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Rayden Overbay feeling love from MMA community after VIP treatment at Bellator 233

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THACKERVILLE, Okla. – The past few months have been a rollercoaster ride for 12-year-old Rayden Overbay.

It would be difficult for anyone, regardless of age, to deal with the challenges Rayden deals with on a day-to-day basis. Dealing with ADHD, ADD, Autism Spectrum Disorder, diabetes and deafness in one ear, Rayden’s plate is full.

Being bullied and beaten by his classmates turned an already tough situation into a nightmare. That’s when Rayden went viral.

In October, Rayden was interjected into the international conversation on bullying when videos of him being punched in a school bathroom and jumped by numerous classmates outside the school swept across the internet. The videos touched and aggravated viewers all over the world. Rayden’s parents began receiving messages of support and help offerings from all walks of life.

While many people had good intentions, Rayden’s father, Danny Overbay, told MMA Junkie it became difficult for him to decipher who was genuinely trying to help out his son and who was in it to help themselves.

“We had several people reach out to us like, ‘Hey we want to represent you. We want to do this. We want to do that,'” Danny Overbay said. “After going through some of the Facebook (posts) and stuff and looking at those people reaching out, they were just doing it for numbers of kids. ‘How many kids I got to help today,’ or whatever – just to get their name bigger.”

Despite the attention, Overbay said he wasn’t trying to make his child’s situation into a publicity stunt. All he wanted to do was find solutions for the problems at hand.

Enter Bellator heavyweight Justin Wren.

Wren reached out to the family and offered help without any strings attached. All Wren wanted to do, according to Overbay, was offer to be Rayden’s friend. The gesture came across as genuine and went a long way with the Overbay family.

“What made us choose Justin so much and what he’s got going is he personally reached out to me through Facebook Messenger and left me a few short messages about how he wanted to be a part of my son’s life,” Overbay said. “And he just wanted to help out and step up and give him the friend he needed who wasn’t his dad. And that to me means a lot.

“… He took a bad situation, and he’s made it nothing but positive. That’s for (Rayden), for his little brother, for me, for his mom. It just touches me as a dad to know Justin and I fall from the same tree when it comes to the path Rayden’s on.”

Rayden had been bullied heavily in the past, but at this past Friday’s Bellator 233 event in Thackerville, Okla., it was nothing but love. Alongside Wren and fellow Bellator fighters Rafael Lovato Jr. and Gerald Harris, Rayden was a special guest at Friday’s event. Rayden and his newfound Bellator friends even got to be introduced by Michael C. Williams and be on the big screens at WinStar World Casino and Resort.

Wren’s charitable ventures have been documented in the past. A rising UFC heavyweight, Wren walked away from MMA after struggles with drugs, alcohol and mental health. He eventually turned his life around and made it his mission to help out the Pygmy people of the Congo in Africa. He started a nonprofit organization, Fight for the Forgotten, which helps provide clean drinking water to the tribes.

Wren, who admitted he was picked on throughout his youth, said his organization now expands to another “forgotten” group: bullied children.

“Taking up the cause ‘Stand with Rayden,’ I was in the same shoes as him – so was his dad, and even Rafael,” Wren said. “Growing up, (we’d) gotten bullied. Our mission for Fight for the Forgotten has expanded beyond just the Pygmy people who were suppressed and the most bullied group on the planet. But now also here Stateside, we’ve been working on a bully-prevention curriculum for well over a year now.

“When this happened, it was just serendipitous or synchronicity. It was supposed to happen – how do we turn this really bad thing into something really good and positive for Rayden, his brother Brock, his family, the community?”

Lovato, Bellator’s middleweight champion, lives in Oklahoma, as does Rayden. The 36-year-old fighter plans on training Rayden and his brother Brock in MMA starting in early 2020.

“It was right in our backyard, so it was even more responsibility to jump in, and I’m looking forward to having Rayden and his brother Brock join my martial arts academy very soon,” Lovato said. “… We can’t wait to have Rayden on the mats and learning the martial arts lifestyle – empowering him through martial arts and just continue the work that Justin started and keep spreading the love in martial arts throughout for all the kids.”

A GoFundMe page has been set up in Rayden’s name. The money raised will go toward providing Rayden with a new home, so he no longer has to live with his grandparents. Additionally, it will help pay for Rayden’s medical bills and more.

Gallery

Photos: Bellator 233 ceremonial weigh-ins

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