The Ultimate Fighter: Fight for the Title. Win for the Cause.
This is the inspiring true story of a man who believes in a dream. A dream much bigger than himself. And how God is opening doors wide enough for even him to walk through.
Lima, Peru. June 23, 2011.
The noise of the crowd grew with each step as Ben “The Hunter” Reiter approached the ring.
The energy from the flashing cameras and the deep voice of the announcer could easily fray the nerves of any ordinary man. But this was no ordinary man. And this was the biggest fight of Ben’s life.
He wasn’t fluent in Spanish, and this made the press conference the day before awkward. The media required certain poses of the fighters, so Ben stood face-to-face with his opponent.
Fernando “Zopilote” Roca, South America’s Inka FC Champion 8 years running, stood eye to eye with Ben. Suddenly, Zopilote (which means “buzzard” in Spanish) thrust his head toward Ben’s face. But Ben dodge the attempted head-butt.
“I will destroy you!” Zopilote shouted in Spanish. Ben’s face was blank. He had no clue what the man just said, but he wanted to respond.
So he did.
It was all Ben could think of. He was always a bit boring during interviews. He was nothing like Zopilote who paraded arrogance.
People laughed at Ben’s response, and Zopilote leaned over to ask Ben a question.
“What did he say?” Ben asked his translator.
“He said he wants to fight you without gloves. He wants to know if you are man enough,” replied the translator.
Ben slowly turned to his opponent.
So with bare fists, Ben walked toward the MMA cage. And echoes of his past flashed in his memory.
The why–the how. The true story of what led up to this night started with a little boy.
And a desire to care for his younger siblings.
Where It All Began
He remembered his parents divorcing when he was a kid. And he remembered moving in with his dad. Born in Coram, New York, Ben was the 3rd of 6 kids.
Despite the divorce, his mom and dad were supportive and emphasized their love for their children. In fact, it was his parents who taught him about Jesus and led him to trust in Christ as his Savior.
He thought about the times in his young life when he learned to stick to a task, no matter how tough it was. He faced difficulties in life that God used to instill in him the character qualities of a godly man: integrity, honesty, honor, loyalty, and perseverance.
He remembered how much he loved to work hard at taking great care of his younger brothers while growing up. He was like a 2nd dad to them. When they moved into an apartment (where he spent most of his years growing up), he always cared for and played with the other kids in the complex.
He grew up with a heart for kids–a desire to be a help and support.
The Creation of a Servant-fighter
Wrestling was a big event in Ben’s family. His dad, brothers, and uncles were all wrestlers.
For Ben, wrestling was the teacher of strong work ethic, discipline, and sacrifice. God used this sport to shape Ben’s heart. To prepare him for something unusual and powerful.
It got Ben into college. While at University of Pennsylvania, that desire to provide for younger, less fortunate children grew. He jumped on the opportunity to volunteer for Big Brothers/Big Sisters.
As part of the Student Board, he was a frequent speaker to younger student groups. And when Hurricane Katrine hit New Orleans, Ben dropped what he was doing and spent much time there helping victims. Wrestling and serving became his main focus.
It was tough for Ben. He had to work hard to get through school. But working long hours at various jobs was not enough to pay his bills.
At the start of his junior year, the school would not allow him to register since he was so far behind in his school bills. So Ben took a break from school to work full-time. But perseverance soon paid off, and he finally graduated in 2009 with a degree in history.
It was during his years at UPenn that Ben began to dream big. The heart of a servant-fighter grew and began to produce a desire to do something different than the average Joe.
He hadn’t told anyone, but he dreamed of starting a charity to help kids who didn’t have what he has–loving parents, opportunity, real life.
He was ready to make his mark in history. After college, Ben took the money he had saved and bought his own restaurant. His purpose? To donate money to a new charity.
He had character. He had a great work ethic. But his naivety cost him. He remembered getting ripped off and losing quite a bit of money.
But he didn’t lose the quality of his character. He learned from the stressfulness of failing. And he took mental notes of running a better business.
He learned that the past contributes to a goal in the future.
A Foreign Field
Still, Ben didn’t want to settle for the mediocre life. So he did something different. He teamed up with an organization and moved to Peru, South America.
He remembered seeing the children for the first time. His heart ached as it did that first day.
For 9 months he served as a volunteer in impoverished villages teaching life skills and feeding starving children. Ben fell in love with the people.
This is when Ben met his good friend Emma. Together they tried hard to recruit other charities to work in their village. But no one came.
So God moved the heart of the servant-fighter. Ben and Emma established their own charity.
Fight to Fund
Meanwhile, Ben had signed up at a nearby gym to stay in shape. Mixed Martial Arts has been quite a popular sport in Peru for many years. And, having trained in MMA in the States, Ben regained his place quickly.
Soon he found himself signing up for several amateur bouts. With each win, his following grew. As his name grew in popularity, he began to see how his dream could come true.
He had money in his hand and a platform for others to listen. And in the center of his heart was a little girl named Katy (pronounced Kattie) Chavez.
Katy lived in the village where Ben volunteered. She was born with severe jaw and facial bone disfigurement, and she needed medical attention quickly. His heart skipped a beat as he felt the deep passion he had for Katy. He wanted nothing else than to see that she got the help she needed.
He remembered the day when it clicked: fight to fund. Fight to raise awareness.
Fight to bring aid and love to the thousands of children suffering from hunger, malnutrition, and preventable diseases. And fight to bring the gospel of Jesus Christ to the people.
It wasn’t long before Ben and Emma’s newly formed charity had a name. Put Them First. Now they had a plan to fund it.
Ben kept winning bouts, and God kept opening doors with increased news coverage and press releases.
With each passing day Katy’s medical bills increased. And at each interview Ben had, he talked about her.
Soon the passion reached a few clinics. They joined Ben and Emma’s initiative to reach the suffering children. Money was sent to his charity, and Katy received enough help to have the long-awaited surgeries she needed to fix her life-threatening disfigurement.
Fernando “Zopilote” Roca vs. Ben “The Hunter” Reiter
Now Ben faced his 1st major bout.
With no gloves, he entered the cage. Little did he know that his opponent had a steel plate in his head. It was clear, later, that Zopilote’s request to remove the gloves was actually a hidden agenda to break Ben’s hands.
The bell rang.
The Inka FC champion stepped forward.
He saw Ben.
Ben saw Katy.
And Zopilote went down hard.
Ben won in the 2nd round with a TKO. And now he holds the Inka Fighting Championship South American title. The crowd shouted enthusiastically for the American boy.
Every Great Story Has a Moral
But Ben doesn’t fight for applause or fame or glory. Personal gain or a title.
He fights for a greater purpose. A cause much bigger than his physique.
He fights for the glory of God. And he gives God glory by meeting the spiritual, emotional, and physical needs of some of the poorest people in the world.
Once he asked a question, “What would it take to bring life to these people?”
What about you?
What would it take for you to bring life–real life–to someone less fortunate than you? To bring the love of Jesus to impoverished people? To bring the gospel of Jesus to the lost?
And chase it.
Please check out Ben and Emma’s charity program at www.PutThemFirst.org. Would you consider supporting Put Them First with your prayers and finances?