Local News

Story published: 01-29-2014 • Print ArticleE-mail Story to a Friend

Olen uses martial arts to benefit local education

By Veronica Burniston

Martial arts and education - a puzzling combination or a rising opportunity?

Today not many people consider the impact a physical sport like martial arts might have on a child’s education and future. Perhaps, even fewer individuals see how Mixed-Martial Arts (MMA) tournaments could offer not only a show of skill but a fight for a higher cause, a cause that might benefit hundreds of other lives, a cause that consumes the body and soul of the fighter, a cause that might forever change the future of one person in need.

Robby Olen is one of those few.

At 27 years old, Robby “Reborn” Olen is a MMA fighter from Martinsville, Indiana, who has decided to wield his passion for martial arts as a tool to help others, specifically Johnson County. Army veteran and father of four, Olen started competing in MMA tournaments in February of 2010. Within his fighting style, Olen uses a combination of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Judo, and Muay Thai - all learned from various gyms and dojos he’s trained with over the years. Although being a MMA fighter is not Olen’s full-time career as of yet, he hopes to attain his pro-card by this coming fall, which will rocket him even further into the world of martial arts and competitions.

So how does Olen propose to help Johnson County through his MMA tournaments?

Alongside a local nonprofit organization based in Elizabethton, TN, Olen has constructed a fund called “Fighting for Rural Education,” which focuses on helping local students from low-income families attain a higher education beyond high school. With every competition, Olen will donate 10 percent of his fight earnings and merchandise sales toward this fund, hoping to share his victories with hundreds of others. This “fighting” fund, centralized with an “emergency help” fund that endeavors to aid underprivileged families in urgent need, is directed solely at Johnson County.

With the help of his father, a native of Johnson County, Olen has been working diligently to locate local businesses to propel the “fighting” fund to higher ground, either through sponsorship or donations. As this fund steadily develops, Olen hopes to offer annual scholarships to Johnson County High School seniors. These scholarships, which Olen will present to the recipient, will be available to students from low-income families, who show a great desire to excel academically.

“I grew up, for the majority of my life, in a rural community,” Olen comments, “so I know there’s a lot of struggles with low income families.” When asked in a phone interview about the goals of this “fighting” fund, Olen states, “We want to build a good foundation and give back to the underprivileged kids. Focus on helping [them] get a higher education.”

To the kids of Johnson County, Olen encourages them to “stay positive” and “be careful with [their] choices.” Since MMA has proven to be a great “outlet” for him, Olen also promotes martial arts. “I think it’s an outstanding outlet to keep kids out of trouble,” he says. “It teaches them discipline.”

Olen’s next match, versus Ryan Gosnell of Clinton, Indiana, is scheduled for February 1st and will take place in Sullivan, Indiana. In late March, Olen will be participating in a three-day event hosted by the Triad Fight League in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Afterward, Olen hopes to participate in a fighting match in Johnson City, TN, in late April or early May. Currently, the possibility is still being discussed so further details are unavailable at this time.

Although Olen himself can only visit the area once a month, his father will gladly answer any questions pertaining to the fund and promotion opportunities. If any local businesses are interested in taking part in the “Fighting for Rural Education” fund, either call (423) 440-0067 or e-mail questions to raolen65@yahoo.com.

For more information on Robby “Reborn” Olen and his “fighting” fund, check out his Facebook page. He is also constructing a “Fighting for Rural Education” fan page, so be on the look out for that as well.