Since he can remember, Cody Purtell has been battling – his opponents being personal demons and, more recently, fellow Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighters bent on hurting him.
The 23-year-old Bancroft native, known professionally as The Constrictor, is now fighting the good fight on behalf of Cam’s Kids, promoting the mission and work of the foundation every chance he gets. With his fifth professional bout September 9 at Medicine Hat’s Canalta Centre to be aired live on The Fight Network, he sees a glorious opportunity to take that effort to a new level.
“I’m trying to get a banner made up with Cam’s Kids all over it,” says Cody, adding he has a generous supply of foundation bookmarks he hands out and chats up Cam’s Kids constantly, urging others to visit the foundation website and learn more.
“If I can help, I’m going to. It’s the least I can do for a fallen brother.”
Cody doesn’t use the term “brother” lightly. He and Cam’s brother Andrew befriended each other years ago, hanging out together in grade school and on the soccer pitch. In addition, Cody spent some time over several summers at the Hicks’ cottage on Eels Lake where he got to know Cam.
“The Hicks brought me into their family. I was their brother. I was their son. I didn’t come from the tightest family. When I got to meet the Hicks, I was like ‘Holy…family is actually this.”
Describing himself as “always a super athletic kid,” Cody gravitated to wrestling in high school High school championships came his way and he competed nationally as a member of the Kawartha Olympic Wrestling Club. Post-high school found Cody working in Fort McMurray, Alberta. It was there his interest in a professional MMA career took root.
“Things were good but then one of my wrestling friends passed away and I wasn’t in the greatest state of mind,” recalls Cody, noting that struggle was compounded by his frustration over not being to afford to train to achieve his MMA fighting dream. When he moved back to Ontario, his troubles began as he sold drugs to finance his ambition.
“I got introduced to the wrong things…my head wasn’t on right,” says Cody, acknowledging his leading police on a high-speed Highway 401 chase “was the biggest mistake of my life” – a mistake he’s still paying for with the ongoing suspension of his driver’s licence.
“I was a little twerp,” understates Cody,” adding, “You either break or you keep going.”
Cody indeed broke but, to his immense credit, he has set a new course that has him equal parts excited and grateful. When he steps into the ring next month against Vancouver’s Nick Ghaeni at Fight Night Medicine Hat 4, it will mark yet another huge step in his journey to redemption as well as his determination to sing the praises of Cam’s Kids at every opportunity.
“Every time I think of the Hicks family losing Cam, I’m like ‘Wow, how can they be so positive?’ But nothing can break their spirit. They have each other.”
A personal trainer leading classes at UFC Gym North in Edmonton, Cody’s goal is fight his way to the top of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) ladder. And for all the grief his past poor choices caused him, he notes that experience served to teach him an invaluable lesson.
“So many people walk up the stairs and take one fall and just give up. You’ve got to dream and go, go, go. If you walk up the stairs and fall, you get back up and keep going.”