‘Jimmy Mas,’ champ of mixed martial arts, lost to addiction


Jim Masciantonio loved mixed martial arts.

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He had a green belt with four stripes and dreams of competing professionally. He watched cage fights and started a training program in Boynton Beach. He wrote a blog and conducted interviews for websites such as cagejunkies.com.

One of his biggest thrills came in 2012 when he stood in front of a camera and interviewed his idol, Randy “The Natural” Couture.

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“He was a bit nervous as you can see by his constant body movement. Boy, we had a good laugh,’’ said his mother, Diane Castiglione of Indian Shores in Pinellas County.

While Masciantonio could withstand punches and kicks in the ring, he couldn’t beat his addiction to heroin.

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“Jimmy Mas,” as he was known to friends, was found dead in a Boynton Beach motel room on Feb. 27, 2015, after his mother asked police to make a welfare check. He was 30. He had survived an overdose just two days earlier.

A native of Philadelphia, Jim had been in and out of at least 25 treatment programs over a struggle with drug addiction that started with marijuana when he was 11 and escalated to heroin when he was 16, his mother said.

That included treatment programs ordered by Pinellas County stemming from arrests for drug possession. She said his addiction was aggravated by bipolar disorder.

“He would cry, ‘I just want to be normal.’ I could see the pain when he would use,’’ Diane said.

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She said he found recovery in 2009. He fell in love with a woman with whom he had a child in May 2010.

But he relapsed in 2011 when doctors prescribed opiates after surgery for hemorrhoids.

“He struggled to get back his recovery, to seek treatment to get back on track,’’ Diane said.

“He hadn’t used heroin since he moved from Philadelphia in 2008. My son was an opioid addict but swore he would never go back to heroin.’’

When he overdosed and died on Feb. 27 the heroin was laced with fentanyl, records show.

“A murderer walks the streets of Florida dealing heroin laced with fentanyl,’’ she said.

“So many people have failed my son. I want the system to change. The system is just fouled.”


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