Tribal member on rise in mixed martial arts
By Adrian Vore
“I wanted to fight all the time,” he said.
He scared people.
“I liked having the tough reputation,” said Zwicker, 27. “Some people were my friends because they feared me.”
Thinking back today to that fear, he said, “I hated that.”
Zwicker still fights, but not in the street. All his fights are as a professional mixed martial arts competitor with one of the top teams in the country. He'll take his 6-0 record into the ring tomorrow night in Ontario at the Citizens Business Bank Arena.
The arena will be filled with supporters, friends and family members who view Zwicker as a role model and source of pride for American Indians.
“The tribe looks at him today as an individual who has turned his life around. Kids look up to him,” said Michael Contreras, president of economic development for the San Pasqual Band of Mission Indians, Zwicker's tribe.
Zwicker lives in Valley Center with his wife, Carla; 2½-year-old son, Duke; and 1½-year-old daughter, Maniya.
His journey from brawler to professional athlete, respected member of his tribe and family man took him to Juvenile Hall, group homes, foster homes, Indian youth homes, the California Youth Authority and finally to state prison, where he experienced a spiritual awakening that changed his life and ended the street violence.
“Once I hear the drums, I'm going to war,” Zwicker said. “I know I can't lose.”
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Below: "Virgil Zwicker said he tries to instill pride and strength in the children on Indian reservations. 'I embrace my role as a fighter—a fighter for my community.'" (John Gastaldo/Union-Tribune)