Alumni Profile: A.J. Verel ‘99

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Medaille Alum Summer Gemmati Handzlik
        
August 8, 2011 - 10:43am

To say that A.J. Verel has embodied the mantra "I am forever a student" is an understatement. His current project to bring a Pro Martial Arts Hall of Fame and Museum to Buffalo is the latest in a long line of accomplishments, most notably winning three world kickboxing titles and being inducted into the World Karate and Kickboxing Hall of Fame.

Verel is also a television and film star, appearing on the FX Channel show, Toughman Contest, and in feature films as an actor and stunt coordinator. He holds five black belts and was named a U.S. Delegate for All Rules and Ring Sports with the World Kickboxing League because of his extensive knowledge of the martial arts industry.

This understanding of and respect for the martial arts lifestyle led Verel back to his hometown to open the Hall of Fame and Museum. He is on a mission to make mixed martial arts legal in New York, which is currently one of only four states where the sport is still outlawed.

"Mixed martial arts is a term used to describe a full contact sport that utilizes a wide variety of techniques and skill sets that can come from traditional and nontraditional martial arts," explained Verel. According to Verel, a law passed several years ago deemed certain contact sports illegal due to the set of rules or lack thereof at the time. "The sport known today as mixed martial arts was not as defined as it is now," he said.

The current proposals before the New York State Legislature seek to address this deficiency by imposing tighter restrictions and safety measures and advancing the sport at both the amateur and professional levels. In the meantime, Verel has plenty to keep him busy in planning for the Pro Martial Arts Hall of Fame and Museum. "It’s going to be a destination that’s completely unique, with interactive displays, a sports clinic and a theater to screen action films," he offered.

And just in case he isn’t busy enough, Verel is under consideration for a position on the President’s Council for Fitness, Sports and Nutrition. The chance presented itself when Verel happened to be at Duff’s when President Obama made his lunch stop there as part of his visit to Buffalo last summer. "I had the opportunity to bring up the Hall of Fame and Museum and what we were trying to accomplish in this region since he was here to talk about small business expansion," said Verel. "Before he left I asked him [about the position]."

"I didn’t plan on asking to be on the Council," he concluded, "but as we talked, I figured, I’m going to ask—what’s the worst that can happen?"

"Life is about chances and risks," said Verel. "Believe in yourself and your abilities and you can achieve your dream." 

This content originally appeared in the summer 2011 issue of the Medaille Magazine.

 

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