There is always a back story to every superhero’s power. Superman was an alien. Spiderman was bitten by a radioactive spider. Batman, Ironman, etc. all got their powers as they overcame some adversity. Garett “Goodnight” Whiteley is cut of the same cloth.

Whiteley’s story begins in a common way. He competed in wrestling, decided to join the Army to help pay for school, and went off to serve his country. Along the way, though, he had to face the consequences of those choices. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was causing him issues after he returned from his tour of duty in Iraq.

“I had wanted to be a wrestling coach and a friend of a friend invited me to try Chris Lytle’s gym [Indy Boxing and Grappling]. I liked it, and after training for a while I noticed that the symptoms like anger and anxiety were lessened,” Whiteley told The MMA Corner in an exclusive interview. “It’s not just MMA. Boxing or BJJ or any combat sport would make a difference for others dealing with PTSD. It’s the brotherhood of people in your gym—busting ass and beating up on each other just makes it better.”

Whiteley got good at MMA. So good, in fact, that he was encouraged to take an amateur fight and, after he won that bout, another, and so on. He went undefeated in all four of his amateur contests and went on a tear through eight pro fights before experiencing his first loss in his UFC debut. That loss was at the hands of Brazilian fighter Alan Patrick at a UFC event in Brazil, not the most desired way to make one’s debut in the big show.

“It’s good to get the first loss out of the way. The fight was going okay, and then I got caught,” Whiteley admitted. “MMA is a game of inches. Take a punch to the side of the head and you’re okay, but take that same punch to the temple and, bam, you’re out.

“The moment wasn’t too big. I felt like I belonged, but for the first time ever I got beat. If you’re going to fight in the UFC against the best, you’re going to lose sometime. It’s made me even hungrier.”

There is no doubt that Whiteley will use past adversity to find his powers.

“MMA fighters, pro and amateur, we hate losing,” Whiteley confessed. “We are competitors, and at this level—to get to where we are—we all hate losing.

“It was tough. Not many people will make it to the UFC. And to lose in my debut? It sucks. Like I said, though, it’s a game of inches for punches and submissions. If you can’t just slip out or if you can’t get your chin down enough, it’s over.”

Cutting weight and going through a fight camp are tough enough. To top it off, Whiteley is still working his full-time job with the Indiana National Guard. He is also a husband and a father, and he coaches inner-city kids in the gym.

“I get up early and do my running and lifting before work. If I miss my morning workout, that is how I spend my lunch. After work, it’s straight to practice and then it’s home for dinner and bed,” Whiteley said.

One can imagine Whiteley stopping in a phone booth at each stop to change uniforms.

“My wife and family understand,” he said. “It’s a struggle. It’s tough. You’ve got to love the sport to do it and to make the necessary sacrifices. I got the call for [UFC Fight Night 35] right before Thanksgiving. I ate what I wanted except for desserts, but Christmas was tough and my birthday is coming up.

“You don’t get this opportunity every day, so you sacrifice. My weight is good, though. I was able to take my wife out for sushi the other day. The last fight was made even more difficult due to the travel. This fight is closer to home. Being on a plane all day while cutting weight was not easy.

“You get what you put into it. I am able to keep going because I love the sport. I love the guys and girls that I work with.”

There are times when even heroes are tempted to give up. Men as mighty as Superman and Batman have considered hanging up their capes.

“Being in the UFC is motivation—all the hard work to get here. It’s time to shine and show everyone what I am made of,” declared Whiteley. “Before I made it to the UFC, I wanted to be here, and now that I am, I want to make it to the next level. On the hardest days, I think about my opponent [Vinc Pichel]. He is running. There is no way that he is going to outrun me. He is lifting right now. There is no way he will out-lift me or out-train me. There is no way I will let him outwork me.”

Whiteley takes his role as a hero seriously. For his fans, he promises to never hold back. He won’t fight “not to lose,” and you can bet that when he strides into the cage he does so with those fans in mind.

“I am a fan of the sport and I love watching finishes,” Whiteley admitted. “I will always strive to put on a good show and fight like the fighters that I like to watch. I fight to make my son proud.”

If the case for superhero isn’t already made, well, we still haven’t talked about Whiteley’s passion for helping inner-city kids. Indy Boxing and Grappling is not just a great place for developing pro fighters to hone their craft. It’s not just a place where vets can go to heal their wounds and find folks who understand their struggles. It’s also a place where kids with no other role models can go to find themselves.

“When I am not in fight camp, I stay after my practice and help train the kids,” Whiteley said. “These kids are amazing. I can’t imagine what it would have been like to start at that age. And it’s not just MMA and fighting that these kids are learning. They are gaining lifelong lessons about hard work, confidence, showing them how to be healthy, and how working out can be fun.”

Heroes are not born, they are made. They are forged through fires of adversity. They learn to persevere when things seem impossible. Whiteley may not have set out to be a hero, but he is one to the kids he trains, to his colleagues, to the fans and, most importantly, to his wife and son.

Garett would like to thank his sponsors: Revgear and Hayabusa Fight Wear; Indy Boxing and Grappling; coaches Chris Lytle and Pat McPherson; his teammates at the gym; friends and family; and especially his wife Sandy and son Greyson. Follow Whiteley on Twitter: @garettwhiteley

About The Author

Staff Writer

Amber currently resides in Tampa, Fla., a hotbed of MMA. She was introduced to the sport Memorial Day weekend in 2006 and quickly became addicted. Amber loves the fact that the biggest and strongest don’t always win, the respect the competitors show and that women are finally getting their shot. She also writes a blog for Fight It Out gear. When not watching MMA, Amber can be found at the beach playing volleyball, in the gym learning from Tampa’s only female BJJ Black Belt, cheering on her eight-year-old daughter in tae kwon do, or at her day job. She has a girlfriend, daughter, too many dogs and a cat who lives in the attic. Communication highly encouraged at amber at fightitout dot com.