An Accomplished Fighter
At the young age of 31, professional mixed martial artist Justin Wren has accomplished more than most when it comes to his career. A former UFC fighter with over 13 titles under his belt, Wren soon found out that fame and fortune were not all it was cracked up to be.
A Ripe Young Age
Wren was only 18-years-old when he achieved pro-fighter status. However, he soon found that the life of a famous fighter wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. In fact, it wasn’t very fulfilling at all.
A Battle for his Life
As the fast and furious lifestyle swirled around him, Wren soon turned to drugs to cope with his isolation and depression. This would lead him down a path of destruction that almost ended his life.
At the age of 23, Wren decided he no longer could cope with the fame and fortune of professional fighting and tries to commit suicide. Thankfully, it was not a success but the incident did change his perspective on life.
A Force for Change
Realizing he wanted to do something meaningful with his life and give back to others, Wren decided he was going to be a force for change in the world. Therefore, he set his sights on helping others with a focus on the Pygmies of the Congo.
The Pygmies of the Congo
This small tribe was in desperate need of help, caught in a vicious cycle of slavery and abuse by the Mokpala tribe. With no land of their own, the tribe ruled the pygmies with a vicious hand, leaving them with very few options to survive.
With absolutely no hope to free themselves, the pygmies were forced to work for food, which could be as little as two bananas per day that had to be shared by the entire family. The goal of the Mokpala tribe was to keep the pygmies hungry and dependent on their masters.
A Beacon of Light
After hearing about the pygmies’ plight, Wren knew it was his calling to help them. He couldn’t ignore their suffering and knew he had the resources to make a difference.
From Fighting Against to Fighting For
“I was fighting against people, but really I was just supposed to be fighting for people” Wren recalled.
The Journey Begins
Wren’s interaction with the pygmies elicited some strong responses from their slave masters. He told the local media, “Their slave masters would come up to me and say ‘what are you doing with my animals?’”
A Delicate Situation
With the slave masters running the show, Wren knew he had to handle the situation between the tribe and the pygmies very delicately. “It would be foolish of us to come to the slave masters and say ‘hey, we want to set your people free’,” Wren explained, “so you have to go out in a respectful way to both parties. You can’t love one side and hate the other”.
Water Brings Us Together
Discovering that many tribes in the Congo didn’t have running water, Wren decided to use access to water as a common ground to save the pygmies and heal the divide. By helping both sides of the problem, he would keep the slavers from escalating.
A New Partnership
Wren decided to partner with Water4 and founded the charity “Fight for the Forgotten.” His goal was to employ the locals as a workforce, provide jobs and help drill wells in areas that normally didn’t have access.
Providing access to water, was a win/win situation. It helped the enslaved pygmies, but also their slave masters. Wren had hoped to solve the conflict without hostility and thankfully his plan worked wonderfully.
Now that the people in the Congo have access to running water, their lives have changed for the better. The Congo has one of the highest child mortality rates due to the lack of access to clean water. Thanks to Wren and his charity, this would soon become a statistic of the past.
Slave Masters Step Down
Without having to fight over resources, the Mokpala tribe soon began to loosen its grip on the pygmies. Not only was access to clean water reducing the child mortality rate, but it was improving the lives of all who lived in the rural areas of the Congo.
A Home of Their Own
With the water crisis solved, Wren moved on to purchase land for the pygmies. Now they would have a home of their own and wouldn’t have to work off the land or other tribes for a place to stay. Freedom was finally at hand.
Writing It All Down
His experiences with working in the Congo and the pygmies touched Wren so much that he chose to write a book titled,“Fight for the Forgotten: How a Mixed Martial Artist Stopped Fighting for Himself and Started Fighting for Others.” Let’s just say it’s a captivating read, to say the least.
Five Years Later
Wren would spend five wonderful years with the pygmies, helping improve their lives before returning to the world of fighting. However, despite his return to the ring, he continues to spread the word about his time in the Congo and the people who live there.
Eight Years in the Making
It was a journey eight-years in the making for Justin Wren, but he managed to combine fulfilling his destiny with his dream career. No easy feat for anyone looking to radically change their lives. Now, Justin continues to use his fighting career to help educate others on the pygmies’ plight and continues to host expeditions and charity drives. We wish him all the best!