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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