Adam D’Angelo is a natural born fighter who has overcome setbacks, pitfalls, and challenges, including three years in prison and several run-ins with the law. His road to redemption has been difficult but not impossible. With Second Chance Center in his corner, Adam has directed his tenacity to become a successful entrepreneur, provider and MMA fighter. Read a recent interview with Adam about his personal journey and experience with SCC.
"You gotta roll with the punches, you gotta be able to bow your head and bite your tongue, you gotta do what you gotta do to stay out. That’s what got me through."
Where did you grow up?
I have three brothers and one little sister, one of whom actually is living in the Second Chance property with me, I just got temporary guardianship of him so Second Chance actually let me bring him here.
Would you say you had a normal childhood?
No, I didn't at all. It was a little different, a little rough...I was raised mostly by my dad, my mom kind of bounced out and then my dad, just the way he ran the house, he always had other people staying with us and that kind of forced me to not want to be at home so I ran the streets a lot. I was pretty independent growing up.
How did you get involved with MMA?
I was actually in a corrections facility, I was in KJCC as a juvenile and two of the guards were MMA fighters and I thought that was cool, we used to do backyard boxing and stuff like that.
I was placed in a group home after getting out of KJCC and I was working at Walgreens when one of the corrections officers came in and bought a pack of Newports, I was like “hey man, I thought you were a fighter, how are you smoking cigarettes?” he’s like,”ah man, I gotta have one after practice”.
He actually invited me to go to the gym. I didn't go for a while, and then my group home was raided and they found alcohol and all kinds of stuff and everyone got in trouble. The group home told us if we didn’t have anything positive to do we couldn’t go anywhere. So I finally took the corrections officer up on his offer and started going to the gym and it all blossomed from there.
After like three months of training, it was close to my 19th birthday and I had a home pass to go home and I actually went to Kansas City and had my first fight. I came back and I was good, I didn’t have any marks or anything so they had no idea.
What circumstances do you feel led to your incarceration?
It’s a crazy story, I had been fighting and I was doing really good, I was 7-1 as an amateur and I was going to defend one of my title belts and my opponent befriended me on Facebook and I accepted, I told myself I wasn’t worried, I’m training and doing what I need to do, and four or five days before the fight he backed out.
My dad owns a moving company, so instead of him hiring someone else, I took a moving job in Colorado with him that very same Saturday I was supposed to fight. I came out here and crazy stuff happened, I got like a little misdemeanor charge. I went to jail and tried to fight it, and my dad left me the very same day, he went back to Kansas and just left me out here. So ten days later after I’m trying to fight the case he gets in contact with me and is like “hey man, it’s just a little misdemeanor, I know you think you’re innocent or whatever but plead guilty and you’ll be out tomorrow” so that’s what I ended up doing, I just plead guilty and I got out.
I was basically homeless, I didn’t have a phone, I didn’t have any family out here, I didn’t have any money because they put my money on a check. I had met some guy I knew in the jail, he took me to a homeless shelter and I was going to stay there but I didn’t feel right so I was just roaming around and from that point it was just kinda survival you know, doing little stupid sh*t.
I’d get caught, go to jail, they’d let me out a couple days later, and that would just be the time I was sleeping. If I wasn’t in jail I was just up, not wanting to go to sleep, not knowing where I was, and not knowing where I was going to lay my head.
What has been the most challenging part of successfully transitioning into society?
Day-to-day life out here, cause I don’t have any family out here. Throughout prison I received one visit from family and then once I got out it was hard seeing everyone else that has people coming to drop them stuff off at the halfway house…cause the halfway house is worse than prison, the halfway house is so much more of a challenge.
When you get there you have to start paying $17 a day, you have to wait for your money to come from D.O.C. that you’ve saved up and you can’t have a phone until you get a job, but you need a phone to get a job. Their policies on how they run stuff are crazy, you have to set your schedule up a whole week in advance with work, gym, church, whatever you want to do, you have to put that in a whole week ahead.
