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Jimmy Jennett

Photo by Paul Neevel.

“I’m on my ninth life,” says Jimmy Jennett, who grew up amid drugs and dysfunction at home in Sacramento. “I got addicted to hard drugs at 16.” Jennett was an all-city basketball player, but needed a second senior year at Cottage Grove High School in Oregon to get his diploma. After one year of school and hoops at Sierra College, he dropped out and into a life of drug dealing and aggressive behavior that landed him in Folsom Prison at 27. “A two-year term was long enough to take a look at things,” he says, “at who I was and who I wanted to become.” In 2010, he moved to Eugene, where his mother had settled. “I came back to Oregon to be around positive people,” he says, “and to be involved in the clean and sober community.” He also walked into a mixed martial arts gym, Art of War, where he found a mentor, coach Jason Georgianna, and a positive way to channel aggression. “I work at building roads in the summer,” says Jennett, who started a nonprofit, Checkered Past MMA Outreach, that offers free clinics and low-cost training to at-risk kids. “I do this because it’s a passion and because I want to give back.” A heavyweight at 6 feet 8 inches and 275 pounds, Jennett will face 290-pound Aaron Dickey in a cage fight at the Salem Armory on Jan. 18. Learn more at Checkered Past MMA Outreach on Facebook.