CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait – The first Ultimate Fighting Championship mixed martial arts pay-per-view event was held in 1993 in Denver, Colorado. Royce Gracie won the event, which contained no weight classes. More than 20 years later the league that seemed doomed to fail in its initial stages has exploded into a billion dollar company, home to some of the most recognizable faces in sports.
Now, UFC fighters are getting the opportunity to show their appreciation for service members stationed overseas. Kyle Kingsbury, Matt Brown and Tom Lawlor, all signed to the UFC, as well as Dan Caldwell and Tim Katz, two of the founders of the clothing brand Tapout, visited Camp Arifjan, Kuwait on the Fighters for Fighters tour, Jan. 23.
The Fighters for Fighters tour gives service members stationed overseas a chance to learn from the best and is organized and directed by Kurt Shrout, a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt.
“First and foremost, obviously, what we do is very applicable to hand-to-hand combat,” said Kingsbury about the relationship between MMA and military combat. “What you’re going to learn, this stuff, it works, it’s fine tuned.”
Kingsbury would know: he’s a light heavyweight at 205 lbs, who’s been fighting in the UFC since 2008 and was featured on season eight of the TV series “The Ultimate Fighter.” Matt Brown is a welterweight at 170 lbs, who’s on a six-fight win streak. “Filthy” Tom Lawlor is also an alum of The Ultimate Fighter and currently fights in the UFC’s middleweight division at 185 lbs.
The group of MMA elites met with UFC fans and enthusiasts to answer questions, snap some photos, sign autographs and give the ins and outs of the rapidly rising sport. They spoke about the business side of the fighting world, the rules of the UFC and the mentality of training.
“The other thing, without question, is the fitness side of it,” said Kingsbury. “Everyone is a big fan of Crossfit, and Crossfit’s great, it’s a good way to train the full body, but there’s nothing like getting on the mat and grappling with somebody or sparring with somebody to really build your cardio.”
Midway through the question-and-answer session with fans a challenge was presented: Dan Caldwell versus any service member in a one-minute push-up competition. When crickets started humming, Staff Sgt. Jason Sisson from the 371st Sustainment Brigade rose from the bleachers to accept the challenge.
Caldwell’s 81 push-ups to Sisson’s 57 were victorious, but given the Army standard of two minutes, who knows what the outcome would have been.
“I’m a big UFC fan, and I go to a gym back in Ohio [for MMA training],” said Sisson, who is Level 2 certified in the Modern Army Combatives Program. “Both of my sons go there and we love it. We watch UFC every time it comes on. It’s really good to have them here. They take their training just as seriously as we take ours.”
For more information about the Fighters for Fighters tour visit www.facebook.com/FightersForFighters.