UFC grateful to stage free fights at Fort Hood

UFC grateful to stage free fights at Fort Hood

Thursday, January 20, 2011 7:01 p.m.
MMA PAGE

By GREG BEACHAM
AP Sports WriterThe UFC gives a whole lot more than money to its favorite charitable endeavors, and soldiers are Dana White's favorite cause. The mixed martial arts league will host its third fight card on a military base this Saturday when the UFC visits Fort Hood in Texas. Every seat at Fight for the Troops 2 was given away to base personnel, and fans watching on television will be encouraged to donate to charities benefiting wounded veterans. White, the UFC president, has been aware of a profound bond between MMA fighters and soldiers ever since he purchased the company with his partners 10 years ago. Many soldiers love studying martial arts, and the UFC has several fighters with military experience. "The troops are very into the fights, but the UFC is very into the military," White said. "I don't know what it is for me, but I have this thing for the military, too. I think these guys are real heroes. I consider myself a pretty tough guy, but I don't want to crawl into the jungle with a gun, or go into some desert. Some of the stuff they have to do is messed up. They respect and look up to the fighters, and you know our fighters look up to them." Rising lightweight star Evan Dunham will fight Melvin Guillard in the main event at Fort Hood, and Canadian Mark Hominick can earn a featherweight title shot with a victory over George Roop. Former NFL player Matt Mitrione also appears on the card. Guillard exemplifies the MMA-military connection: He grew up in a military family, and he lives with the family of a soldier while training in Albuquerque. "I have a ton of friends out of high school that are in the military," Guillard said. "For the UFC to even ask me to fight on this card, that's an honor in itself. I'm going to give these guys a show. They work so hard to protect us, year after year. To me, it's just all part of being an American." The UFC first held a show at the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in southern California in 2006, setting up an octagon in an aircraft hangar. White still remembers the pre-show national anthem as one of the highlights of his promoting career, with thousands of soldiers rising in unison to salute the flag. During its first official Fight for the Troops at North Carolina's Fort Bragg in December 2008, the UFC raised 4 million toward the construction of a research center for traumatic brain injuries. White has sent thousands of UFC DVDs and tons of merchandise to soldiers stationed overseas over the past decade, and the UFC makes every event available for free on the American Forces Network. Putting on a show at Fort Hood will cost the UFC nearly 2 million, but White hopes the event raises twice as much money for the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, which funds research on traumatic brain injuries, and the Fisher House Foundation. "It's just what we feel we have to do for our troops," White said. "I really feel our country has lost its patriotism. These kids sacrifice themselves, and we have to take care of them, but we don't. It's amazing to me." White didn't even realize Fort Hood was the site of the November 2009 shooting in which 13 people were killed. The UFC simply asks military officials to put the shows wherever they choose -- and for a while last year, White thought the UFC was going to Afghanistan. White said the league was busy figuring out how to take its show to an unnamed Afghan location when an attack on the base scuttled the trip. White still hopes to put a future show on a base near the front lines, or perhaps in the sizable American bases in Germany. The massive Fort Hood is the most populous U.S. military installation, but only about 6,000 soldiers will fit into the helicopter hangar where the show will be held. The UFC will hold an online auction at fightforthetroops.com during the fights, and fans will be asked to donate by phone during the telecast on Spike TV. The UFC is even making two preliminary fights available for free on Facebook. "I don't put any pressure on myself to beat last year's fundraising," White said. "We're going to put on some great fights, and people are going to enjoy them."

Northwestern's Tre Demps joins Bulls' Summer League roster

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Northwestern's Tre Demps joins Bulls' Summer League roster

From Chicago's Big Ten Team to Chicago's NBA team.

Former Northwestern guard Tre Demps will play for the Bulls in this offseason's Summer League in Las Vegas.

Demps spent four seasons in Evanston and became quite a prolific scorer, averaging 15.7 points per game as a senior last season after averaging 12.5 points per game and 11 points per game during his junior and sophomore seasons, respectively. Last season, Demps connected on 39.8 percent of his field-goal attempts and shot 33.2 percent from behind the 3-point line, averages down from the previous season.

Demps had some incredible scoring performances last season, including a 30-point effort on the road against then-No. 3 Iowa that featured six made 3-pointers, a career high he matched with six triples in a win over Rutgers later in the season.

Demps is the son of New Orleans Pelicans general manager Dell Demps.

Cubs: How Kris Bryant became a superstar in the making

Cubs: How Kris Bryant became a superstar in the making

What initially looked like a garbage-time home run for Kris Bryant – and day-after spin from Theo Epstein – actually summed up why the Cubs have a homegrown superstar and a franchise ready for another close-up in October.

It also helps explain how Bryant – at the age of 24 – became the first player in history to hit three homers and two doubles in a Major League Baseball game. Bryant set a franchise record with 16 total bases during Monday night’s 11-8 victory over the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park, becoming the youngest Cub to ever have a three-homer game (or 10 days younger than Ernie Banks in 1955).

