The idea of losing everything you own, including your home, your pets, and all your clothes except the ones on your back, is unfathomable to most of us. But in a matter of seconds, it became reality for Ryan Arreola of Moon Township, Pennsylvania. This BJJ purple belt and mixed martial artist was running about ten minutes late on his way home from work on Thursday, March 23 when a natural gas leak caused his house to literally explode, destroying everything inside and changing his life forever.
“My first thought was, ‘Are the dogs ok?’ I was in such shock and couldn’t believe that it was my house,” says Arreola, who trains out of Pride Lands BJJ in Monaca, PA. Although his dogs, Romeo and Major, initially survived the blast, they later had to be euthanized due to their injuries. For him, their loss was the biggest one of all. “My dogs were my best friends. I literally did everything with my dogs. We treated them like they were our kids. No matter what kind of day I had, whenever I got home, they were always happy to see me. They were like two big babies.”
Somehow, despite everything, Arreola is managing to keep his head up. A former Marine who was deployed to Afghanistan and a member of the Army national guard from 2012 to 2014, he’s used to dealing with whatever life throws at him and doing whatever it takes to keep moving forward. “My mindset that is keeping me going now is to just try to stay positive and look at it as a fresh start in life,” he says.
The relentless spirit that has led to Arreola’s success on the mats has certainly contributed to his ability to stay strong when most people would have fallen apart after such an unthinkable tragedy. He was introduced to martial arts after he joined the USMC in 2008, where he was taught to grapple as part of his training. He says that he’s been “hooked” ever since, and it shows — he’s an extremely talented jiu-jitsu practitioner and has seen success in the cage as well.
Still, while Arreola’s fighting nature is going to carry him through much of this uphill battle, the financial struggles that come with losing all of your possessions are another problem entirely. A GoFundMe has been set up for him, and knowing how incredible and generous the jiu-jitsu community can be when one of our own needs our help, I hope we can all come together to help our BJJ brother get back on his feet. “The support me and my wife Arica have been receiving from family, friends, and everybody all over has been truly amazing,” says Arreola.
Contribute to and/or share the GoFundMe campaign here, and let’s show everyone once again what makes our worldwide family so special. It’s time to #RallyForRyan and give this warrior the same kind of support he’s always given to his friends and family both on and off the mats.