“Stay in the fight, and you will find a way to win”: UAB alumnus and instructor competes in The World Games 2022

Matthew McKenzie, UAB instructor and alumnus, will represent the Blazers and Team USA on the international stage during The World Games 2022.

mm streamMatthew McKenzie will represent the Blazers and Team USA on the international stage during The World Games 2022. Photography: Andrea MabryWhen Matthew McKenzie experienced a stroke as a child, he could easily have let his dream of becoming a professional athlete fade away. But that was not an option for him. He knew he wanted to compete at a level in a sport he loved. He decided to fight back and find a way to fulfill his dream.

That fight has carried him all the way to The World Games 2022, where he will compete for the United States of America in the para division of jiu jitsu. The best part about competing at the games for McKenzie — the competition is in his own backyard.

“Since I’m a native of Birmingham, it is amazing to travel these roads every day and now see people from all over the world who traveled here to compete in The World Games,” he said. “This is a wonderful opportunity to represent my country, my state and the great city of Birmingham.”

The Hoover, Alabama, resident is an alumnus of the University of Alabama at Birmingham and a current adjunct professor in the UAB School of Education and has been competing in the sport for four and a half years. He previously competed in jiu jitsu championships across the country before making his way to the international stage to compete with athletes from across the globe.

Inside TWG jiujitsu M mabry matthewmckenzie 063 20220712Photography: Andrea Mabry“As a local, I have been able to be an ambassador to the other athletes who are here competing,” he said. “I have tried to be a helper and guide to them for anything, whether it is telling them where to get some amazing food or showing them where The World Games Merchant Market is — it has been a wonderful experience.”

But more than anything, McKenzie is ready to take the stage and finally do what he has been working toward for so long.  

“We athletes are excited to share with the world what we have worked for to get here to the games.”

McKenzie will compete Friday, July 15, at Bill Battle Coliseum. To purchase tickets to the event, visit twg2022.com.