Written by @NickRiznerMMA
Dorian Murray is an inspiration.
That’s the real take away from this story. Not his struggle or the hurdles in his way. Not the sorrow or anger or fear that surround his circumstance. But rather, his ability to face his setbacks head on. To put aside the pain and smile. That’s Dorian Murray’s message to the world, and you’d be wise to listen.
Dorian is eight years old and he has stage 4 cancer.
This is a concept that is difficult to apply logic to. It’s hard to understand how these two thoughts could ever be linked together, and yet, that doesn’t make them any less true.
It’s a battle that he’s been fighting since he was four years old and there have been some bad days along the way. Undoubtedly, there were moments where a silver lining could not be found. Days when Dorian and his family were overcome by grief. But throughout it all – no matter how low the lows – Dorian has persevered with the childlike optimism that one would associate with any little boy. And through this unrelenting positivity, he has inspired thousands to face their lives with that same mentality.
Pat Sullivan, the Matchmaker and Director of Operations for CES in Rhode Island, was one of the few lucky guests at Dorian’s birthday party last week. It was there where he witnessed this phenomenon first-hand.
He was running around with all of his friends and making everyone in the room happy. That’s the thing about Dorian… you can’t help but to be happy around him. With everything he goes through and everything his body and mind have endured, he continues to smile.
Yes, Dorian has cancer, but he doesn’t let his life be defined by the disease. He lives his life as an 8 year old boy should: by smiling, laughing and having fun. Life is what you make of it, and no one makes more of their life than Dorian.
Pat first became aware of Dorian’s story via Facebook. His facebook page, created and managed by his two loving parents, has over 13,000 likes. It serves as a beacon of hope for all who have been affected by his story. Some posts have been uplifting. Some, quite frankly, devastating. But no matter what each day brings, one common thread has persisted throughout the process. Honesty.
Chris and Melissa are two of the strongest parents you could find. What I admire about them is how open and honest they are about what Dorian is going through. They were faced with a difficult situation, but instead of taking a sorrowful approach, they have embraced Dorian as the beautiful boy that he is and have lived every day with him to the fullest. Dorian is an inspiration. But so are Chris and Melissa.
The first to reach out was CES Lightweight Champion Luis Felix. Along with former New England Patriot and 3x Super Bowl Champion Patrick Pass, Felix had the chance to meet Dorian face-to-face and understand, firsthand, why he has inspired so many. After watching the video of the interaction, Pat Sullivan knew he needed to meet this boy in person, so he invited Dorian to come to their next boxing show on December 18th. That night, everything changed.
I was meeting such a small boy with such a huge impact on others, and it was incredibly humbling. We had a big surprise for him later that night, and I knew from the first high-five we exchanged that he was going to change our lives forever.
I knew I wanted to thank him publicly for what he has meant to all of us who have followed his story. Some of our fighters have been fortunate to have met him prior, and I know they have been positively impacted, so we decided to surprise him mid-way through the show.
We had Luis Felix (CES Champion) and Jake Aiken (Team CES) take Dorian into the locker room to meet the fighters, at which time I brought his mother and father in the ring with me as I told Dorian’s story to the crowd.
Dorian is a boxing fan, and he has seen fighters online and on television walk from the locker room to the ring with hundreds or thousands of fans cheering them on. I wanted Dorian to feel that. I wanted the toughest fighter that I know to witness that excitement and that energy.
After being cascaded with applause and a standing ovation from the crowd, Dorian was presented with a pair of boxing gloves signed by every fighter on the card. He was also given a championship belt.
The symbolism behind that strap is implicitly understood. The world of combat sports is filled with fighters and champions, but in reality, this is merely hyperbole; nicknames we assign to athletic accomplishments and nothing more. Dorian is a true fighter. Dorian is a true champion. And his accomplishments are not measured by stats or records. They are measured by his impact on those around him.
As soon as Dorian got the belt and stepped out of the ring, former boxing champion Vladine Biosse went running over to ask for “a picture with the champ.” Many other fighters followed. They didn’t do it for publicity or to be seen doing it. They did it because they truly wanted to meet Dorian and show their appreciation, one person to another.
These fighters recognize that what they do is a sport and a career, but it is not life or death. The battle Dorian fights every day is the one that counts. We have been given a platform and the ability to stop a show and have thousands of people see him smile in the middle of the ring.
My reward was when I heard he went to bed that night and told his mother he feels special. Hearing that he knew how loved he was that night – even by strangers – is why we do this.
Dorian’s story has inspired the inspirational. We reached out to a handful of CES fighters, past and present, who each had a message for the aptly nicknamed “Mr. Big Smiles”:
“How cool is Luis Felix?! That’s a man you can really look up to, until that one day you become an MMA fighter like him! But I guarantee you that he admires you just the same.” – Matt Bessette, Bellator/CES Featherweight
“Scared may be how you’re feeling but bravery is what you’re doing… to the bravest kid I know… much love Dorian.” – Dinis Paiva/CES Bantamweight
“Happy birthday Dorian! You inspire me buddy. Don’t you ever quit. Not that I think you would for a second, but we all love you man!” – Josh Diekmann, Bellator/CES Heavyweight
And then there’s Rob Font, former CES Bantamweight Champion and current UFC Bantamweight contender. Font, who is readying himself for a hometown fight at UFC Boston, took it one step further and urged everyone to follow Dorian’s approach to life:
Seeing Dorian’s story is nothing short of inspiring. It really puts things into perspective and makes me appreciate the fact that I get to do what I do for fun. His fight is real, and he takes it on with such a positive outlook and a huge smile.
I hope that everyone can learn from the example he’s set for us all. Enjoy life and be appreciative of the little things, because that’s what really matters.
I wish I could end this piece with better news. The truth is, the world doesn’t always work that way. Unfortunately, there isn’t a happy ending to every story and pretending there is would only provide a crutch to those who need to stand tall. Following the example set by Dorian’s parents, here is the full, unfiltered truth.
On New Year’s Day, Dorian and his family received some bad news. An MRI revealed that the cancer had spread to Dorian’s spine and brain. As a result, a decision had to be made. Taken from a post on the “Praying for Dorian” Facebook page, Dorian’s mom describes a heart-wrenching discussion she had with her son and his father:
He is no longer eligible for any trial. Chemotherapy, which we knew wasn’t a cure anyway, will no longer give him extended time. Chris and I spent hours with our son, holding him, loving him, and deciding next steps.
We sat with Dorian today and had the talk no parent should ever have with their child. But we did it. We told him what was happening. We told him he had a choice; continue chemo and possibly gain days or a week at most, or stay home and be comfortable. Hang out with his family, do some fun things and enjoy the time left. Without the daily visit to the hospital – no chemo, no vomiting, no transfusions, no needles – Dorian easily made his choice and his father and I support him.
Let me be clear, Dorian is NOT dying today. He isn’t dying tomorrow. We have some time, but it is severely limited. This is why I ask that you not all reach out at the same time. We want to spend this time with our son, not on our phones. Send your love to our FB pages. Maybe post a video to D, I’ll make sure he sees every single one of them.
This journey has been hard and long. He has fought the most amazing fight and he never gave up. He is, and forever will be, my hero. Always, always, always, always.
I suggest we do just that. Don’t pity Dorian. Allow him to inspire you. Put your own troubles in perspective and face your problems with a smile. This is Dorian’s legacy. Honor it by following in his footsteps. Honor him by living life to the fullest.
Check out our latest podcast episode featuring Adam Milstead & Dinis "Sweetbread" Paiva