E. Rockaway man achieves fighting dream


Injuries didn’t stop mixed martial arts fighter Charlie “The Cannibal” Campbell, 28, from re-entering the cage and fighting for his lifelong dream.

Starting at 10 years old as a wrestler on the Lynbrook Titans wrestling team, Campbell had his mind set on becoming an Ultimate Fighting Championship fighter. He nearly gave up on that dream after losing in Dana White’s Contender Series in August 2022, a show that gives up-and-coming fighters the chance to showcase their talents in the hope of earning a UFC contract. The upset only motivated Campbell to persevere, as he went back to his East Rockaway home to recuperate and then train.

“I got back into the gym after that fight, and unfortunately I took another serious injury,” Campbell said. “And the concussions can be very scary, and I wanted to be persistent and have that ‘never give up’ mentality, but when your cognitive abilities start to be hindered, it can be very scary.”

Campbell said he had to look really deep within himself and find how badly he wanted to fulfill his dream. After coming up short in the 2022 fight, he realized that he had  devoted so much time and energy to making this dream a reality that he wasn’t going to give up.

“I decided that you know what, I have come this far, I know I can do it, I have committed my whole life to this dream, and I want to be in the UFC,” Campbell said. “I’ll die trying at this point.”

He said he had a lot of supporters during the 2022 fight who truly believed he was going to win. So when Campbell, with a record of 6 wins and 1 loss before the fight, didn’t win, he lost a lot of his confidence. However, after winning a fight in June of 2023, Campbell said he remembered why he was selected to be on Dana White’s show in the first place.

“I knew I belonged, but I just had to go out there and prove it again,” Campbell said after his July, 2023 fight.

Now that he felt physically better, Campbell wanted to also strengthen his mental resilience and emotional well-being through sports psychology. He said that this opened him up to a “whole realm” of mental techniques and mental learning.

Some of Campbell’s mental training involves desensitizing the moments leading up to his fights. He said that he doesn’t let himself treat any of his matches like the Super Bowl, but rather like an ordinary Sunday afternoon football game. He does this to limit his performance anxiety and so with his physical and mental shape in top notch, Campbell received a phone call in September to fight in the UFC.

“This fight revolved around ‘can Charlie Campbell still be that aggressive fighter’,” Campbell said. “When I came in, I wanted to say ‘hey, I’m not only that aggressive fighter, but I’m better than before when I lost (in 2022)’.”

Campbell said he was able to successfully prove that he is a completely new, better fighter after he won. Campbell finally achieved his dream of becoming a UFC fighter after nearly two decades of chasing this goal. His biggest drive was the support he had from his family and friends over the past 18 years.

“What kept me going was proving to myself that I could do this and also proving that to my family and close friends, who had the patience to see somebody strive for a dream where there’s not much financial gain in the long run,” Campbell said.

Now that Campbell finally arrived in the UFC, his new focus is climbing the ranks. Currently, Campbell is a lightweight contender. He said he would like to be within the top 15 fighters in his weight class.

“I’d also like to become a millionaire,” Campbell said. “I’d like to venture out into other businesses as an entrepreneur and use the UFC platform to do that.”

Campbell’s next UFC fight is for April 6. To prepare for that, he distributes his time and energy every day focusing on different parts of his MMA training.

“It’s very difficult,” Campbell said about his training. “Every day, it (the training) pushes your endurance and your cardiovascular health.”

Campbell said he often works out twice a day, about five days a week. One of those days, he explained, he will do boxing in the morning and then jib jets with submission defense at night.

On the day of his next fight, Campbell said he will be setting up a watch party so locals can cheer him on. The details of the watch party aren’t complete yet, but he said to stay tuned for more information to his social media accounts at CharlieTheCannibal on Instagram or Charlie The Cannibal Campbell on Facebook.