Brian R. Gassaway, age 49, late of Chicago and suburban Glenwood, Illinois, former of Urbana, Ohio. Cherished husband of Armianda (nee Ardisastra); beloved father of Rashad Gassaway; loving son of Elaine Wilson and the late Wallace Gassaway; fond brother of Wesley (Sheri) Gassaway. Brian was a founding partner, teacher and coach at the Chicago Mixed Martial Arts Gym in Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood.
The samurai lived by an unwritten moral code: the Bushido. Brian embodied the virtues of this code—loyalty, courage, justice, honor, mercy, compassion, character, and self-control—by his actions. He lived his life with purpose and goodness, dedicating every waking moment to being a better person, husband, friend, fighter, and coach. And at the same time, he elevated the lives of all the people around him.
Very few people have the courage to follow their dreams. Brian was one of them. He tested himself all over the world against some of the best fighters on the planet having competed in the UFC, Bellator, WEC, King of the Cage, Iron Heart Crown, Shooto and Pancrase. Brian had his hand raised 29 times but walked out of the ring a better man, a better fighter, after every single contest. In 2018, Brian was inducted into the Illinois Martial Arts Hall of Fame. And, announced just yesterday, in honor of Brian’s contribution to the art of Muay Thai in America, the Thai Boxing Association-Sanctioning Authority has created the Brian Gassaway Award.
With more than 50 professional MMA fights and countless kickboxing and Muay Thai competitions, Brian was one of the most experienced fighters and coaches in the world. It is as a coach where he truly excelled. Brian’s selfless pursuit of improving the lives of his students through the study of martial arts was apparent to all. He gave his students purpose, pulling many up during their darkest moments. Being the light that showed them the path forward.
Whether you were training for a fight on the big stage, competing in a smoker in a church basement, or training just to better yourself, Brian showed you the same love, effort, and attention. You always felt safe knowing that he was in the corner. His calmness gave you confidence as he wrapped your hands in preparation to go into battle. His words gave you the knowledge and experience of the countless wars he fought as you marched to the ring. And his energy gave you strength as the bell rang and you walked towards your opponent. One thing was certain: You always knew that Brian was fighting right there alongside you. And after the fights were fought, after the fans left the stadium, after the lights went dark, Brain was still there, sitting quietly alongside you.
Please know that as much as he helped you, you also helped him. You were the reason he lived. You gave him breath. He absorbed and learned from your experience, sharing it with the next student. As students and teachers of martial arts, we are a sum of the students and teachers before us.
Brian, our friend, our teacher, you will not be forgotten. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and experience with us. Because of you, we are stronger; we are braver; we are better people. I hope you knew how much you meant to us.
We love you, champ.
A Celebration of Life will be announced at a later date and time. In lieu of flowers and gifts, please make memorial contributions to the Chicago Mixed Martial Arts Gym, 1528 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60642.
Professional care entrusted to Adduci-Zimny Funeral Home (708) 385-0634.
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