fort Lauderdale Marriott Coral Springs Hotel to honor athletic director and wresting coach Chris Hixon, who was one of the 17 people killed at the school on Feb. 14.
Hixon’s widow, Debbi, and son Cory received an XFN title belt in honor of the late wrestling coach, and the school’s wrestling team will be receiving all of the funds raised during a raffle at XFN 21.
“We’re dedicating this event to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas wrestling program, and also specifically to the Hixon family,” explained Daniel Kay, CEO for XFN. “We’re going to raise money to make sure that these kids have everything that they need for this program so that they can develop and become future athletes.”
For Debbi Hixon, the event was bittersweet. While it was a reminder of how big of an impact Chris had on his students and the community, it also brought back the painful memories of his loss nearly seven months ago.
“You want to be positive and you don’t want to dwell on things that happened in the past, but it’s so important to remember Chris and what he did for the school and how much he loved those kids,” Hixon said, choking back tears.
“I kind of live trying to think that maybe it didn’t really happen and every time something like [this] happens, it smacks you in the face that it’s real. But we are grateful that they continue to honor him because he meant a lot to us and it means a lot to know that he meant that much to other people.”
Amateur MMA fighter Devon Dixon felt the significance of the event when he saw the young Stoneman Douglas wrestlers looking to him as a product of their program. Dixon wrestled for the school years ago and now he hopes to pass on what he’s learned as a volunteer for the wrestling program.
“I thought it was cool being able to talk to the kids, they were all kind of looking up at me, and it’s weird being that figure because I’ve always been looking up to other people,” explained Dixon.
The event’s venue also hit very close to home, as it was the location where many students and parents were finally reunited after hours of uncertainty on the day of the shooting.
“Most of our kids, it really impacted them obviously. Coach Hixon was their leader, their mentor and above all like a father figure to them,” said Daniel Sanchez, an assistant coach with the MSD wrestling team. “We have a community that’s still healing, but we as a community are moving forward. Everything that’s ahead of us is a beacon of light.”
a business known more for aggression than compassion, Kay wanted to make community a priority for this event, not just business. “I don’t wanna just be known as the guy who put on cool MMA shows. There has to be something better that I can do, something that can leave a real mark,” Kay said. “Having the community out to support this event and knowing that we’re raising not just money but also awareness for this program, it’s definitely a great feeling.”
Article by: John McCall Contact Reporter / South Florida Sun Sentinel