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The Real Ultimate Fighter: Ventura’s Chris Beal KO’s cancer
By Chris Jay 08/15/2013
For an athlete, being injured or getting sick can be devastating, both physically and mentally. Being diagnosed with cancer, however, is a far worse scenario, as not only your career comes into play but your very life. That terrible news is exactly what Ventura mixed martial artist “The Real Deal” Chris Beal received in 2009.
Beal was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., but shortly thereafter moved to Los Angeles with his family and by the time he was 13 landed in Ventura. The naturally gifted athlete soon found his calling on the mat, becoming a stand-out member of Ventura High’s wrestling team.
After high school, he attended both Ventura College and Moorpark College for a time, wrestling at Moorpark, but the lure of the burgeoning MMA world got Beal’s attention, much as it does for many collegiate-level wrestlers, and after winning his first five underground amateur fights, known as “smokers,” he decided to turn professional.
Shortly after winning his first two pro fights, an ordinary visit to the doctor’s office to check on a bothersome knee turned into the start of a long nightmare when, after two biopsies, it was determined that he had one of the world’s rarest forms of cancer, fibrosarcoma.
Fibrosarcoma is so rare, in fact, that only a few hundred people in the United States have it; and in a terrible twist of fate, the in-shape beyond imagination, 23-year-old who had just started his professional fighting career as well as having become a father, had joined them.
“The concept of your body fighting against your body is a weird one,” explains Beal. “It’s devastating news to get. You’re thinking about the big picture. You may never be able to play ball with your son again. As for fighting, my thought process was always, if I can keep my leg, I’m going to fight again.”
After painful chemotherapy sessions accomplished nothing, aside from leaving the normally strong Beal incredibly weak and losing hair, the decision was made to have a complicated surgery to remove the growth.
Worst of all, a portion of Beal’s hamstring would need to be removed as well, leaving most to think, even if he was able to beat cancer, he would never fight or, perhaps, walk normally again. Tomake the situation even intense, Beal went into surgery knowing he could need (and he had to give permission for) a possible amputation if the surgery could not eliminate all the cancerous growth.
But in a feel-good story straight out of the movies, the rare form of cancer simply didn’t stand a chance.
To the shock of everyone, including his doctors, just 18 months later, a “blessed and determined” Chris Beal resumed training, completely cancer-free but with a massive scar as a harsh reminder of the battle.
He also returned to fighting professionally in 2011 and resumed his winning ways, which now have Beal, undefeated in seven professional fights.
Of course, in the world of MMA, the big time is considered a contract with the UFC. The flagship TV show The Ultimate Fighter focuses on prospects not currently in the UFC, with each season’s winner getting a contract with the organization.
The upcoming season, which was filmed this summer but airs next month, is featuring Beal’s weight division, bantamweight, and during filming Beal was curiously missing in action around town. He was also not seen at Knuckleheadz Gym in Ventura, where he trains under the watchful eye of his longtime trainer Joseph “Hoss” Janik. Janik himself is no stranger to the Ultimate Fighter, having already seen another of his fighters, Tony Ferguson, win the competition in 2011. Lastly but not least, Beal has been mentioned on several MMA message boards as a rumored cast member.
Despite the speculation, Beal, who just recently celebrated his 28th birthday, is completely mum about anything to do with UFC and the new Ultimate Fighter cast, which will be announced later this month.
So with the possibility that Beal, with his amazing survival story and talent in the cage, could soon be on national television for all to see and be inspired by, either through a TV show or just by moving up the ranks as a professional, it’s an exciting time for the fighter.
No matter what happens in his career, though, Beal is determined to be an inspiration for those suffering with cancer and he has advice on how on to deal with the big C.
“Stay positive,” insists Beal. “Think positive. Do positive things. Hang with positive people. Negativity has no healing qualities.”
Now that’s he’s won the biggest fight of his life, Beal also has his eyes set on another goal.
“To become a UFC champion and the best pound-for-pound fighter in the sport”.
It’s a lofty goal indeed but the idea of “The Real Deal” Chris Beal, a man who made cancer tap out, dominating the sport, just seems inevitable.
The new season of The Ultimate Fighter, which Chris Beal may or may not be on premieres Sept. 4 on Fox Sports 1. For more information on Chris Beal, visit his website, www.therealdealchrisbeal.com, or follow him on twitter @readealcbeal