HUDSON — In March 2003, a routine medical checkup resulted in a major life change for Paul Weremecki.
At the time, he had just finished serving a five-year stint as a Navy corpsman, got married and had started a family in Fort Carson, Colo.
“After my son was born, I was unhealthy, obese and out of shape,” said Weremecki, 39. “Plus, I was smoking and my cholesterol was high. My doctor told me that, if I continued on this path, I’d be dead in two or three years.”
Outside the medical office, Weremecki threw his cigarettes in the trash bin, then joined a health club to get in shape. Over time, Weremecki’s weight dropped from 280 to 225 pounds, and he ram half marathons and took jiu-jitsu lessons. With some friends, Weremecki built a homemade gym in the garage and, being a former high school wrestler, he later added wrestling mats. As his 30th birthday approached, he decided to try a new venture: Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighting.
“While I was training for my MMA matches, I was studying for my masters degree,” the Nassau County, N.Y., native said. “Both require intense dedication and focus. I think doing both simultaneously helped me achieve balance in life.”
Through his manager, Weremecki fought in both local and out-of-state amateur matches, finishing his career four years later with a 4-6 record.
“I did it for fun,” Weremecki said. “Win or lose, I always competed against sportsmen who often went out for a drink with me afterwards.”
After a few years as a physical education teacher in Oregon, Weremecki moved to the warmer climate of Central Florida and in September, he became the park site supervisor at Veterans Memorial Park. He now oversees the operation of the park and plans to have more community outreach, youth programs and family-oriented events.
One of the events will be held Dec. 7. The Holiday Fun Run is a mile run for children 10 and under. The entry fee is a $5 gift card from Wal-Mart, which will be used to benefit low-income families in the area. There will be prizes and refreshments afterward.
One of his other goals is provide a physical education class for home-schooled students during the day.
And Weremecki’s reflection on his fighting career contains no regrets about starting too late.
“It’s better to try something and fail than never trying it at all,” Weremecki said. “I found value in failure, because I learned from it.”
Correspondent Cliff Gill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter@ReporterCliff.