After the New York Mets swept the Cubs out of last year’s National League Championship Series, Epstein sat in a dingy Wrigley Field storage room converted into a media workspace for the playoffs. During that end-of-season news conference, the president of baseball operations highlighted Bryant’s final at-bat, how New York’s right-handers kept attacking him with changeups.

Cubs officials felt like they were beaten at their own game, impressed how the Mets did such a great job with advance scouting, breaking down numbers and executing that night’s plan. If Bryant appeared to be vulnerable to that weakness – and a little worn down at the end of an All-Star/Rookie of the Year campaign – he still had the presence of mind to make an adjustment in Game 4.

With his team down seven runs in the eighth inning, Bryant drove a changeup from a two-time All-Star reliever (Tyler Clippard) 410 feet into the left-center field bleachers for a two-run homer.

Bryant can grow up as the son of an old Boston Red Sox prospect who learned the science of hitting from Ted Williams – and have his own batting cage at his family’s Las Vegas home – and still not feel burned out from the game or create the wrong Sin City headlines.

Bryant can get drafted No. 2 overall out of the University of San Diego in 2013, shoot a Red Bull commercial with a goat before his first at-bat in The Show and have his own billboards in Wrigleyville – and still not alienate himself from teammates or come across as having the wrong priorities.

Bryant is athletic enough to play third base, right field and left field during that 5-for-5, six-RBI, three-homer game. He can also get analytical and self-diagnose – without feeling paralyzed at the plate.

Bryant didn’t remember the NLCS as an eye-opening experience or give the Mets too much credit: “They all throw 96 (mph), which is kind of just where baseball is nowadays, too – a ton of people are throwing gas.”

For Bryant, it’s a constant process of self-evaluation, from his 0-for-4, three-strikeout debut last April, through the 21 games it took before hitting his first big-league homer, beyond hitting the rookie wall last summer (.639 OPS in July).   

“It’s the peaks and valleys of baseball,” Bryant said. “From August and September last year, I had two really good months (.900-plus OPS). I didn’t really have the postseason I wanted to. But up until that point, I was swinging the bat really good. I was feeling really good about myself.

“I kind of just went back to what I did in college, a drill that kept me more flat to the ball. That’s what helped me. And then going into the offseason, I really wanted to expand on it. Just continue with it and see where it took me.”

After finishing second in the majors with 199 strikeouts last season, Bryant struck out 12 more times in 37 playoff plate appearances. He’s now on pace for around 160 strikeouts – with 21 homers and 57 RBI a week out from the Fourth of July.  

“What he had been doing before was not going to work (long-term),” manager Joe Maddon said. “I’m not one of those guys (who says): ‘Hey, you can’t hit like that in the big leagues.’ I always used to hate hearing that from coaches. (But) the fact was that he had such an abrupt uppercut or chicken wing – whatever you want to call it – easily exposed by good pitching. Easily. And it had to go away.

“(He) worked through it. He knew how he was getting beat up at the plate. He knew what he couldn’t get to that he was able to get to before. He’s only 20-something years old, (but) he’s quick (and thinking): ‘I’m seeing the ball good. I just can’t get to it. What do I have to do to get to those pitches?’ Now he is.”

The Mets won the pennant, but their foundation might already be crumbling, with Steven Matz and Noah Syndergaard reportedly dealing with bone spurs in their pitching elbows and Matt Harvey (4-9, 4.64 ERA) struggling to live up to his Dark Knight of Gotham persona after throwing 216 innings during last year’s return from Tommy John surgery.

The Epstein regime built a franchise around young power hitters like Bryant – believing that young power pitchers are inherently too fragile – and the Cubs could be 25 games over .500 when they get another shot at the Mets in an NLCS rematch that begins Thursday night at Citi Field.  

“Obviously, the front office has done a really good job of getting good players,” Bryant said. “You look at the young talent around the room, it’s pretty cool to see that.

“They’re just good people. They drafted good people, signed good people, and I think that just makes it easier to go out there and play our game and be yourself.”

Terps add ex-New Mexico State receiver Teldrick Morgan

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Terps add ex-New Mexico State receiver Teldrick Morgan

One of the most productive receivers in college football during the 2014 season is joining Maryland for the 2016 campaign.

Teldrick Morgan, who spent the first three seasons of his collegiate career at New Mexico State, has joined the Terps as a graduate transfer and will be eligible to play this season.

“Teldrick brings a great deal to our program, and we’re excited that he’s a part of our family,” Maryland head coach DJ Durkin said in the announcement. “It’s always great to bring a local kid back home, and on top of that he’s very skilled and brings a wealth of experience to our receivers unit.”

The 2014 season was a big one for Morgan, a native of the Old Line State. He ranked 32nd in the FBS with 75 receptions and 50th in the nation with 903 receiving yards.

Morgan missed three games last season due to injury and finished with 44 receptions (still a team high) for 543 yards and four touchdowns. He did have a pair of triple-digit receiving-yardage games, though, racking up 151 yards against UTEP and going for 101 yards against Louisiana Monroe.

Maryland can use all the help it can get when it comes to the passing game. The Terps ranked 13th out of 14 Big Ten teams in pass yards per game, averaging just 174.3 yards through the air per Saturday.