The inspirational tales: Two men willing to overcome any adversity

The indestructible Aymeric Riandet (c) should benefit big time from the three months of training with ex-pro boxers, now full time boxing trainers, Martinez (l) and Lucky. All photos: Jim Wyatt

The unwavering Aymeric Riandet of New Caledonia, France (c) benefited big time from the three months of training with ex-pro boxers, now instructors, Ernesto Martinez (l) and Phineas “Lucky” Nhlengethwa (r). Photo: J. Wyatt

The Aymeric Riandet story

You’re all of 16 years of age, and everyone from New Caledonia to Marseille, France is whispering in your ear, “You’re a can’t miss National Judo Champion soon to be World Champion. Dude, you’ve beaten everybody in your weight class and age bracket. You’re unbeatable!” 


Then, in an instant, your whole world crumbles. It’s all taken away. You’re suddenly a quadriplegic and told you may never walk again. This is what happened when Aymeric Riandet took a tumble in a Judo match in November of 2004. He suffered a fractured vertebra when driven head-first into the ground. The top of his spinal column had been fractured and an emergency anterior cervical fusion and discectomy at the C4-C5 level was done. A metal plate was inserted. For a month, he just laid there in traction with a tube in his mouth. Unable to speak or assist himself in any way, the nurses applied ice and electrical stimulation treatments to help control his pain and inflammation. With 93% of his body paralyzed, his existence had become a nightmare.  

Little by little his pain lessened as the fracture healed. However, the fracture had changed the way his spine operated and some lingering soreness in the muscles and joints remained. After six weeks, doctors had him begin a period of physical therapy to combat the loss in muscle tone. Treatments to improve his posture were a combination of flexibility and strength exercises. A therapist showed his parents how to use massage and other hands-on treatments to ease the pain and muscle spasms. Therapists began to work with his body mechanics. The training helped him keep his back in safe positions and avoid extra strain near the fracture as he went about his limited activities. Training included positions he’d have to use when sitting, lying or possibly standing, the safe body mechanics to use while lifting, pushing, or pulling.

The reason for spending so much time talking about Aymeric Riandet’s rehabilitation is our way of illustrating the tenacity it must have taken, especially when each day felt like a week, a week like a month and a month like a year. Step by step, with the help of his loving parents and friends, Aymeric Riandet progressed to the point where he had reversed that 93% paralysis to a 93% normalcy.

Fast forward to October 26, 2013, eight years and 11 months since the dreaded accident, and there was Aymeric Riandet in the fighters’ dressing area making ready for his first Octagon Fight Club fight in Belgium. After stretching and hitting the mitts, all that was left was that long walk to the Octagon for his first fight as an MMA professional. As he climbed the steps to enter the cage, you know his heart must have been thumping and in the recesses of his mind were the misgivings. How could he be 100% certain that he was ready, especially when there was still a ligament here and a muscle there that had yet to respond to the therapy? Looking across at his fit opponent, it all registered, ‘this guy has been preparing for many moons, perhaps years, with the intent of hurting someone and that someone is me. I’ve been a victim once and now I’m right back here to face the same unpredictable and dangerous circumstances that befell me nine years ago.’

In that match, Aymeric Riandet went the distance against Louis Sanna who was also making his first professional start. Sanna won a narrow split decision victory. The video of that fight is just a click away.

The following Monday after that fight, Aymeric Riandet was right back in the gym working harder than ever on what he had perceived to be his deficiencies.

Thrill seekerMountain biking

(top panel, left) Aymeric Riandet his father traveling up to the snow covered mountains for some fun.

(top, left) Daredevil Aymeric Riandet is photographed with his Dad while they drive up into the snow-covered mountains in France for some unusual bike riding. Also, in this collage of photos, we see Riandet doing some wild and crazy diving and bike riding. Should we lock him up for his own good?

When an opportunity to travel to the United States presented itself, Riandet was gung-ho. It wasn’t your usual sightseeing vacation, he came with three of his countrymen to train for three months at The Arena MMA gym ( in Point Loma, San Diego, Calif. and while visiting the U. S. he would get to see his first, live Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC) show in Las Vegas.

During his training at The Arena, Riandet worked tirelessly on his boxing, Muay Thai and MMA skills and even competed in the boxing portion of the gym’s 5th Anniversary show which was held on March 8, 2014.

Knowing Riandet would be moving on, his mates at The Arean MMA gym got together for this photo. (l to r) James Ewton, Tony Mejia, Riandet Aymeric, Charles Martinez, Robert Marsters, Teiki Nauta and Here Dudes.

Knowing full well Riandet would be moving on, his mates at The Arena MMA gym got together for this photo. (l to r) James Ewton, Tony Mejia, Riandet Aymeric, coach Charles Martinez, Robert Marsters, Teiki Nauta, and Here Dudes.

Thursday, March 14, he finished his final day of two-a-day classes. The following day, Riandet and his coach/good friend Ferrid “Hurricane” Kheder headed to LAX for their flight home to Belgium where Riandet’s girlfriend awaited their arrival. Instead of being a victim for a lifetime, Riandet faced his challenge and in his own way conquered it. Within a short time, Riandet was again competing for Team Duca in the local OFC MMA shows.

Aymeric Riandet poses for a photo with his temporary coach/mentor Ferrid “The Hurricane” Kheder (r) at The Arena MMA gym in Point Loma, San Diego, CA. Kheder is also a Frenchman, a Judo, MMA, BJJ, Grappling, Pancrase and Sambo coach, former Olympian with 13 National Titles, two European Championships, four Super World Cup's (Grand Slams) and several other World Cups to his credit. He’s a lifetime gladiator who travels the world to train, teach and compete. Photo: Jim Wyatt

Aymeric Riandet (l) poses for one last photo with his coach/mentor Ferrid “The Hurricane” Kheder at The Arena gym in Point Loma. Kheder, also a Frenchman, is a Judo, MMA, BJJ, Grappling, Pancrase and Sambo coach, former Olympian with 13 National Titles, two European Championships, winner of four Super World Cup’s (Grand Slams) and several World Cups. Like Riandet, he plans to be a lifetime gladiator who travels the world training, teaching and competing. Photo: J. Wyatt

A similar tale reached us through Facebook, a second young man with incredible resilience Detroit’s Ross Capicchioni – Part 1
                                                                            Part 2 of Ross Capicchioni’s amazing tale

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