Heavyweight Justin Wren has ended a five-year absence from mixed martial arts and will return to competition on Aug. 28 when he takes on Josh Burns at Bellator 141 in Temecula, Calif.
Wren, a cast member on Season 10 of the UFC's "The Ultimate Fighter," is perhaps best known for his work with the Mbuti Pygmies in the Congo. Many of them were enslaved and lived in squalor, with few benefits of the modern world.
Wren has written a book on his experience with the Pygmies, "Fight for the Forgotten: How a Mixed Martial Artist Stopped Fighting for Himself and Started Fighting for Others." The book, co-authored by veteran MMA journalist Loretta Hunt, will be released on Sept. 15.
He will be fighting for the first time since July 17, 2010, when he submitted Josh Robertson in Biloxi, Miss.
"Returning after five years seems like it will be a big obstacle and a big challenge, but I've been in the gym for several months and I've really seen myself improve," Wren told Yahoo Sports. "I believe it's going to be a great comeback. The main reason is that I have a big purpose and a passion to tie that all into and to connect to. I'm not just fighting for myself now; I'm fighting for my family in the Congo. And 100 percent of the win bonus I get will go straight to the cause to drill wells [for water], to buy more land and to do more farming, so I've got more of a reason to get in there than ever before."
Wren, a two-time national high school wrestling champion, is 10-2 in his MMA career, including a split decision loss to Jon Madsen in The TUF 10 finale in 2009.
He is eager to get back in the cage, particularly since it's for such a good cause.
"I know it's a big challenge and huge obstacle to hurdle, but I'm excited for the opportunity," he said. "It's an opportunity to fight for something much bigger than myself, and fight for my Pygmy family. I'm not just fighting against people, but fighting for them. A few fights down the road, I think we will be able to drill five to eight new water wells after each win. That excites me and makes all the grueling training and battle wounds more than worth it. I get to be a voice to my families suffering on the platform MMA gives me, and from the funds we get to make such a positive impact in their lives."
Bellator 141 will be headlined by a lightweight bout between Melvin Guillard and Brandon Girtz. It will be broadcast on Spike.