CONTINGENCY OPERATING SITE MAREZ, Iraq – Ultimate Fighting Championship fighters visited Soldiers with Regimental Fires Squadron, 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) along with Soldiers from 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division while on their tour through Iraq. Fighters Heath Herring, Mike Swick and Kyle Kingsbury signed autographs, answered questions and conducted a mixed martial arts clinic with soldiers on COS Marez Friday. They were also accompanied by actresses/spoke models Amber Nichole Miller and Andrea Tiede.
The Ultimate Fighting Championship is a promotion company based on mixed martial arts in the United States that hosts many events worldwide. The UFC's first competition was in Denver, Colo., in 1993. Drawing from different fighting techniques, such as boxing, jiu jitsu, and wrestling, the UFC style is considered by many to be the most effective martial art discipline when engaged in a real hand-to-hand fight. Originally, the sport held a "no rules" reputation and was not allowed in many states. However, after a controversial period, the UFC steadily experienced a transformation that required more rigorous rules and was later recognized and accepted by the State Athletic Commissions.
While Soldiers were impressed by the fighters, the fighters were impressed by the Soldiers. Swick noted the austerity of the region. "This is my first tour here in Iraq ever and we went through Europe … and it's one thing to be on an Air Force Base in Germany where it is like a hotel…then to go to Iraq and see that change and see what you guys go through day in and day out and see what your life is like … that's why we're here. We definitely appreciate the ability to be able to come out here and support you guys."
Many of the techniques forged by UFC are now used by the Army and Marine Corps's hand-to hand or "combatives" courses. Master Sgt. Pete Grey, a level III combatives instructor from Tampa, Fla., with HHC 130th Engineers Brigade, got to learn a few techniques and spar with Swick. "It's awesome! I am happy to have an opportunity to roll with someone like Mike Swick. It's like a dream day for us … I just eat it up! I love it and soldiers really appreciate it!" he said.
Soldiers got the UFC fighters' autographs while Mike Swick got Soldiers' autographs when they all signed his hat. Texas native Heath "Texas Crazy Horse" Herring also commented on his visit. "I've been to Afghanistan and been to Iraq twice, and you all are the most impressive thing I've seen. There were places I have gone to where guys have spent seventeen months in country. I did not hear one complaint. I didn't hear one guy not determined to do what he needed to do … I am impressed … and that's why I keep coming out here," he said.
Apparently, the soldiers were just as motivated, as they stayed for hours to talk to the fighters, learn new techniques, and get a general insight into this increasingly popular contact sport that has an impact on their warrior training now and into the future.