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."

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After loss to Mavs, Wade says Bulls 'keep putting (their) hand on the hot stove every day'

After loss to Mavs, Wade says Bulls 'keep putting (their) hand on the hot stove every day'

Dwyane Wade sounded every bit like a frustrated 35-year old father when talking about the repeated ills and so-called growing pains of his Bulls, as they surrendered yet another game against a sub-.500 team.

Sometimes it's the New York Knicks whom the Bulls are offering temporary refuge. Or maybe the Minnesota Timberwolves as they are all-too-generous to roll out the welcome mat for returning figures to Chicago.

Tuesday it was the Dallas Mavericks, the second-worst team in the Western Conference, who stormed into the United Center and escaped with a 99-98 win, courtesy of Wesley Matthews' triple with 11.7 seconds left followed by him locking down Jimmy Butler on the ensuing possession.

Wade was forced to take a contested 21-footer that went awry, but the Bulls' ills went far beyond the last two possessions, when the Mavericks exploited their strategy yet again.

"Either you learn the lesson or figure out," Wade said. "Keep putting your hand on the hot stove every day.

"We just gotta figure out not to put our hands on that stove. And understand when we come in the kitchen, that stove is hot, don't touch it. As I continue to say, this is a very young team and they have to play in these games and have to go through these moments. The one thing you want, whether it's this year or next year, is to not make the same mistakes."

The Bulls are apparently insistent on touching the stove and keep burning themselves, the most recent time with the confusion or the bad strategy in defending the Mavericks' final offensive possession.

Deron Williams found himself with Nikola Mirotic defending him off a switch from Jimmy Butler. Not the quickest afoot, Mirotic gave Williams an easy path to the basket and Wade was the backside help, not wanting to leave Matthews on the wing for a triple.

But with the bench commanding Wade to help, Williams easily found Matthews for an open 3 as Wade had no help for his man. With the Bulls up two, one could see how Wade didn't want to leave Matthews.

"I'll have to go back and watch, but it looks like Deron got downcourt, Wade went over to help and we didn’t rotate accordingly," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. "We obviously need to do a better job of staying in front of the other end."

Mirotic was supposed to be brought back slowly in his return from strep throat, but he played the entire fourth quarter and 22 minutes overall, having lost eight pounds with his illness that had him miss four games.

[SHOP BULLS: Get your Bulls gear right here]

Their issues were game-long and have been seasonlong as the Mavericks were supposed to absorb a shellacking from a Bulls team that felt a 25-point beatdown in Texas last month.

Instead, they would've been happy with settling for an escape when Butler rose up over his college teammate Matthews for a 20-foot wing jumper with 22.8 seconds left.

Butler nearly added a triple-double and clutch moment to his growing resume with 24 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds but was dogged by Matthews all night, the defender who wouldn't give him airspace, went chest-to-chest and even earned a technical foul when he felt Butler exaggerated some contact in the third quarter.

"He took away my space, wouldn't let me get to my spot," Butler said of Matthews. "Good for him. I should've did something different."

Wade missed 13 of his 21 shots, scoring 17 with five rebounds on his 35th birthday

With scoring at a premium, Robin Lopez had a season-high 21 points being guarded by Dirk Nowitzki — and they were necessary considering the Bulls were without Taj Gibson (ankle injury) and Doug McDermott couldn't repeat his 30-point showing from Sunday in Memphis.

Rick Carlisle has long been regarded as one of the top strategic coaches, and though he doesn't have the usual personnel from the Mavericks' salad days, he had enough tricks up his sleeve to throw the Bulls off.

Six Mavericks scored in double figures, led by Harrison Barnes' 20 points and Seth Curry's 18, as Barnes, Matthews and Curry combined for eight triples — spreading the Bulls out and picking them apart defensively.

The Mavericks started Nowitzki at center, going to an almost all-small lineup. And though Lopez scored 14 points in the first half, trying to feed him seemed to take the Bulls out of it in the second half.

The energy was tardy to the party, as they shot just 41 percent in the first half but woke up a little in the third quarter — continuing their all-too familiar trend of half-hearted efforts against lesser teams.

And it looks like the ever-optimistic Wade is dishing out some realism, probably something that comes with the perspective of turning 35.

"You can't keep getting stressed out or frustrated. We've been going through this all year. We'll get back in in the morning.

"Once you realize who you are, you're better off. I sleep better at night. Once we want to be a better team and start winning games, we will. I'm not mad, I'm not frustrated, I'm not stressed. Just taking the hits."