Bellator 129’s Virgil Zwicker is looking for a shot at redemption

As a late replacement against Houston Alexander at Bellator 129, Virgil Zwicker is looking for a shot at redemption. Virgil Zwicker

The 16 fight veteran will be attempting to rebound from a July defeat to upcoming title challenger Linton Vassell. Don’t count him out, as Zwicker has long been traveling down the road to redemption.

Born in Nebraska but raised in California on the Native American reservation, “San Pasqual Band of Kumeyaay Indians”, Zwicker often found himself in trouble as a child. “When I was a kid I was very strong-headed”, he acknowledges. Growing up as a Native American took its toll on young Zwicker because as he describes, “I was always an outsider because of my heritage. Back then, it seemed like most white people already had an idea in their minds of who we were.”

That strong-headedness along with the ability to “always put myself in the wrong situations with the wrong people”, eventually led young Zwicker to jail.

“As a juvenile when I was 11-years-old, from about 1994 to 2005, I was incarcerated most of the time,” Zwicker said. “I was out for maybe two or three years total, but was in-and-out constantly the whole time. That’s until I went to prison at age 19, and I was there for 44 months.”

The time inside was an opportunity to reflect for Zwicker and when he got out, he knew he needed a change.

“I stopped hanging out with the people I was hanging out with, I moved off of the reservation and my whole life took a big 360.”

Eventually, he came to fall in love with mixed martial arts and attributes his new lease on life to the sport.

“MMA literally changed my entire life around. Without being able to fight for a career – when I got out of prison, I had a record a mile long and no one was going to hire me, and I couldn’t get work on the reservation. I’ve been out of prison for over 11 years now and I’ve changed my whole life around.”

Fighting professionally since 2003, Zwicker is a big show veteran of Strikeforce and Bellator. Since his time out of jail, he has maintained his focus on family and fighting. As he tells it, “My whole thing now is mentoring troubled youths and I’m also the coach for my son’s football team. It was basically a perfect lesson for me in order to show my kids what NOT to do and how to live life right.”

As for what to expect against Alexander? “Violence. Savagery. And an exciting fight. I’m always going for the finish”, Zwicker says. A finish over a name fighter like Houston Alexander would certainly be another step down that road. But even Zwicker admits, “It’s a battle every single day”.

For a guy who has been through this much, what’s one more battle on Friday night in Iowa?