By Andy Cotterill
Most people have some type of event in their lives that sets them moving toward a certain path, but few of those events are as traumatic as what happened to Eugene London.
As a teen growing up in Woodstock, New Brunswick, Eugene spent time working on the potato harvest, as many young Maritime boys and girls did then and still do today.
On his 14th birthday he was underneath a field truck, gathering potatoes that had fallen on the ground.
He had done this several times before without incident, but that day was different.
Getting out from underneath the truck Eugene lost his balance, and instinctively reached out for something to grab — but unfortunately for him he grabbed a hydraulic roller.
“My fingers got pinched between the shaft and the conveyor belt.” He told MM-eh from his home in Moncton, where he’s lived for three years.
“Basically the tips of my gloves got caught — I tried to yank my hand out of my glove but it pinched my fingers and I couldn’t get them out because it had already started to pull me in.”
Eugene started to scream and yell, but the machinery was so loud that he wasn’t immediately heard — and the roller slowly continued to draw his right arm into its vice-like grasp.
Eugene fought as best as he could, but the heavy-duty machinery prevailed.
“Most of the injury was caused by myself, because once it got close to my face I took my feet and my left hand and I grabbed a hold of my underarm and I pushed from the bottom of the truck.” He explained. ”I kept yanking on my arm to try to pull it out, but while I was doing that it was just ripping the shit out of it. ”
The inside of Eugene’s right arm was crushed two inches above and below his elbow, and four days later the decision was made to amputate, leaving a 6-inch limitation.
That was eleven years ago, and Eugene moved on with his life – living and working all across Canada. He calls himself a Jack of all trades and master of none.
Living with one arm is a challenge. Everything we do — driving a car, typing on a keyboard, or playing sports, is easier when you have two arms.
But Eugene says that he has always had an attitude about his injury that seems to help him out.
“Everything happens for a reason, so instead of thinking about it as a disadvantage or a disability, I wake up every morning with a new challenge.”
That new challenge for Eugene is mixed martial arts. He has many friends in the Moncton area who fight, like Dustin Leighton, Scott Fraser, Jesse Bull, and Dee Logue, and says that they inspired him to try it out for himself.
So Eugene got in touch with Coach Richard Huard at Fitness Mechanix, and started training just four months ago in January.
Eugene tried a few classes and found that he liked it, and more importantly, having one less arm than everyone else didn’t impede him from being competitive.
“We did a shark tank the other night, and every guy I got in there with got a bloody nose.” He said.
Eugene has a theory that not only is he not at a disadvantage because of missing an arm, he actually has an advantage.
“When your body goes through a traumatic experience like mine, you don’t lose that strength. That strength goes somewhere else in your body. So all the strength from my right arm went to my left. So now my left arm is twice as strong as if I had two hands.”
Fighting isn’t new to Eugene, who says that growing up in rural New Brunswick he had plenty of chances to get into street fights when other boys would comment negatively on his arm.
“I never went looking for trouble, it’s just I don’t take disrespect lightly. If you want to disrespect me you’ll have to back it up. All the fist fights I’ve been in on the street have been a result of remarks and comments that I didn’t appreciate, and I tell them I don’t appreciate that, and it just progresses.”
Eugene will be having his first amateur MMA fight this Monday, when he takes on Norm Robichaud at Canadian Extreme Cage Rage 11 “Long Weekend Smack in Moncton.
This isn’t the first time that an athlete who is missing a limb will go into combat. Nick Newell is missing his left hand and won the XFC lightweight title, and Canadian Muay Thai fighter Baxter Humby has also won championships in his sport.
It’s still too early to tell how far Eugene will choose to go in MMA, but he said that he looks at this experience as an adventure, and knows that when his 14-month old son Lucas is older he can look back at his Father’s life and see that he didn’t let anyone tell him what he can’t do.
“Everyone needs an inspiration, so if I can do that — then let’s do it.”