Jay Jack's journey has taken him many places.
Starting in Louisiana, he grew up surrounded by fighting. There was fish fighting, human fighting and, worst of all, dogfighting.
"If they could put money on it, they would fight it," Jack, 38, of Poland said.
He turned into a fighter himself.
Since age 5, he has been involved in every form of mixed martial arts, but in his 20s he found his niche. Living in Colorado, he discovered Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
The judo studio he attended was closed on Saturdays, so he decided to try a new style. He was amazed to be defeated quickly by a man who weighed 100 pounds less than him and used only one arm.
"I was like 230 pounds and had already won many judo titles, so I thought nothing of this 135 pound surfer dude. He said his arm was bothering him, so he wasn't going to use it. He literately submitted me 3 to 4 times in a row in a 5-minute round. And he wasn't even trying! He was talking to somebody else when he was doing it. It was amazing. I just fell in love. It was what I was looking for all of my life. Jiu-Jitsu humbled me tremendously," he said.
From there, he competed professionally in mixed martial arts fights, also known as Ultimate Fighting Championships.
"I never set out to be a professional fighter. Heck, when I started out, it was illegal in most states, but it evolved around me into a sport," he said.
In 2003, Jack and his wife, Amanda Buckner, moved to Poland to be closer to her family.
Buckner, a former University of Maine-Farmington basketball standout, was a top rated mixed martial arts fighter at the time and the duo decided to open a school in Portland.
"When we opened up The Academy, no one knew what the sport was. It wasn't on Spike TV yet," he said.
But for Jack, the sport isn't about getting into a ring and beating up another person.
"Fighting is not really our goal," he said. "Our goal was to create a school that can be about growth and self improvement. For us, fighting was a form of self improvement."
Along with improving people's lives, Jack said he has made it a personal goal to improve the lives of animals he has seen harmed at the hands of humans.
"I grew up with pit bulls all my life. I had a Chihuahua as a kid that I didn't know wasn't a pit bull. It's like it was given to me to see if I could handle a pit bull."
He said pit bulls have been bred for certain attributes that most humans don't understand.
"These dogs are high energy and they need an energy drain. They also need a job and purpose. So if you take a dog that is pent up with way too much energy, and they get out running, smelling and playing, they get way too hyper. It's hard to slow them down at that point."
Jack said he got into rescuing pit bulls after a guy pulled into a gas station in Louisiana with his friends. Two dogs were chained to the bed of the truck and had gotten into a fight. The truck owner couldn't break them apart.
"I know one of those dogs probably died. And I realized he didn't care about his dogs; he just thought it was cool his dogs were bad ass. There is a fundamental difference between me and that guy. He didn't deserve to have pits, and then you realize most of the people who own pits are that guy."
He started speaking out against dogfighting, and next thing he knew a guy was at his house at 1 a.m. with a pit bull puppy. And Jack knew what would happen if he didn't take that dog.
"So then it was one dog after the other and pretty soon people are asking me if I'm the guy who helps adopt out pit bulls. Apparently, I am," he said.
Since that night, many years ago in Louisiana, he has helped place pit bulls with responsible owners who realize they are energetic, loyal animals that need understanding.
He has also used his school in Portland to raise money to help pay for major surgeries of dogs he is putting up for adoption.
"I wish to live up to what they are," Jack said, "not the fight-till-I-bleed aspect, but the aspect that I will overcome anything for the people that I love.
"Pits don't fight for themselves, but fight for the love of their master. They don't know that it isn't life or death, they just know that the person they love has put them in the ring and commanded them to do this," he said.