AJ Siscoe– Victorious
Backstory: From Chemo to the Cage
At the age of 22, I’m still not sure if I believe in fate, destiny, or whatever your word of choice is, but I do believe in people who believe in themselves. Yet again I find myself saying, “That’s AJ!”– AJ “Let’s Go” Siscoe.
Even after spending 18 months away from an MMA cage to successfully battle stage three Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and having a training camp at full health, it seemed like the Bellator MMA veteran from Missouri wasn’t going to get his shot at redemption. After such a long, deadly journey and finding an opponent in Jordan Hernandez on 48 hours notice after eight changes since he signed to fight again for Shamrock Fighting Championships back in September, one word describes Siscoe: grateful.
“He (Hernandez) stepped up and came through when so many others wouldn’t so thank you Jordan for taking it! It’s really weird, I don’t know what it is but I believed 100 percent it didn’t matter who was gonna’ be in that cage with me that night (December 2.) I had come too far and been through way too much to come up short. I wasn’t leaving that cage without my hand being raised!…My training camp was amazing! It honestly couldn’t have gone better. Throughout the entire camp, I was just concentrated on me. So much of this game is mental and I knew I had to stay focused to come out a winner.”
Being at River City Casino, the atmosphere, the air literally felt heavy–not just because so many people viewed this as important, but almost as if the writing was on the wall. Siscoe isolates himself in the back away from friends and family in the name of concentration, preferring to only surround himself with friends fighting on the card that night and just enjoying himself. The white of hand wrap tape makes its way around his wrists and over his knuckles. He stands up, getting into position as his music hits just like a flood of emotions.
“The walk to the cage I was shocked as soon as people seen me the place literally went nuts. It was one of the most humbling and amazing moments of my life. So many people have supported me in my journey. It’s truly moving and motivating, something straight out of the daydreams of the AJ that was scrapped into the chemo chair less than 11 months ago. Before I stepped foot into the cage I stopped at the door to the cage and just thought to myself, “It’s finally time. We’ve come so far. It’s time to finish this.”
“Once that cage door slammed shut all the thoughts of yesterday left my mind and I was just in the moment. The night as a whole was one I’ll never forget. I’ll cherish it and remember it for the rest of my life.”
The shock of competing again went away after the first couple minutes as Siscoe utilized his jiu-jitsu to counter the striking of Hernandez. He had a small cut around his right eye from the first round but appeared to have the edge as he just looked for the right opportunity. He trapped Hernandez on his stomach with his legs as his arm made it’s way under Hernandez’s chin.
“There was so much energy, motivation, build-up going into this fight. I felt so wound up getting in there. I didn’t feel comfortable until the second and then I was able to end it quickly. I made some mistakes and can’t wait to watch the video so I can try to work on them but overall, I’m happy and pleased I was able to pull it out!”
From there, the party was in full-swing.
“It felt amazing to get the (rear-naked choke) submission win. He gave up his back and I threw my hooks in and grabbed on to his neck and squeezed like my life depended on it…This was (for) my coaches, my girlfriend–Ann is an amazing person. She stuck by me through my move to Florida and my fight with cancer. Sometimes I don’t know why but she always sticks by me. Fighting is a very selfish lifestyle and sometimes it bums me out how much she misses out on, but I think and hope she is enjoying this crazy journey we are on as much as I am!…She’s a purple belt and I’m a blue belt so I’m definitely dating up” Siscoe joked later.
“This was for my parents who stood by me when I was sick. It was anybody who believed in me when doctors didn’t. It was the nurses that saved my life’s win. It was my training partners who helped me each and every day. It was anybody who my story reached and gave them hope. This was EVERYBODY’S win, not just mine.”
Siscoe’s return was on a Friday night. He was back in the gym on Monday morning with his next return in mind: getting back to Bellator. He has no idea when his next goal will become a reality, he just knows that it will.
“Life is short and the time I have to fight is even shorter. I lost a year and a half already. I don’t want to lose anymore. I have too much to achieve and experience still. I want to fight in March and at least 3 times next year. I’m more motivated now than ever. I have so much more to tell and show off my story. It isn’t written. The story, (this) journey isn’t over.”
Siscoe knows that his battle with cancer has changed him forever and in the process, he has received a fair amount of publicity. Yet, when asked if he’d prefer people simply view him as a martial artist with cancer just being a part of his story rather than the focus of it, his response was fitting of who he has since become:
“I actually prefer everybody to know what I’ve overcome. That coupled with my skill is really gonna’ open some eyes and make people realize that there is no such thing as a good excuse and hopefully motivate them and help them reach their goals. I’m proud to be a cancer survivor and be a rep. for the cancer community.”
AJ would like to thank all of his sponsors: Remedy Pest Control, Abundant Life Chiropractic, Midwest Krav Maga, HeadNod Squad, and Victory Performance Training, Fuji B13, Boyer Academy, and The Vault Bar & Grill.