Former Street Fighter, Now Community Leader
Eugene Jackson grew up in East Palo Alto, in a multiracial family—his father was black and Filipino, his mother white. When he was young, his father died of a drug overdose, and after losing his father figure, Eugene began falling in with the wrong crowd. He earned a reputation in his community as a thug. It was a struggle for him to leave that life behind, to escape the cycle of violence and gang activity that he found himself in.
Then he found martial arts. Eugene was already trained in rough street fighting, but he found a whole new world in professional mixed martial arts (MMA). It was, he says, the thing that saved him.
He fought professionally in the UFC and Strikeforce. MMA fighting afforded Eugene glimpses into an entirely new world, where gangs and turf wars and wanton violence did not define life. After a successful career as a professional fighter, he came back to East Palo Alto to coach youth in channeling their energy into martial arts and professional fighting as well.
Eugene also works to support youth in juvenile detention get back into and remain in school. He is founder of the Rogue Empire, a community-based initiative to bring together all of his community work—training, tutoring, mentorship, outreach—under one common mission.
From fighting in the streets, to now fighting to get kids off the streets.
This is his story.
To hear Eugene share hard-earned life lessons, click on his photo above. Also, check out Eugene's feature in TIME Magazine for his incredible work in the community!