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MMA fighter becomes 2nd-best powerlifter in America after brain tumor diagnosis

Updated: Jun. 18, 2021 at 6:50 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Powerlifting wasn’t in the plan for Topeka gym owner Holly Torrez.

“I got into boxing, they ran out of females to fight, so I transitioned into MMA,” Torrez said.

Her fighting career was on track, until a life-changing diagnosis in 2016.

“I got knocked out in one of my fights and found out I had a tumor,” she said.

Doctors told Torrez she had a tumor in her brain about the size of a half dollar.

“According to my scans I had over 24 concussions, and at that time I was 25, 26 years old,” she said. “Everyone thinks that my head trauma was from MMA, but I actually I feel like MMA saved my life, because had I not got knocked out, I never would have known about having a brain tumor.”

After monitoring the tumor for about two years, Torrez had surgery to remove it in March 2018.

It was a success, but her brain trauma left her with health complications.

Her fighting career was over — so she pivoted.

“Powerlifting I can actually do,” she said, “It doesn’t affect any of my medical issues — the nerve pain that I have, or the chronic headaches. It doesn’t trigger a seizure.”

Today, she owns her own Topeka gym appropriately named Resilience Training.

“I’m the biggest believer in no excuses,” she said. “I don’t consider it an excuse or a setback or the reason I’m not able to do something. It’s just, ‘Okay, well that didn’t work, so we’ll find something else and do something else.’”

With her newfound passion, she trained heavily — eventually qualifying for USA Powerlifting Nationals earlier this month, where she broke Kansas’s bench record.

She expected to call it a day there.

“I said, ‘Okay, it’s not a big deal. I knew coming here that I wasn’t going to place, and that’s fine. I’m fine with that. I got my bench record, I had many small victories today for my own self, and I made it here, so that’s cool. I’m just going to pack up my stuff,’” she said.

Then, they called her name. She placed second in the nation.

“I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh, wow.’ I don’t even know. I don’t have an emotion to even put with what I felt. I’m still kind of in shock,” she said.

Torrez’s journey with her health isn’t over. Doctors found another tumor, non-cancerous on her pituitary gland, in 2019. Her health team continues to monitor it.

“It’s a part of my story, but it’s not who I am,” she said. “I ran out of gas, and then I got gas, and now I’m up and running again.”

You can find more information about Torrez’s gym here, or on Resilience Training’s Facebook page.

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