Not many can say they have the chance to become a world champion.
But for former Shippensburg University wrestler and boxing club standout Brett Pastore, his opportunity comes this May at the Lethwei World Championships in Warsaw, Poland, representing the United States. He made the announcement official via his Instagram Jan. 28.
Pastore, a 2017 SU graduate, began his competitive career at a young age, with a focus on wrestling. He said he knew from the beginning that wrestling was something he wanted to pursue through his collegiate tenure.
Boxing was not the No. 1 goal. He played UFC video games as a child, dabbled with the sport at a recreational level in high school, but it was never on the forefront of his mind. That quickly changed when he came to SU’s campus.
In his freshman year, Pastore practiced with both the wrestling team and boxing club. He joined the Raiders on the mat early in the evening, grabbed a bite to eat, then hightailed it to boxing practice.
It was the best of both worlds. But he felt his passion for wrestling slowly begin to diminish, while his devotion to boxing continued to grow. At the start, there was a lot of rust to shake off, but he knew there was room for growth.
“It was like I’d go into the wrestling room, and I’d be getting beaten up by everyone. We had a really great team,” Pastore said with a chuckle. “Then I’d go to boxing practice and get beaten up there. Like every day. Getting beaten up here, getting beaten up there. But I don’t know… I just knew I was getting better, and it was something I was going to go far in.”
And go far he did. Spanning from his sophomore to senior year, Pastore became a mainstay for SU’s boxing team. He improved to such an elite level, he eventually competed against other collegiate boxers from across the country.
Representing SU, Pastore competed at the National Collegiate Boxing Association Championships, notching third place finishes in two consecutive years (2015 and 2016.) In 2017, his senior season, he tallied a second-place finish.
“I just developed an obsession of becoming a national champion. I just wanted that title,” Pastore said. “And that’s gradually what led me to leave wrestling. I knew I wasn’t going to be a national champion in wrestling.”
“But overall, those were great learning experiences, and it’s what led me to continue to get better and better,” he said.
Following graduation, Pastore’s pursuit in becoming a world-renowned boxer progressed. In fact, it expanded.
Pastore said in addition to his 46 career boxing matches, he has participated in three MMA fights and has explored Muay Thai — also known as Thai boxing. Muay Thai is a martial art that takes the form of standup striking and different clinching tenchniques. His diversity in fighting is what guided him to his recent opportunity.
Pastore will be one of a few representing the United States in the second-ever Lethwei World Championships. He is in the Class A division.
Lethwei is a form of Burmese boxing, originating from Myanmar. It is also considered to be the art of nine limbs, meaning boxers can use almost any part of their body to strike their opponent.
“It would be pretty cool to say I’m a world champion of something,” Pastore said. “Since this is such a new sport, the second-ever world championships, it would be really cool to put the U.S. on the map for this new sport.”
Pastore said this opportunity came about from exploring the internet. He found the United States’ coach’s contact information, sent him some videos of his fights and shortly thereafter, became the first member of the U.S. team.
With the ups, some downs occurred as well. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, a slew of Pastore’s competitions have either been canceled or postponed. Finding gyms and facilities for training has also been a challenge.
“We’re just praying that it all pans out,” Pastore said. “In these times, anything can happen. I’ve had only one competition this year, so the best thing to do is keep your head up and hope for the best.”
In the end, Pastore said he hopes the Lethwei Championships open the floodgates for more opportunities down the road. Pastore believes the end result will be a contract to become a professional UFC fighter.
“My ultimate goal is to be a UFC fighter. And I know one day, I’m going to get that contract,” Pastore said. “Who knows, maybe I’ll be the first ever Lethwei UFC fighter.”