Edward Roope

Northwest Reno, 89523

Story by Vicki Tam

Every morning at 6 a.m., he goes out for a run. He models his workout routine after boxing programs, and on occasion, he practices boxing with his roommate.

At 24, 5 feet 11 inches and around 170 lbs, his recent life goal is to become a mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter.

Edward Roope, Eddie for short, was 17 when he convinced his parents to sign a consent form to join the Nevada Army National Guard. His parents didn’t need much convincing as long as Eddie knew what he was getting into. The recruiter sold him on the experience.

Between his junior and senior year of high school, the light-brown-haired teenager attended basic training.

“I was going to work once a month for the National Guard. I put on a uniform and I had to act like a soldier,” Eddie says. “It made (life) a little different for my senior year of high school.”

Eddie didn’t grow up with the military in his life. For 20 years, he lived in a middle-class neighborhood covered with trees and nearby parks in northwest Reno. His parents studied math, computer science and environmental science when they attended the University of Nevada, Reno.

Eddie's Childhood Home

Although Eddie didn’t grow up with the military, it has influenced him throughout his life. Eddie grew up in northwest Reno with two older brothers and parents, who are University of Nevada, Reno alumni.

The military was introduced into his life when he joined the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) in high school to get out of a health class and to be with his friends who were interested in the program.

Less than a year after graduating from Robert McQueen High School in 2008, he was scheduled to be deployed to Afghanistan with the National Guard, leaving his parents, two older brothers and his girlfriend — now fiancée — Krysta Pascual, in the U.S.

Three months before leaving the country, on a snowy day in January, Eddie and a few buddies headed up Mount Rose Highway for a snowboarding trip. The road was slick and Eddie suddenly lost control of his car and slid into the opposite lane. He says it was the perfect worst timing.

A white truck coming down the hill crossed Eddie’s path and they collided head-on. Eddie’s car caught fire. Luckily, no one died that day. The truck driver had a broken wrist and one friend was hospitalized for a few days to monitor possible internal bleeding in his stomach.

“The next day, I was like, ‘Dude, I’m really sorry.’ I was in the hospital with him. He’s like, ‘Dude, don’t worry about it. It’s an accident,’” Eddie says. “He has no life-changing things from it. It could change our lives in different ways, but he’s still alive today and he’s fine. We were really lucky no one died.”

Because of the injuries Eddie sustained in the car accident, he couldn’t go to Afghanistan. The vertebrae in his lower back were spaced out farther from each other, and at the top, they were jammed together. For several months, he was in a back brace and attended physical therapy.

He had a lot of “emotional annoyance,” as he calls it. Eddie felt frustrated.

“That was the first time I had anything that impeded me physically to where I couldn’t do things that I took for granted on an everyday basis,” he says.

The accident left the adolescent wondering where he would be heading in his life. Yet, he didn’t feel he should sit around and do nothing. He decided to attend a summer course at UNR that led him to start his college career.

For the next four years, he attended UNR with his tuition covered by working with the National Guard. Eddie began as a math major, which was his easiest subject in high school, and then stumbled into history after attending a history course he enjoyed.

In 2013, he was honorably discharged. Since then, he has grown out his hair and is recently sporting a large sea turtle tattoo on his left forearm he got last summer in the Philippines at a tattoo shop, owned by a cousin of his fiancée.

He has been using the G.I. Bill this past year to pay for his tuition while refereeing competitive youth soccer games for pay. He is on track to graduate in May 2014 with a general studies degree.

“If that accident didn’t happen and we went snowboarding that day and then (I) came back home, went to Afghanistan in April, (and) came back, I wouldn’t be where I am in my education. I wouldn’t be graduating this May. I wouldn’t be … I… I don’t even know,” Eddie says. “Who knows where I would be. I could still be in the military. Maybe it had an effect on me where I liked the military more. Maybe I would have stayed in it. Who knows.”

Turtle Tattoo

Eddie had his first tattoo done in the Philippines with his fiancée, Krysta Pascual, last summer at a tattoo shop owned by Krysta’s cousin. He says every time he looks at it, it reminds him of the trip.

The accident prevented Eddie, now 24, from deploying to Afghanistan and stopped his past goals, but the military still held a significant impact in developing his new life goal to become a MMA fighter. His everyday routine is crafted into a workout session, despite having attended physical therapy years before.

His apartment near the university is filled with workout equipment and weights. With his main transportation being his bike, he adds in a 10-mile bike ride across town to the soccer field for his refereeing job.

Eddie’s seasonal refereeing job pays for his rent and food. As the youth soccer season comes to an end, Eddie will most likely be refereeing competitive games during the high school soccer season in August.

He first heard of MMA during his time with the National Guard, where he enjoyed combatives, a term for hand-to-hand training and fighting techniques to achieve dominance over the opponent. It was the most memorable experience for him, and an activity he says he could do all day.

He practices sparring and trains five days a week, with two rest days, making sure he doesn’t over-train. Eddie has yet to have a fight, but he plans to sign up for amateur fights next January in Reno, competing in the lightweight class of 150 pounds in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).

MMA fighters receive approximately $3,000 for winning fights, and if they are more experienced, they can get $15,000, or more, as well as sponsorships in thousands of dollars.

“When you wake up in the morning and you go for a run and you come back home, (it is) that uplifting feeling that you already accomplished something in the day, that you can move on to the next thing (that I enjoy),” Eddie says. “If I could have a job where I work out and get that feeling every day, then that’s what I would like to have. I feel like … life’s kind of a fight.”

Eddie Punching

Eddie trains with his roommate, Gary Lougheed. He works out five days a week, with two rest days, and turns his daily routines into a workout, such as riding his bike across town to the soccer fields.

Audio by Vicki Tam
Photos by Jared Smith and Vicki Tam
Video by Ryan Canaday

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