On Saturday night, The Ultimate Fighter: Bisping vs Miller alum Bryan Caraway will step in the cage for the first time since the finale of that season of the reality series. As is the case with any fight, punches will be thrown, kicks will land and someone may even be choked unconscious. But, come Saturday night, Caraway will be fighting to eliminate bullying.

“I’m advocating and endorsing a program and a new foundation—it’s called the Stand By Me program,” Caraway told the MMA Corner in an exclusive interview. “It’s a youth anti-bullying program that helps fight against kids getting bullied in school and things like that. I’m dedicating this fight to the fight against bullying amongst youth.”

The Yakima, Wa., native was approached by a friend of his, Peter Iacavazzi, a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt and head coach at Team Sylvio Behring BJJ/MMA who is also the founder of the Stand By Me program, to be an advocate on the foundation’s behalf. The program is founded on the philosophy of ending youth bullying by celebrating each others’ differences.

Caraway (L) delivers a right hand (Paul Thatcher/Fight! Magazine)

“Kid Lightning” grew up in a very small town on a large ranch where bull riding and dirt bikes were a way of life. “We were bored country kids, we lived about an hour and a half, two hours from any city. We didn’t have a movie theater in our town at all, we didn’t have anything to do, so we rode horses, rode steers and bulls. When I was little I got my first dirt bike; I was probably four or five years old and started riding dirt bikes. I’ve always loved that tough, rough, outdoors lifestyle.”

The same country lifestyle he grew to love has blossomed into a love of extreme sports, but it was also the basis for his own experiences with bullying.

“When I was younger, there were a few years where I was a little cowboy and we moved to the city and I didn’t fit in there, so I got made fun of a lot for my cowboy hat, my boots and wranglers, and I really got picked on there. It was really tough,” Caraway recalled of his formative years. “It definitely doesn’t feel good. It can really make an impact when you’re at that age—elementary school or junior high—that’s when your mental state of your mind is really developing and growing into being a confident person. I know if affected me. Luckily, I was able to turn it around when I got into high school. Being a better looking guy that got into sports, everything started to change.”

The passion in his voice when talking about his role with the Stand By Me program is as evident as his excitement when the conversation turns toward his upcoming fight. It will be his first time fighting at bantamweight, and he’ll be taking on UFC newcomer Mitch Gagnon.

Caraway (R) (Paul Thatcher/Fight! Magazine)“I feel extremely positive about this fight. I feel really stoked. I think it’s a phenomenal match-up for me. I think Mitch Gagnon is a very tough, very physical guy; he looks very strong,” admitted Caraway of his opponent. “Honestly, I think I hold the advantage everywhere, besides maybe pure physicality. I think I have better technical catch wrestling, better technical jiu jitsu, I think my striking is more technical. He may have more power in both of his hands, but I think my fight IQ is higher than his, and my transition between striking to wrestling to grappling—that’s where I think the biggest gap is going to be, is my transitioning in the fight.”

Aside from pure strength, Caraway is also mindful of Gagnon’s ground game, as all eight of Gagnon’s victories have come by way of submission.

“He’s got, I think, six or seven wins by guillotine. His biceps look as big as my head, so if I get in the wrong position, he can squeeze my head off without even having to be technical, so I definitely need to watch that and be careful.”

When one thinks of a bully, Caraway’s description of Gagnon’s bulging biceps squeezing his head off conjures up a pretty accurate description. Through his efforts with the Stand By Me program and his performance in the cage, Caraway will be hoping for a knockout of not only his opponent Saturday night, but also bullying amongst today’s youth.

Bryan would like to thank Yakima MMA, Hayabusa, Lexani Wheels, Knock Out Star, PunchTown, Vicious Fight Gear, VFGinc.org, the Stand By Me program, Discount Lumber, Pendleton Excavating, Ben Cord Photography, Sarge MMA, AJ Investagations, Miesha Tate and Relentless Sports Management

Top Photo: Bryan Caraway (L) has his hand raised in victory (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

About The Author

Paige Berger

Relatively new to the sport of MMA, Paige is a life long athlete. She attended the National Sports Academy in Lake Placid, N.Y., where she was a pioneer member of the women's ice hockey program. She also excelled in softball and soccer before deciding to focus on hockey. Born and raised in New York, she is an avid Yankees fan. Currently residing in Las Vegas, a move she made after falling in love with MMA while training at the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, Calif., she is currently studying public relations and advertising at UNLV.