(Props to Mirror UK.)
Mackens Semerzier had just dropped a decision to Deividas Taurosevicius at WEC 46 on January 10, the first loss of his MMA career, and the 29-year-old was probably feeling as if his world had been turned upside down. But that was nothing compared to what he was about to find out had taken place nearly 1500 miles away.
“It almost was surreal,” Semerzier exhales when explaining his emotions as he heard about the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that left Haiti’s capital Port-Au-Prince in ruin and killed tens of thousands of its inhabitants. A son of Haitian immigrants, Semerzier was born in Miami and grew up in a neighborhood called Little Haiti – a section inhabited by Haitian immigrants and considered one of the poorer areas in Miami. But La Petite Haiti also has a strong sense of history as a statue of The General Toussaint L’Ouverture – the father of Haitian independence – stands as a reminder of the adversity the Haitian people have dealt with for years.
In the late 1700s, Haiti was established by the French as a colony to grow sugar using African slave labor. But the slaves revolted in 1791 – led by the aforementioned L’Ouverture – and ended the French oppression after a 12 year long war. On January 1, 1804, Haiti made history as the first independent black republic. Unfortunately, that freedom came at a price and the small country paid –and is still paying – dearly.
An international boycott of Haitian products due to the concept that freed slaves were dangerous, a monstrous debt to the French and a lack of social infrastructure are just a few of the reasons that Haiti is recognized as the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.
According to Globalissues.org, Haiti currently resides as the third hungriest country in the world, has a life expectancy of 55 years for women and 53 years for men and their literacy rate is slightly above 60%. Not to mention that 78% of Haitians live on less than $2 US per day. It’s a pretty sad state for the first independent black republic.
Semerzier is aware of Haiti’s troubled history and understands that the small country has been in dire need of assistance well before the earthquake hit.
“It’s not a situation where people don’t want to learn or do better for themselves; they’re just not able to,” Semezier continues. “You come from a situation where you can’t take care of yourself, your parents cannot provide for you and once you grow up, you don’t have the education yourself.”
“I think that’s what some people have frowned upon,” he continues when explaining the blind eye that has been turned to Haiti for years until now. “Aside from the natural disasters (people think that) Haiti’s situations have been brought on by themselves and that simply is not the case.”
Semerzier is of Haitian descent but fellow fighter David Loiseau has witnessed firsthand how bad the conditions are there. Born in Haiti before relocating to Montreal, Quebec, Canada as a young boy, Loiseau remembers how life in Haiti was extremely difficult growing up.
“Even before the earthquake, life was pretty bad down there,” the fighter known as “The Crow” explains. “There’s a lot of violence. It’s a poor country so already the people down there didn’t have it easy. People fight to make it every day. Now that the earthquake has happened, it is even more devastating to them. They already had nothing, so now they are simply just trying to survive.”
Loiseau admits that although he hasn’t visited Haiti in some time, he is very close to his family in Port-au-Prince and remains in contact with them. When word hit that the earthquake hit his native country, Loiseau was understandably distressed more than most.
“It didn’t really sink in when I first heard about the earthquake,” he says. “But when I heard that it was a 7.0 magnitude and thousands of people were missing, that’s when I started panicking. The first 48 hours I couldn’t get a hold of my immediate family in Haiti. It was very stressful.”
Fortunately, Loiseau would find out from his mother that his grandparents and uncles living in Haiti were safe. But his extended family wouldn’t be as fortunate. The 96-year-old cousin of Loiseau’s grandmother would be unable to escape her collapsing home while a close friend’s mother also passed away from the devastation.
Semerzier also had to worry about the families of his Haitian wife and mother who were also trapped on the island with no means of communication.
“My mother was distraught, my wife was distraught, her family was distraught and I’m was just coming back from Sacramento and having to deal with all these emotions when I don’t even know what is going on myself,” he explains. “I’m just trying to calm everyone else down and be the rock in the family.”
Nearly six days after the devastation hit, Semerzier found that his family was fortunate enough to survive the devastation. Regardless of knowing that his immediate family is safe, Semerzier still finds it difficult to deal with what is going on overseas.
“I read about this little girl whose family was crushed by the rubble and she sat next to her dead parents for almost a week before she finally was pulled out,” he recalls. “It was just hard to watch humans having to go through that. It’s very difficult, but when it is your people it is even more difficult. It’s not just a human attachment. Those are my people who I share a nationality with. I look, act and talk like them. It really hits close to home.”
