Brawler to bracelets: Former MMA champ finds 'calling' in helping people


WAIKIKI (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii-born Enson Inoue remembers how it was fighting in Japan and the U.S. during the dark days of mixed martial arts events.

"It was still considered barbaric," Inoue said. "It was still banned in most states."

Inoue won a world title and battled through 20 matches before retiring in 2010. He said back then he was willing to die in the ring.

"For me at that time everything was about the fight," he said.

About six years ago that outlook changed dramatically because of bracelets. He learned to string gem stones into jewelry.

"As I learned to make it I got better, and I got better to a point where I felt like I could put it on social media, just to show like, 'Check this out!,'" he said.

When people offered to buy his creations Inoue turned his hobby into a small business — but not for selfish reasons.

He believes the stones can actually help people.

"In Japan they believe that the bracelets are worn as protection," he said.

Inoue lives in Japan. He supports himself by owning MMA gyms, operating his jewelry business, and teaching grappling seminars.

But he also regularly assists people in Fukushima affected by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami through his non-profit called "The Enson Inoue Foundation."

"There's 88 orphans in the orphanage in Fukushima. This year we're planning to give them shoes," he said.

It's an annual pilgrimage Inoue makes with his girlfriend, Sarah McCann, who also helps make the jewelry.

"When people get to know him in this capacity you see a more compassionate side," she said.

Inoue's fighting days are long gone.

He knows it seems odd to outsiders that he chose bracelet making after such a violent career, but he's never felt more at peace.

"That's my calling. My calling is to help people," he said.

Inoue's selling his bracelets at a pop-up shop in a boardroom of the Hilton Waikiki Beach Hotel from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., now through April 10.

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