Grandmothers are everything in the family structure. They are the backbone of the family, keeping everyone together. They are surrogate mothers. They attempt to help with everything the family needs to the best of their abilities. Cooking, cleaning and providing financial assistance. Their roles become that much more important in single parent households. A period where they should be relaxing and resting. Already having put so much time in as parents themselves, they have to come out of retirement and take the mantle again. The selflessness of grandmothers goes unnoticed most of the time. But no one ever knew Clark Kent was Superman.
Deangelo Ty, sophomore at LPC, was raised by a single mother. His father left before he was born. He grew up very poor. Hand me downs were his only option for clothing. His family came to the U.S. from Brazil, so he was different. In Fremont, Ty watched those around him succumb to gang violence in drugs.
We all need a place to go to. A place where we feel safe and taken care of. A place where we feel comfortable. It’s important for everyone to find that for themselves.
“My brother’s dad, he was in gangs and in jail a lot. That was a lot of my childhood because my dad wasn’t there,” Ty said.
Aurea Ty was her grandson’s first superhero. In the absence of Deangelo Ty’s father, the matriarch in his family stepped up. Because of her, Ty knew he could grow up to be whoever he wanted to be. Her place was his refuge, where he could go when any kind of trouble would arise around him.
At 8 years old, it became the football field. Ty was always one of the smallest kids, standing around 5 feet, 8 inches tall. He played with a chip on his shoulder, he felt his childhood contributed to it.
“It’s something that develops when you see a lot of f—– up s—,” Ty said “And you’re like ‘man I don’t want to be around this’ and it hardens you at some point.”
Ty felt his place was the football field, that was his place to get everything in him out. He knew playing football he had something extra. Though he was soft-spoken he wasn’t soft. Teammates and opponents alike knew he wasn’t someone to take lightly. Even growing up hitting was his thing.
“I found a part of me that knew that if I wanted to hurt somebody, I can hurt somebody. I found out playing football, I played strong safety and outside linebacker. I couldn’t play offense for s—, I couldn’t juke and I didn’t have vision at all. But on the defensive side of the ball, one thing was for sure, I’m definitely going to hurt you when I hit you. I just liked hitting people, it was something I was notorious for, people saying ‘F—, this kid’s crazy!’”
As his high school football career came to its twilight, before his senior season, he found boxing. In a way, it would be more accurate to say that boxing found him. He started training in the offseason with his quarterback, whose father had been a Golden Gloves boxer in his youth. So he was training them in his garage.
“Man you’ve got something special.”
Those were the words Ty recalls his friend’s father saying to him all the time. He looked like he’d been training his whole life. Combat sports is something that runs through Ty’s veins. Brazil is both the birthplace of modern MMA and the heritage that runs in Ty’s blood, so, Ty’s transition from football to fighter was natural. The mixing of that Brazilian blood with his Tongan fire was like a birthright — a calling for Ty to become the fighter he is today.
After he finished high school, he needed something to latch onto once football wasn’t there anymore. He moved back in with his mother when she relocated from Fremont to Dublin. He needed a new place to train,as his obsession with boxing consumed him. He had never boxed in a gym before: growing up, he didn’t have the money to afford a membership. Combat Sports Academy in Dublin gave him a home.
“When I first walked in, I walked up to the owner and I told him, ‘Hey, I don’t got no type of money, so if possible maybe I can clean up the gym and mop up the gym you could let me train’,” Ty said. “He told me sure, he let me train and I worked my way up.”
Ty prepared by fighting under Muay Thai rule sets, in which there are three five minute rounds with two minute rests in between each round. His MMA debut was accompanied by sadness. The person who was so important in his life was also fighting. His grandmother was dealing with pancreatic cancer.
“That was a real hard time and I’m still f—– up about that right now,” Ty said. “It still lingers with me everyday. Especially because my grandma’s like my safe person. Whenever something was going wrong or if I was around some f—– up s—, I would just go be with my grandma and it would be all good. She taught me everything, that’s why it’s easy to stay on the right path. It’s all because of what my grandma taught me.”
Ty took it upon himself to do his grandmothers job, to carry on her legacy. His debut was the uniting force that brought his family together.
Ty’s first fight was insane, he faced off against Romeo Beltran. The first round he showed the speed and head movement of a 10 year pro. He secured an easy takedown and moved directly into the most dominant position in MMA, the full mount. During a scramble late in the round he locked up a triangle choke submission, in his own words he let Beltran up. Overconfidence almost cost Ty the fight. A brawl ensured once they were both on their feet, a smooth right hand from Beltran dropped him right before the end of the round.
The second round he calmed down and found his zone. Outclassing Beltran with his movement and speed again. A steady diet of punches and kicks wore Beltran down, before Ty found a beautiful right hand that put Beltran down for good.
“I could hear all my family and friends going dumb. My family, my gym friends and my friends from the hood all coming together. It was beautiful. I love that feeling, being able to bring people together and everyone being on the same page. Not worrying about anything else, no pain or anything just being in the moment with you. That’s what motivates me, that’s what I work for. I do it for my grandma and I do it for my family.”
Aurea Ty, Deangelo’s grandmother, died shortly after his amateur debut. He lost his first superhero, his first safe haven. He’s found his second inside of a cage. He’s going to be that safe haven his grandmother was for him for the rest of his family. He knows it’s his job to rally the family from here on out. It’s his job to bring his family together. He feels he’s going to do that through his craft and his chosen craft is fighting.
Devin Bradshaw is the editor in chief of The Express. Follow him @DevinBradshaw_.