I’ve been taught that as a writer you should never write from a personal standpoint. I don’t know how to not do that here. So here it goes. News broke locally this morning that Corey Hill had passed away from complications due to pneumonia and a failed lung.
I moved back to Florida in 2008. Not long after my Mom told me that there was an MMA fighter living across the street from us. I thought that was cool but didn’t give it much thought. MMA fighters to me at the time were larger than life beings that you only saw on television and would never come in contact with in real life. My mother worked with his mother at a local elementary school which his children also attended. At some point she asked him to come see me as I was going through a hard time. One day the doorbell rang and I opened it to find this frighteningly tall man with the biggest smile you could imagine. He introduced himself and said it was nice to meet me. He handed me some items which I still have to this day; a shirt and some autographed flyers. It was an awesome moment for me.
I was an average MMA fan at best at that point. I knew the UFC and I was familiar with Pride FC and Strikeforce. I had watched the sport quite casually and never really got into it up to then. He mentioned that he had an upcoming fight and he hoped for my support. I told him sure thing and indeed I did. His upcoming fight was the one that most MMA fans will remember him for, unfortunately. It was a fight at UFC: Fight for the Troops in December of 2008 which he lost by the infamous broken leg to Dale Hartt. That was the height of his fame in MMA. He went on to have some success with the XFC and Complete Devastation MMA. I can remember how hungry he was to get back into training and fighting after the broken leg. One day my Grandmother had suggested we take some stuff over to him. He seemed so gracious upon receiving these minuscule items and was very thankful.
Over the years I ran into him from time to time and though we were rarely in touch, if our paths crossed it always involved a few moments of catching up. There was never a moment where he seemed any les that completely full of life and loving every moment. I would see him at local fights supporting other teammates. The last time I saw him it was when he came into Gator MMA, which he did often, to do some rolling and training with a bunch of the young fighters and BJJ practitioners. I got the opportunity to roll with him a bit and it was wonderful. His knowledge on the mats was only surpassed by his compassion and humility as a human being.
Because of him I became a true fan of MMA. The love for MMA that sparked in me the day he came to my house gave me the drive and desire to become more involved with the sport. I have made wonderful relationships and met some of the greatest people in the world through this sport and I owe it to Corey.
Corey passed away at the age of 36. He is survived by his wife and three children.
Rest in peace Corey, you were the real deal.