UFC fights for Wounded Warriors in, out of cage
January 24, 2011
FORT HOOD, Texas -- Fort Hood played host to the Ultimate Fighting Championship's nationally-televised event "Fight for the Troops 2," Jan. 22.
In a Robert Gray Army Airfield hangar, an octagon-fight-cage was erected for 11 grueling UFC bouts fought in front of an energized crowd of servicemembers and aired live on the Spike television network. Proceeds from the event went to a good cause, too.
This is the second time the UFC has held the event to raise money for the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, a nonprofit organization that helps military personnel who have been catastrophically injured.
"We are proud of and love the United States military," said Dana White, president of the UFC.
This is actually the third "Fight for the Troops," and the second in which money has been raised, White said. More than $4 million dollars were raised in the last event, which helped the IFHF finish construction of the National Intrepid Center of Excellence located in Bethesda, Md. The monies raised from Saturday's event will go toward Traumatic Brain Injury research.
The UFC fighters came to Fort Hood to fight for the troops, and that is exactly what they did, all night long. The octagon cage itself was proof of that, throughout the night, the 22 UFC fighters left their blood, sweat and an occasional tear in that cage.
The UFC fighters and the crowd fed off each other's energy. In the preliminary events, consisting of six bouts before the main event fights, Charlie "the Spaniard" Brenneman was one such example.
Brenneman, who won his bout by a unanimous decision against Amilcar Alves, recalled his emotions when he heard the crowd chanting "Spaniard" in his support.
"In the heat of the battle like that, the fans, the ambiance, just the internal environment," Brenneman said, "it put an extra pep in my step. I can tell you that."
Perhaps no other UFC fighter formed as great an emotional bond with the crowd as Pat Barry, who won the second bout of the main event by unanimous decision against Joey Beltran.
Barry's father, a Vietnam veteran who served as an Army medic, passed away when Barry was 6 years old. About 20 years ago, Barry's grandmother found his father's dog tags in her attic, and she mailed one to Barry and the other to Barry's little brother.
"It is my most prized possession. I don't wear watches, rings, earrings, jewelry, necklaces, nothing. I don't have tattoos. Just this one dog tag is my most prized possession," he said. "It's the last thing I take off before I fight. I don't take it off if I don't have to."
While walking to the octagon for his bout, Barry stopped and held his father's dog tag up to the crowd in an emotional moment for not only Barry, but for the troops in the hangar, as well.
"I stopped and held the dog tag in the air, and the energy came from the crowd," Barry said. "They were so energetic, it was impossible not to get amped up."
Also in attendance Saturday night was Maj. Gen. William F. Grimsley, Fort Hood's senior commander.
"This is huge. It's a great demonstration of America's support for Soldiers," Grimsley said of the UFC fundraising event.
UFC fighters are disciplined, fit, motivated-tough-guys, the general said. He added that the warrior skills and attributes they possess are great examples to Soldiers.
Grimsley said he has witnessed, first-hand, what the IFHF has done for Soldiers at The Center for the Intrepid at the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio. The IFHF are tremendous patriots who work on the behalf of wounded Soldiers and their families, Grimsley said. Some Soldiers are able to return to active duty, while others are able to successfully transition into a civilian life.
UFC icon Chuck Liddell, a UFC Hall of Fame inductee and former UFC World Light Heavyweight Champion, was also in attendance Saturday night.
Liddell, also known as "The Iceman," spent a few days at Fort Hood because of Saturday night's event. He toured Fort Hood and spent time with Soldiers and visited with wounded warriors.
"I have been going around seeing everything they do," he said of his time at Fort Hood, "just (to) tell them 'thank you. Thanks for everything you do.'"
Liddell has also been to The Center for the Intrepid at Brooke Army Medical Center. He said he was glad that such a facility existed for wounded troops and reiterated the importance of raising funds for the IFHF.
The energy and vibe inside the hangar grew stronger with each punch, kick and take down in the bouts preceding the night's most anticipated and final fight between lightweight fighters Melvin Guillard and Evan Dunham.
Guillard, as fate would have it, was actually a replacement for injured UFC fighter Kenny Florian in his bout against Dunham. Guillard was considered by many fight experts to be a substantial underdog.
Guillard took advantage of this golden opportunity, and then he took it to Dunham. With an intensity that seemed to sum up the night, Guillard punched and kneed the favored Dunham and secured a shocking technical knockout just 2:58 into the first round.
After thanking the troops in attendance for their service and all they do, a jubilant Guillard demanded a shot at the title.
"I want my title shot," he said. "No disrespect to anybody in my weight class, but I am the best 155-pound fighter in the UFC."
Long after the final bout had ended and the fans had emptied the hangar, UFC color commentator Joe Rogan, a comedian, actor and host of the popular show "Fear Factor," shared his thoughts on the evening.
"As always, these fights for the troops have a tremendous response from the crowd," he said. "There are so many emotions involved, and everybody gets really fired up, and the crowd is so appreciative, and the fighters are so appreciative, too."
Because it is also a charitable event makes it even more memorable, Rogan added.
"The Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund is a great cause and this is a huge event for us," he said. "Hopefully, as more money comes in, more improvements get made, and more people can get brought back to a condition where they can function and be healthy. That's all were hoping for."
One of the loudest and most enthusiastic fans in the crowd Saturday night was Staff Sgt. Terrea Evans-Jones, a platoon sergeant with Company B, Wounded Warrior Transition Brigade.
"My Soldiers had an awesome time," Evans-Jones said. "There were nine of us here from my platoon. They got T-shirts. They got to meet Chuck Liddell and other UFC Fighters two days ago, and it was nice to meet them and then come here and actually get to see them fight."
Pat Barry's bout against Joey Beltran was her favorite fight of the night, Evans-Jones said.
"Pat Barry said it was an honor for him to be here to fight for us because we fight for our country every day," she said, in giving the reason for it being her favorite fight.
When Evans-Jones was asked her thoughts on the UFC, and the funds being raised for wounded warriors, Evans-Jones said, "I say Hooah! And I say Hooah!"