Tyler McGuire will take to the primetime stage at ONE on TNT I in the featured lead card spot opposite Raimond Magomedaliev on April 7. While a possible shot at the ONE Welterweight World Championship hangs in the balance, McGuire competes for something much bigger than a gold belt.
Tyler McGuire Fighting for Autism Awareness
If you have ever watched McGuire make his entrance to the ONE Championship Circle, you will notice he wears a shirt that reads “Autistic Kids Rock.”
His connection with children with autism began before he stepped onto a canvas to compete, and it is an important bond he cherishes today.
McGuire recalled the beginning by saying, “I have a degree in history and social education, and when I was getting my special education certification, one of the things you do is on-the-job training. And you know, that’s what really drove me to kind of like look at special education and say maybe that’s something I want to do with my life.”
“Out of college, I got to start the first program serving students on the autism spectrum in Iowa. There were special education programs that serve students, but this was the first of its type to specifically serve students with autism.”
Tyler McGuire grew from two students to a full-fledged program in a short time and caught the attention of other educators trying to learn the best practices to reach students.
“When I was running my program, all of these Ivy Leagues came in to look at my program because it was having a lot of success. And they asked me what my secret was. I just walked over to their little break area, and we had a velcro target board you can throw a ball at, and it would stick,” McGuire recounted.
“I took a bunch of them, and I threw it as hard as I could. Some of them stuck, and some of them didn’t. I’m like, that’s a visual representation of how I approach my kids. I find a strategy, and I work my tail off with them. If it works, good. If it doesn’t, on to the next.”
But the success of the program was not his only way to give back. As he embarked on his martial arts career, he received the gift that sticks with him to this day.
“One of the parents gave me a shirt that said Autistic Kids Rock, and I was like, it would be kind of cool. I also taught general education. And it kind of helps with a holistic picture of getting my special education kids involved and the gen ed kids too. And then I started wearing it all the time.”
“I started noticing after every fight, I’d have a brother, mom, dad, or whatever telling me their story about having someone they know or loved with autism, and how much it meant that in front of your eyes me walking out and how brazen it was being a bright green shirt.”
“I feel like we all have a calling, and this is my calling, like, this is what I’m supposed to do with this platform I’ve been given.”
“The opportunity of walking out with an Autistic Kids Rock shirt, and having millions of eyes that are maybe seeing that word for the first time ever. It’s kind of a crazy ride,” says McGuire.
The United States Airman has turned down sponsorship money to keep pushing that message forward. Now ahead of his lead card match against a formidable Russian contender, Tyler McGuire will be an official ambassador for the Fighting For Autism group.
The Iowa native also has his daughter on his mind when he makes these important decisions. The fearless survivor instructor wants to set an example of how she can continue to bring light into the world.
“I’ve got a five-year-old daughter at home, and she’s going to look back, and she’s going to ask me, what was it like? Every parent wants to be a role model for their kid, and we’re raising her to be a Christian and to show love for others.”
“If I have this big platform and I’m only using it for self-gain, that’s not a very Christian way to do things. That’s what it does for me.”
McGuire is encouraged by the progression of education and early detection that has been done in recent years. He still has his fingers on the pulse of the advancements being made to serve the autism community better.
“We’ve come a long way, but we still have a long way to go. I think that we’re seeing a lot of success.”
“There’s a lot of passionate educators out there that care about these kids. That’s why I feel like my part is helping them further that.”
“These kids on the spectrum truly have a special place in my heart. To see the fact that they’re benefiting from this, that means more than the money.”
Tyler McGuire takes on Raimond Magomedaliev at ONE on TNT I on the lead card at 8:30 p.m. ET/5:30 p.m. PT on B/R Live. The main card begins on TNT at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT.