Ovince Saint Preux's father was a construction worker and farmer. His mother worked as a maid. The couple emigrated from their home in Haiti to the United States to make a better life for their children.
Consider that a rousing success. Saint Preux was the first member of his family to graduate college and four of his siblings have also now gotten their bachelor's degrees.
"[My parents] came here and the opportunity that they gave me, they busted their butts," Saint Preux told MMAFighting.com. "I mean, you're coming from parents that barely knew how to read and write and they basically hid everything from us and put us in a situation to better us in every which way."
Saint Preux is honoring them and their home country with his new charitable cause. OSP helped design a "Fight4Haiti" shirt that he'll wear before his fight with Patrick Cummins at UFC on FOX 15 on Saturday in Newark. All proceeds raised from sales will go to benefit Harvest107, a non-profit organization creating fresh and sustainable food resources to low-income communities in the United States and developing countries around the world.
The goal of the "Fight4Haiti" initiative is to make enough money to fund a micro farm in Zanfan Lakay, Haiti. The cost to build one farm is $4,000 and it will be able to feed the starving people of the region. The shirts will be available at www.athletesbrand.com/OSP until April 26.
Saint Preux has always wanted to give back to charity, and when this particular one presented itself, it seemed like a no-brainer considering his Haitian heritage.
"I just kind of took into it and I liked it a lot," he said. "I'm just trying to do some things a bit different. A lot of times I don't want things to only be about me just because I can do well for myself, but if I can help out in any type of way, especially with my culture and stuff, I'd like that tremendously."
Saint Preux (17-6), a former college football player at the University of Tennessee, is currently ranked No. 8 among UFC light heavyweight contenders. His stunning, first-round knockout of legend Mauricio Rua last December made a lot of waves -- and perhaps even opened the door for him to work with charities like Harvest107.
"I think that fight actually put me in the situation to do what I'm doing right now for charity and stuff," Saint Preux said. "The more you get your name out there, the more you're able to do stuff. The more you're able to help out. It's hard to start doing something without having a name and it's easier to start something having a name. You can get more of a push for it."
Saint Preux, 32, grew up in Immokalee, Fla., an agricultural community on the Gulf Coast. He said he didn't quite understand that what his working-class parents did was special until he got to college and his classmates' parents were doctors and lawyers.
"Every time I get a chance to help my parents out, I help them," Saint Preux said. "Sometimes they don't want to tell me anything. Sometimes they don't. I have to go behind their back and do it. I just want to let them know I'm thankful for what they do. A lot of parents don't care. My parents instilled a lot of morals and a lot of humbleness within me, too."
The former high school all-state wrestler and track star has only visited Haiti once, but two of his cousins are getting married there in June and the entire clan is going to be heading back for a family reunion.
Saint Preux is excited about that, though Cummins is his top priority. Still, OSP found some time to give back, too. And it's something he plans on continuing.
"My dad even said, 'I did my job. This is what I wanted for you all,'" Saint Preux said. "I always tell my parents, 'I'll never forget where I come from and I'll never forget where y'all come from.' As much as a lot of things are going on in Haiti, it's still a beautiful place. I want to see that beautiful place of Haiti actually grow and get better."