Every place you go you have certain travel times and then they’ll take your phone. I’ve never been here in Denver and they would take my phone for something stupid and they expect me to be able to get around town and then I have to call them when I arrive somewhere and I have to call them when I leave and I have certain travel time to get around in a city I’ve never lived in. The expectations and just the way they run things is crazy.
So I could be in prison and they’re like alright you can go to the halfway house or you can wait ‘til parole. You can always go to the halfway house before you reach parole and people want to do it because you can get a job and you can actually start to save up money plus you’re in the community. I know a lot of people when I was in prison they were like “nah, I’m just waiting for parole, I’m not even messing with the halfway house” because a lot of people get to the halfway house and either run or just go back to doing stupid stuff so some people don’t even want to mess with it.
It’s just like another facility where they have staff every time you come in, you have to take a breathalyzer or a UA, they pat search you, it's the same institutionalized rules but more since we’re in the community. It sucked, but the way I feel is if I made it through the halfway house I can make it through a lot now.
What has been your source of inspiration and motivation?
Redemption. I want to redeem myself, I’ve been successful and I’ve messed it up. In high school I was the same way, I had a college football scholarship and ended up going to the juvenile facility I was telling you about. I’ve let a lot of people down, I’ve let myself down and now I have a 4-year old daughter that was born three months after I got incarcerated. So I really have to do better for myself so I can do better for her.
How did you find out about Second Chance Center?
I heard about them in the halfway house, a bunch of people were going, it was a place to go on Saturday. They had group mentoring and I heard they’d help you out with job resumes and to be honest it was the first outing I had from the halfway house, so after being away for three years it was the first thing that got me out.
One of my friends took me there, he showed me how to use a bus I had never used before. We got there and they had food for us and bus tickets because the halfway house doesn’t give you bus tickets, they just expect you to take care of yourself, even though you don’t have a job yet. The halfway house doesn’t give you any type of resources.
So I got to SCC and they fed us, asked if we needed help with jobs, and they would give us job leads. They actually gave me the tools and equipment that I needed for the first job that I got. They even had a gym, ‘cause I like to work out, and the halfway house had a little gym but it wasn't anywhere near the Second Chance Center. It was a place of peace for me, it was a family I didn’t have out here. People that were advocating for me, that I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere else and that's why I really took advantage of every opportunity.
How did SCC mentoring impact you?
The founders have collectively done over a hundred years and to hear them speak about their experiences knowing I’ve only done three years in prison and these guys have done that exponentially made me really want to soak up everything they had to say. A lot of people come out and think they’ve learned their lesson, then go back to doing the same old stuff but these guys [the SCC staff] have all this time on them and look at what they’re doing, look at what they built. I really need to soak up what they’re talking about and it’s just really inspiring to see people who’ve been through what they’ve been through come out and not be bitter and try to help other people and give back.
They’ve also really helped me with my business, they’ve had some resources to give small business loans and career counseling. I would say they were kind of the impetus for me starting my own moving company.
You have your own business? Tell us more about it.
I started Mixed Martial Artists Movers, I’ve actually moved Sean Taylor who is one of the SCC founders, he helped me support my business and has actually sent me quite a bit of business as well.
I started it in June and it’s starting to pick up, I’m learning as I go. I’m starting to get more jobs, it’s just really about your network and that’s why I’m so grateful for Second Chance Center because if it wasn’t for them I would be a lot more broke (laughs) and have a lot fewer jobs. Also I know making better money will free up some time to train more and network with other gyms.
If you could offer one piece of advice to someone currently in the system or transitioning into society, what would it be?
You gotta roll with the punches, you gotta be able to bow your head and bite your tongue, you gotta do what you gotta do to stay out. That’s what got me through. I’ve seen a lot of people go back or not make it or keep staying in the halfway house.
So when’s your next fight?
I’m actually going to be making my professional debut January 27th.