Loiseau has made it no secret that he would like fight on a grand stage and see 100% of his fight purse donated to the troubled land that still has hundreds of thousands either dead or displaced. He has spoken to any media outlet that will listen and wants to make sure the world hears his pleas to make a difference.
“I had a great idea to fight in a big event,” Loiseau says. “I would donate all of my purse and sponsorships to the Haiti relief fund. I know that if I fight in a big show with the sponsors knowing I am donating to Haiti (that) I’m going to get thousands of dollars sent. This is my goal to send as much as I can.”
Despite multiple reports that his upcoming MFL2 fight was to be for charity, Loiseau explains that the stories which state he will be donating his entire purse and sponsorship, as well as $2 from each ticket sold going to Red Cross, are false.
“Not true,” he wrote via text when asked about the rumors. Clearly unhappy with the distribution of wrong information, Loiseau cited the reports as “not cool” and says he is still pursuing a larger stage for his charity fight. “My management is still contacting big shows to promote that charity fight. It won’t be on the MFL show.”
As of now, those calls to the bigger shows have yet to be answered. Loiseau still holds out hope that he will land a fight that will earn his native country thousands of dollars in aid relief. Semerzier has also yet to hear what the WEC plans to do for Haiti, but did mention that the PR department has been helping spread the word by posting his YouTube video and any press that he does on the subject on the WEC website.
“I didn’t do (the YouTube video) because I thought I was going to get a tremendous amount of hits,” he says. “The reason I did it was because I felt I had the responsibility to inform. I have people coming to my blog just to see what I’m going to eat for breakfast. Now that something important has come up, this is my chance to put it out there. I’m just glad so many people saw it and are paying attention.”
“The responses have been great,” he reveals when asked if his video and messages on Twitter have had any impact. “My sponsors have really stepped up. They don’t just talk the talk, they walk the walk also.” Several sponsors, including MMA Warehouse, have been giving percentages of all merchandise sold to charitable organizations on Semerzier’s behalf.
Both fighters have expressed their desire to return to Haiti and assist with the relief efforts. As much as they mean to the MMA community, they both understand that they mean even more to their country at this particular time and are willing to do whatever it takes to help get Haiti back to its feet.
“Absolutely,” Semerzier answers when asked if he will be going back to assist with the relief efforts. “I’m just waiting to see. We cannot just get on a plane and go. We have to plan accordingly. I’m hoping that trip will come soon.”
Loiseau also has plans to return to Haiti. “It is my duty to go down there and help. I can afford to go, so I am. I’m trying to gather up people and send out a message for everyone to unite and give,” he explains.
Even more important than the right now is the next few months and years. Both fighters make it a point to explain that rebuilding Haiti is something that will not happen in a couple of months.
“This is going to be a long term rebuilding of the country,” Loiseau says. “It’s not something where you can give money now and forget about Haiti forever. It is a long process and we have to stick to the plan and be consistent with the help.”
Spreading the word and being active within their communities isn’t something that both fighters simply want to do, they express their need to do it.
“You have to be responsible,” Semerzier says. “You can’t have the ear of so many people and not use it in a positive way.”
“It’s very important,” Loiseau echoes. “It’s important to me to spread the message. It is my duty as a fighter that comes from Haitian descent. Both of my parents are 100% Haitian. I’m helping myself by helping them. This is where I come from, these are my roots and it just feels natural to me to help as much as I can. That is how I was brought up (to) help people when they are in need. I just wish I could do more.”
“We’re not actors or even as popular as football and basketball players,” Semezier continues. “People don’t recognize me outside the MMA community. But within the MMA community I’m popular, especially with the hardcore fans. I have an opportunity to speak to those people and just bring awareness. Maybe they flipped through the channels when it was on CNN but now Mack is talking about it so they want to find out more.”
As the days pass, both Semerzier and Loiseau will do whatever they can to make an impact. Loiseau will stay busy spreading the word as he prepares his February 27th fight in Canada. Semerzier is looking to return to action and rebound from his first WEC loss in the spring. But that won’t stop him from continuing his call to action and making sure that one point is heard across the globe.
“Let’s not be Americans or Haitians or any other nationality, let’s all be human.”
Visit the Red Cross to donate to Haiti relief funds.