“I’ve never fought anybody who couldn’t be my son.”
You might have seen the recent videos of an older gentleman competing, and winning, against far younger opponents in Combat Catch Wrestling. The man you’re watching is Victor Morton, who decided to take on his first bout just last year at the ripe age of 55. If you’ve read our article “Four Reasons To Stop Asking If You Are Too Old For Jiu-Jitsu”, well, here is your fifth.
I had the chance to chat with Victor while he was driving to a revival screening of the 1941 film “Sullivan’s Travels”. As a journalist by day and an avid film buff since his early 20s, Morton didn’t take up any form of martial art until he was 45. In fact, in his own words, “I didn’t voluntarily sweat until age 45.”
“I’m only 5’4”, I weighed myself at one point around 2010 or 2011 in my mid 40s and I weighed 250 lbs. And a couple of weeks after that, I saw an early UFC flyweight fight. Both men were 5’4”, and they weighed in at exactly 125 lbs, so I weighed as much as the two of them put together.”
Shortly after, Victor found himself in a Gold’s Gym taking Muay Thai classes for fitness. His body wasn’t accustomed to the heavy toll required for combat sports, but over time he was able to adjust. “My athleticism was never good. And even the best athletes start losing their athleticism in their 40s and 50s. So while I started becoming more athletic, I still had some physical limits in terms of my hips, core, and dexterity.”
As he lost weight and gained passion for the sport, he moved to Capital MMA, progressing from Muay Thai, to Wrestling, to Jiu-Jitsu. Today he weighs 150 pounds. He competed in his first jiu-jitsu tournament in 2020, then Combat Catch Wrestling in 2020 and 2021. He has won both of his Combat Catch Wrestling matches, securing his first win via Rear Naked Choke against a much bigger opponent.
After all of the training, weight loss, and dedication, how does 56-year old Victor compare to 46-year old Victor? “I’m in far superior shape. I would lick him in half a minute.” But the changes aren’t entirely physical. Since Victor doesn’t have children of his own, he enjoys mentoring the younger guys in his gym more than he enjoys beating them up. “I find myself becoming a bit paternal with some of the younger guys that I come across. Wanting to be a bit of a teacher. And even though I’m not remotely qualified to be a “coach-coach”, the paternal instinct acts itself out in this way.”
Contrary to the headlines making their way around the internet, at only 56 years old, “elderly” doesn’t seem to be the right adjective to describe Morton.
“There was a time when I would have chafed at that. But look, it’s the elephant in the room. At my last muay thai sparring session, I got asked my age by 3 different opponents or spectators. And that happens all the time. I can’t say that I don’t wince a little bit, but you know, I’m 56 years old. I’m fighting against men who could be my son or my grandson. You can’t notice that… It has to be in the lead paragraph.” He continued, “Liz Smith, the Grand Dame of Dish, was once asked if she liked being called ‘a gossip columnist’… and she replied, ‘well, no. But they have to call you something.’”
Of course, his age creates some difficulty when searching for opponents.
“It’s not difficult to find guys who are in their 50s who do jiu-jitsu or various combat sports,” Morton says that the real problem is finding opponents of the same age who are also as new to the sport as he is. Typically, his age bracket is filled with people who are holding higher belts. “I’m a white belt in his mid-50s!… [To give perspective] I was only born a month apart from Mike Tyson, but I don’t think that would make for a very good fight… I’m Royce Gracie’s age, give or take!”
Advice To Others
There are plenty of examples of child prodigies, athletes who grew up in the sport, and people who have committed their entire lives to martial arts. However, we hardly ever hear of stories like Victor’s, where someone takes on the uphill challenge to become a dedicated combat sports athlete during such a late stage in life.
What advice would he give someone who’s interested in following his steps?
“First of all, you do have to want to do it. It can’t be something you talk yourself into. You have to want to legitimately do it. This isn’t a mid-life crisis. It can’t be that, because you won’t stick with that… Focus on things that you CAN do. Because there will be things that you can’t do… There’s no substitute for showing up. It must become part of your normal routine.”
To be frank, most people have difficulty trying new things, never mind something as intense and dangerous as a combat sport. I think we should all take a page out of Victor’s book. Sometimes, you have to allow old parts of yourself to die in order for new ones to live and thrive. Take the chance. You might just get a new lease on life.
You can keep up with Victor’s journey on Twitter, @vjmfilms.