Isaiah Bird, a 6-year-old LI wrestler, becomes an inspiration to Chris Weidman, others
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LAS VEGAS - The happiest person in this town won no slot-machine jackpot. No big poker tournament.
Instead, Isaiah Bird, a 6-year-old Long Island boy who was born with no legs, won the admiration of UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman and everyone else he met during his all-expenses paid trip here for UFC 175.
"He's a wonderful, beautiful kid. He's just full of life," UFC chairman Lorenzo Fertitta told Newsday. "He's got a lot of energy, he tried to take me down."
Fertitta said he saw Weidman tweeting about his fundraiser for Isaiah last month and wanted to help both his champion and Isaiah, who wrestles with the Long Beach Gladiators.
Weidman's fundraiser at his Power MMA gym in Garden City on June 1 raised $14,000 that day, which helped Bird get a customized wheelchair -- his first -- and established a trust fund for him.
"He's 6 years old and he's inspiring people," Weidman said. "At 6 years old."
And Weidman is inspiring Bird.
"He's great and he's thankful," Bird said. "He's humble and he listens a lot, and he's tough, and he gets to punch people."
Bird, who was born in East Meadow, placed third in his age group and weight class at the New York Kid Wrestling Championships at Bay Shore in March, then finished sixth in a national tournament named "War at the Shore" in New Jersey.
Isaiah and his family were close to moving into a new apartment in Long Beach, but his wrestling coach and special teaching assistant Miguel Rodriguez said the arrangement fell through late. Isaiah and his mother still live in a shelter in Freeport, but Rodriguez said they also spend a lot of time at his home in Long Beach.
"Maybe just bringing him out to the big event and experiencing it, maybe create some memories that he'll remember for the rest of his life and maybe even get him more interested in pursuing wrestling," Fertitta said.
The UFC will auction off Weidman's walkout shirt, fight shorts and gloves along with Machida's walkout shirt and hand wraps from Saturday's UFC 175 main event. Zuffa LLC, parent company of the UFC, will match the final bid and the total money raised will be donated to Bird's trust fund.
Machida, a father of two boys, said he had "no hesitation" when approached by the UFC about donating fight gear to for the fundraiser.
While in Vegas, Bird learned how to swim at the pool, wrestled with and tapped out former UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz, met dozens of fighters and been interviewed by nearly every media outlet here for international fight week. "The best part was going in the pool," Bird said. "I could be a lifeguard when I grow up. I'm gonna be coach, a teacher and I'm gonna have one kid."
Weidman said, "People look at him and they feel bad for him. "He doesn't feel bad for himself."