The mixed martial arts community has long stood behind the United States military, and with Veteran’s Day and the birthday of the Marine Corps taking place this week, several fighters are visiting with troops at the Walter Reed Medical Facility on Wednesday to show their support.
UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar, former light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans, Bellator champion Eddie Alvarez, along with Gregor Gracie, are making the trip to Virginia to visit the troops and show their support for the military.
The outing was planned and coordinated by Microtech CEO Tony Jimenez, who is himself a veteran of the United States military, along with Ali Abdel-Aziz of Dominance MMA. Jimenez admits he is always proud that so many MMA fighters always seem to take the time to show their support for the troops.
“There’s a strong connection between the military and the mixed martial arts world. So obviously when many of them want an opportunity to get involved … particularly those from the UFC, we decided to try to make that connection. (We) have been doing it regularly for the last three or four years,” Jimenez told MMAWeekly.com in an interview.
Jimenez has been involved at the grass roots with several organizations supporting the troops over the last few years including the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund. He says that the MMA world has been extremely helpful in their willingness to go the extra mile to support the troops and visit them whenever they are asked.
“It’s amazing and it really does a lot when you’re involved in this,” Jimenez said. “It’s like watching kids at Christmas time. Many of them just don’t have the ability, some of them to leave the hospital, to get around, so the fact that fighters are willing to come to Walter Reed or Bethesda, or to some of the facilities and to meet with them and to take time out of their busy schedules just means the world to them.”
Fighters from the UFC and other organizations have traveled all over the world to support the troops and make appearances. Several fighters in the UFC and Strikeforce are also veterans of the armed forces, which gives them an even deeper connection to what these troops go through everyday.
Most fighters and people involved have admitted that meeting and spending time with the troops whether in the field or in medical facilities say it’s a life changing experience. Jimenez, who has been doing work with the military for several years, says he is always amazed at the effect it has on him.
“Every time I do it, it changes me,” commented Jimenez. “It makes me realize how fortunate I am to live in a country where I have my freedoms, and it really drives home the fact that many of these people paid the price so that I could have those freedoms. They need to know what they do is appreciated, and not just by a select few, but by so many including those people who represent an amazing sport like mixed martial arts.”
One of the fighters attending Wednesday’s trip is former UFC light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans, who jumped at the chance to visit the troops and spend some time with them.
“Working with the troops is something, since the whole war thing, it was always something I wanted to do,” Evans told MMAWeekly.com. “I wanted to get involved, and to help the people who really go out there and lay it on the line at the highest stakes. I’ve always looked and wanted to do something like this and now I’m going to get the opportunity to go in there and give back to the troops.”
Evans is taken aback by the reaction he gets when speaking to members of the military, and is humbled by the adoration he gets back from the troops when they are truly the ones putting their lives on the line.
“These guys go in there and they ultimately lay it on the line with little compensation, to say the least, compared to what they’re losing,” said Evans. “To go in there and show that I’m behind them and show them how much I support them, because these are the guys that watch my pay-per-view and they follow me, because they can relate and I’ve got to go in there and support them the same way.”
Whenever one of the troops shakes his hand or asks for a picture, Evans is unbelievably happy to comply because he knows that what they do on a daily basis is on another level from what he can do in the cage or ring.
“It is crazy,” Evans said. “Because I hear their stories and they look up to me, and I’m like I don’t know what I’d do if I had somebody shooting at me or the fact that I could get blown up at any second. Just hearing their stories and hearing them talk about it, I’m just humbled that they’re looking up to me.”
Evans along with the other fighters will visit with the troops on Wednesday at the Walter Reed Medical facility.