Fighters are nothing if not tough. It takes a special kind of mental and physical fortitude to spend each day training and taking physical punishment with the end goal of coming out on top in a fist fight in front of the eyes of millions.
But no matter how tough you are, there are certain things in life that will kick anybody’s butt. There are some circumstances so bad that they can make a few rounds in the ring look like a cakewalk by comparison…
Ray Borg was a professional fighter and a pretty good one at that. He made it to the top of his field, challenging for the UFC flyweight belt in 2017. Suffice it to say, he’s overcome challenges in life that most people can’t even imagine.
But in 2018, Borg would have to put his career on hold for the kind of challenge that can’t be overcome through grit and hard work. Borg’s son Anthony was born premature at the end of March and he had some serious medical difficulties.
Anthony was born with hydrocephalus, an excess of fluid in the cavities of the brain. It’s a condition that can cause extremely serious problems, including seizures, and significant intellectual, developmental and physical disabilities, if not treated.
Anthony unfortunately suffered from seizures and had to have a major brain surgery within just a few days of being born. He needed a shunt put in his brain to reduce the fluid build up that was occurring inside of his head.
The first surgery wasn’t a complete success and MRIs showed that the fluid inside Anthony’s head was still increasing. He would have to undergo a total of four brain surgeries in his first month of being alive.
Thankfully, all of Anthony’s problems were cleared up by the last of the surgeries. Borg put out a statement on Twitter saying: “Anthony is out of surgery and recovering now. Came out of it like nothing, no breathing tube or anything. He truly is the strongest boy I have [ever] met. Thank you all for your positivity and prayer.”
Feast or Famine
As you might imagine, brain surgery isn’t cheap and a fighter’s pay isn’t the steadiest thing in the world. Compensation is infrequent and, whenever there is some kind of disruption to the schedule of planned fights, another paycheck isn’t a sure thing.
Borg had a fight scheduled for February of 2018, but it was cancelled when his opponent was forced to pull out due to injury. He was able to get another fight scheduled for April but he got caught up in a bizarre melee that resulted in a serious injury.
He was on a shuttle bus with a number of other fighters, including Khabib Nurmagomedov, on the evening before UFC 223 when Conor McGregor who, in a feud with Khabib, threw a dolly at the bus. The dolly shattered a window, giving Borg multiple corneal abrasions and making him unfit to fight. With no work in six months and the medical bills mounting, Borg was forced to turn to outside help.
Asking For Help
Borg put out a message about the situation on social media and put out a t-shirt for sale, with all proceeds going toward his son’s medical bills. After setting up a GoFundMe with a goal of $20,000, fellow fighter Cody Garbrandt kicked in $1,000 and Chael Sonnen, Kelvin Gastelum, Tyron Woodley, and Rory Macdonald would kick in $500 each. But one former UFC fighter would go far above and beyond in his willingness to help.
Brendan Schaub, a former UFC heavyweight contender turned comedian and podcast host was speaking on the Joe Rogan Experience about coming across Ray Borg’s social media posts about his son’s condition which apparently affected him deeply.
“I see his son on the respirator,” Schaub said, “broke my heart, man.” He knew all too well what it was like to be a “broke fighter” as he put it and, with his comedy career doing so well, he was in a much better position to help than most.
I’ve Got You
Schaub sent a message to Borg through his Instagram offering to cover the medical bills in their entirety but at first, he didn’t receive a response. He believes that was because Borg didn’t take his offer to help to be genuine.
Not one to give up, Schaub appealed to Borg directly on the podcast. “Ray, I’m sure a bunch of people hit you up, man,” he said. “I will pay for your medical bills, Ray. I will cover it, man. When I say ‘I’ll help you Ray,’ I’m dead serious.”
“I don’t need the publicity I don’t need any of that,” he continued. “I will cover the medical bills, man. No publicity, I will take care of you and your family.” At that point in the podcast, Schaub was choking up, nearly overcome with emotion.
“Do you know Ray?” asked the show’s host Joe Rogan. He was understandably surprised when Schaub replied “I don’t know him at all. I never met him.” There was no personal element to his desire to help.
“How much money does he need to raise?” Joe asked. “I dunno man, but I’m f***ing rich,” Schaub said, using levity to break the highly emotional tone of the interview. While he said it somewhat in jest, it’s certainly true that his fortunes changed significantly after he retired from fighting. His podcast The Fighter and the Kid was at one point the number one podcast on iTunes.
Even without knowing the exact amount Borg needed to cover the medical bills, Schaub got specific, saying he would give the money from his six upcoming comedy shows in Utah to Borg, no strings attached.
“I’m so fortunate with me finding stand-up and I’ve got so much cool stuff in the works. You can’t just take, take, take,” Schaub said. “We have to figure something out here.” When asked again about his motivation, he said his becoming a father left him with a new appreciation for the bond between a parent and their child. “When my son stubs his toe my heart drops,” he said.
Best Part of My life
The common sentiment about having children is “so cliche’d ‘oh it’s the best thing I’ve ever done,’” Schaub continued. “Straight up man, I’ve had a cool f***ing life. It is by far the best thing I’ve ever done.”