53, MIDDLEWEIGHT, CORK IE
TRAINED AT SBG CORK
Never Tap Out, Never Submit. The Sean O’Leary story
By Jeremy Aitken
Sean O’Leary is a fighter in every sense of the word. The 53-year-old Irish middleweight used rigorous ALTA MMA Training to springboard into his “second life” as a fit and focused competitor. An amputee, Sean had his right leg removed in 2018 to stop an aggressive infection that had started as a small cut on his heel during a day at the beach. Doctors battled for 6 years trying different regimes of medicines and surgeries but to no avail. They saved his life but couldn’t save his leg.
“In 2012 I was living your typical average life, if you like. Married with two boys. I was working as a taxi driver, enjoyed a few drinks on the weekend, ate whatever, average fitness. Then I was at the beach and got a small one on my right heal and being a typical man, I threw a bit of sticky plaster on it and didn’t think any more about it. The pain got worse and six months later it was excruciating. I couldn’t walk, and I couldn’t work. I went to hospital and found out it was Chronic Osteomyelitis. It’s a rare disease that attacks and eats the bones.” Sean says
Feeling at incredibly low ebb, Sean’s life changed dramatically when he took one of his 2 sons to kick boxing at SBG gym in Cork, Ireland in January 2020. Co-owners and siblings, Liam-Og Griffin and Marlene Griffin, encouraged Sean to start coming to the gym for himself.
At the time he was carrying 127 kilograms on his 170 cm frame and still reeling from 6 years of intense pain. He had lost his livelihood as a taxi driver and was struggling to navigate life with a standard prosthetic leg. Sean felt depressed and hopeless.
“I was trying to live without a leg and getting used to the prosthetic and was grossly overweight, no goals just existing, not living. One of the trainers at SBG gym, Brendon Russell was on the front desk and said, ‘why don’t you start?’. I don’t think he saw the prosthetic leg and I said ‘no, I don’t think it’s for me.’ And he said, ‘why not?’ And it triggered something in my head, a thought like an itch. I got home and then Marlene; Liam’s sister gave me a call to get me to come and I thought ‘why not’.” Sean says
Today Sean thinks nothing of taking on fighters more than a decade his junior who have both legs. He is a fighting fit 79 kilos with 13.4% body fat now training to climb Ireland’s highest mountain Carrauntoohil and then compete in Abu Dhabi in 2023.
“My diet is completely different. I think about what I put into my body. I cut out all sugary drinks, processed food and snacks. I eat well, lots of protein, simple carbs, vegetables and lots of water. I wake up feeling like I want to take on the day. I’m training and grinding every day. My morning starts at 5.30am. I train ALTA MMA till 7am then I do 2 hours of weights. In the afternoon I train for 2 hours jiu jitsu and striking or more conditioning, I finish at 9pm. Every second Sunday is sparring and fighting practise.” Sean says
All this is a far cry from that fateful day at the gym. Liam’s first step was to help Sean lose the kilos. After reaching his first goal of 90 kilograms, the SBG team encouraged Sean to train for a triathlon that would also help him raise money to buy a titanium prosthetic limb.
“Liam-Og has a knack of putting certain ideas in your head and then he'll walk away and leave his chewing on it. The idea, it takes over your brain and you go back to him, and he takes you to the next level. Anything I've ever achieved here Liam-Og’s put the idea in my head. He spoke to me about a triathlon, and I thought ‘if he believes in me, I can do it.’ Sean says
Sean’s wife Rose was a huge supporter of training as rehabilitation and sadly later to help him cope with a cancer diagnoses. The couple marked their 25th wedding anniversary in September 2020 and Rose just weeks later. Liam kept Sean focused on his training and moved him fairly rapidly from the triathlon to focus on the ALTA MMA Training discipline. Sean was right-handed and Liam had to guide him to being able to balance favouring his left side.
“The ALTA MMA Training was perfect, he'd already done jiu jitsu and a bit of boxing. I knew that he’d lose a lot of weight, improve his coordination and balance as well as keep pushing towards his other goals. Sean’s driven once you get him on a path, he’s unstoppable. ALTA MMA Training fit Sean’s personality perfectly.” Liam-Og says. Sean credits ALTA MMA, Liam-Og and the SBG gym for changing his life. Sean’s future plans including wanting to teach first aid and CPR and become a personal trainer so that he can help people achieve what he has achieved.
“People have fear, I used to live with the fear but sometimes you have to be taken out of your comfort zone. ALTA MMA Training, and Liam-Og did that for me. Now I realise that I’m much stronger I ever thought I could be. I can do whatever I want. I look forward to challenges. I may look like I have one leg, but it doesn’t define me. I don’t see myself as disabled. I have proved to myself that I am a warrior. I never tap out.” Sean says Sean’s future plans including wanting to teach first aid and CPR and become a personal trainer so he can help people achieve what he has achieved.
“I used to see life as a horrible challenge something to be endured but now after ALTA MMA Training my life is totally different. It’s one of the biggest things I’ve ever done. I look forward to challenges. I want to learn so I can give back. Every opportunity is a chance for me to test myself and to become better. I can do whatever I want. I may look like I have one leg, but it doesn’t define me. I don’t see myself as disabled. I have proved to myself that I am a warrior. I never tap out.” Sean says
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