Content warning: This story contains references to child sexual predators and human trafficking that may be difficult to read and emotionally upsetting.
“There’s a cop right there, and there’s two cops — and thank you very much, I’m going to jail,” said the suspect.
“Well you shouldn’t have [come] to meet a 13-year-old.”
Being an MMA fighter isn’t a path many people on Earth take. Utilizing the tools learned over many years to use inside of a cage or ring is one thing, but using those skills for good outside of it to help people — and in this case, children — is another altogether.
Dustin Lampros, an undefeated fighter and recent contestant on The Ultimate Fighter 29, has teamed up with a partner to do just that. Their mission is to investigate and stop child predators and trafficking. For the past couple months, along with training and preparing for what’s next to come in his MMA career, the current Shamrock FC featherweight champion has done his part to try and stop children from being abducted, trafficked, or worse.
“I didn’t realize how bad this was [when I started],” Lampros says. “I’ve always heard about sex trafficking and I had some very, very close people to me that have been victims of these situations, and I didn’t realize how big it really was.
“Then when it was brought up to me and we realized there was no one down here in South Florida doing anything like this, I was all for it. But yeah, I was completely blown away. It really made my stomach turn the first couple of weeks. I was just disgusted.”
Around 18 months ago, Lampros was introduced to Ryan Montgomery, who has been in the cyber security field for many years. The two formed a friendship, and Montgomery let Lampros know that he had been doing work behind the scenes assisting in thwarting child predators. The 8-0 fighter suggested they join together and do it together as a team.
Montgomery has assisted on thousands of cases over the years, and he believes the problem is only getting worse.
“There’s 28, 29 million victims of human trafficking on average,” Montgomery says. “You never know when you meet these guys, they could be more than a predator: They could be a human trafficker, they could be trying to kidnap the child, even murder them.
“But thankfully, when we show up, it’s not a 13-year-old girl. It’s us — and then the police.”
Between 2004 and 2008, Dateline NBC produced a program called To Catch a Predator, which featured Chris Hanson as the host. Throughout the length of the series, stings were set up using decoys to trap and lure suspects into sting houses, where they would then be arrested for various charges in connection to being predators and sex offenders.
What Lampros and Montgomery are doing is somewhat similar, in that dark web searches lead them to suspects who are seeking children to meet up with.
The video above is an example of one of Lampros’ stings. The man seen here was subsequently arrested and charged with obscene communication with a child.
Lampros took part in his first encounter in South Florida in late 2022. Not knowing exactly what was going to happen, it was an emotional experience.
“It really made my stomach turn because we went there to approach a guy who was there to meet a 12-year-old girl,” Lampros says. “Seeing how he responded, how he tried to justify it, it really made my blood boil.
“In this case, the guy rented a hotel room for the night — specifically for this 12-year-old girl — and ordered a pizza, which shows intent. But he was completely honest with us about what his intentions were,” Montgomery says. “Doesn’t make it any better whether they’re honest or not. We had the chat logs prior to meeting up, but this guy’s full intention was to be with a 12-year-old girl in his mid 40’s.”
As a pro fighter, Lampros has the skills to be able to physically defend himself from an alleged suspect if the need arises. But as much as he would like to deliver his own justice, Lampros can’t. If he crosses that line, it’ll jeopardize everything he and Montgomery have worked toward.
“I know if I don’t control myself in that one moment, then there are no moments after that,” says Lampros. “If I screw up and do something illegal myself, if I put my hands on an individual, then there is no helping future children. Once I do that, it’s over.
“I would love nothing more than to smash their teeth in. They’re coming out there to literally commit rape in a sense. I would love to [handle it myself], but it wouldn’t help our case. There would be no more helping out in those types of situations.”
Of course, once suspects are caught, they know they’re caught. When their backs are against the wall, Lampros says, they will say or do anything to get out of it.
He and Montgomery have heard every excuse at this point: “I was just lonely. I just wanted to talk to them. I just wanted to have a smoke. I wasn’t going to do anything.”
Or, one of the most confusing excuses in Lampros’ eyes: “I was just here to warn [him or her].”
“You drove an hour and 45 minutes to warn a child at 9 p.m. on a Friday night at Walmart?” Lampros says.
“They can say all that, but their intentions could have been [to take the child], ‘See you later,’ and that kid would be gone. And if we can prevent that happening by exposing one of these guys, turning them into the police, getting them arrested and making them think twice, even if it’s 100 of them, if we save one, that’s one life that we’re saving compared to not.
“It’s obvious that they’re lying, and then we can read them their chat logs and then they’ll just keep going in circles and their lies get worse and worse and worse,” Montgomery adds.
“It’s a form of vigilante justice, for sure.”
In addition to trying to reduce the number of cases in South Florida — and eventually beyond — Lampros has taken a different approach toward making suspects feel the weight of what they were attempting to do. In videos circulating on social media, Lampros is seen having suspects do calisthenics, push-ups, air squats, or more while repeating aloud what they are accused of doing. One suspect was allegedly meeting up with a 13-year-old girl, so Lampros told him to do 13 sets of 13 push-ups outside of a store until the police arrived to arrest him.
Lampros admits he gets angry during these catches, and since he can’t turn to a physical response unless he’s provoked, he takes things in a different direction.
“They need to be embarrassed,” Lampros says. “They need to feel it, because I started realizing, we do this and sometimes it’s like they don’t really care. They don’t really have too much remorse. [They’ll say] ‘I’m sorry,’ but that’s not enough. In that moment, they need to feel ashamed of themselves.
“There’s people walking by, people are coming up to us going, ‘You guys are awesome. That’s terrible.’ I’m learning as I go and obviously there’s no handbook to this, and I’ve had a lot of people reach out in support of how I’m handling it. It’s just going to keep evolving in the future.”
Lampros and Montgomery also understand that calisthenics and physical embarrassment can only do so much. Sometimes they need to take things a step further and put the suspects in a position to confess what they were planning to do to those closest to them.
“Whether it be their mother, their father, their sister, their girlfriend, even their wife,” Montgomery says. “And then Dustin and I will make sure we look at their phone while they dial the name and number so they don’t fake us out.”
“So I’m like, ‘You want to hold yourself accountable, right? You really are telling me you’re sorry?’ Because they sit there and tell us how sorry they are,” Lampros says. “They might even shed a tear. They might get emotional. ‘Well then if you’re so sorry, who are you close to? Who do you live with? Call them right now.’ One guy was like, ‘Oh, I’m not really close to anyone.’ I said open your most recent calls, his dad is in there five times. ‘Call your dad and tell him what’s going on right now, why you’re here at a park.’ Then [he] goes on the phone and, ‘Hey dad, I’m just here to have sex with a 13-year-old in a park.’
As far as Lampros’ fighting career goes, the grind hasn’t stopped, and his goals haven’t changed. After a tough run on The Ultimate Fighter, where he was finished in the first round by Vince Murdock, Lampros bounced back with three dominant wins for Shamrock FC, which included two finishes and a title win at Shamrock FC 339 in July.
Of course, making it to the UFC is the dream of most athletes who choose MMA as a career path. But with this new path Lampros has taken alongside Montgomery, having a platform as big as the UFC’s won’t just help get him over as a professional athlete — it could also help spread their message on a global scale.
“I’m grinding, I’m hoping I get that UFC call in the next couple of months,” Lampros says.
“Hopefully we got some good news soon.
“Everything’s coming full circle, and I’m truly blessed. I feel like I couldn’t be in a better position. I think God has me right where he wants me, and I’m excited to see where it goes from here.”