Paralyzed athlete Ben Kunzle awarded BJJ black belt

Paralyzed jiu-jitsu athlete Ben Kunzle was awarded his black belt by longtime coach Roberto “Cyborg” Abreu.

Ben Kunzle remains one of the most inspirational stories in jiu-jitsu. 

In May 2022, Kunzle – then a high-level brown belt competitor well on his way to becoming an elite black belt – suffered a severe spinal cord injury resulting in paralysis of his upper and lower extremities. Despite his injuries, he has remained an active member of the jiu-jitsu community. 

Kunzle was recently awarded the rank of black belt by his longtime instructor, Fight Sports leader Roberto “Cyborg” Abreu.

This isn’t the Black Belt journey that I had always imagined, but it’s the one life chose for me

From when I started Jiu-jitsu at 11 years old, I always knew that I would be a black belt. It was never a question of if but more of a question of when

I always saw myself being a high-level, black belt competitor, representing my team and my country all around the world but life had different plans

I see today that I was put on this earth to show the world that no matter what happens to you. Life is still beautiful and there is still so much to live for

To me, this black belt represents more than just a black belt in the sport but a black belt in life 🥋

@cyborgbjj thank you for being the leader you are 👊🏻 and being there for us at our lowest

When you came into the hospital and gave me that speech at that moment, I chose that I wouldn’t allow life to beat me and today I am a much better person because of it

Even though he is no longer able to compete, Kunzle has continued to contribute to the jiu-jitsu scene. 

Notably, he headed up Blue Collar Fight Club – a new professional grappling promotion that held a $25,000 grand prix in 2023. The event featured a number of the world’s top competitors, including no-gi world champion Roberto Jimenez, fan favorites Andy Varela and Jay Rodriguez, as well as ADCC champion and tournament winner Giancarlo Bodoni.

Ben Coate

Ben has been involved with grappling, whether through wrestling or Brazilian jiu-jitsu, essentially his entire life. After wrestling throughout his childhood, Ben found Brazilian jiu-jitsu as a young adult and quickly fell in love. He has been training for over ten years and currently holds the rank of brown belt, and remains involved in both the MMA and BJJ scene. Ben has been writing about combat sports since 2017. He has interviewed and profiled some of MMA's biggest stars, including multiple UFC champions.

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