Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Ultimate Fighters Visit Marines

Marines actually looked forward to giving up their lunch hour. That's because Randy "The Natural" Couture, Kendall "Da Spyder" Grove, Brandon "The Truth" Vera and Dean "The Boogeyman" Lister, competitors in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, visited Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton Friday to meet and greet the troops, exchange fighting tips and get some hands-on experience with some of the Corps' warfighting tools. Arriving in a tricked-out, shiny black Hummer and accompanied with his entourage, San Diego resident and top heavyweight contender, Brandon Vera, made his rounds around the desert-camouflaged Marines with handshakes and autographs, alongside Lister and Grove.
Ultimate Fighting stars meet the troops and exchange fighting tips.
Vera has been on the fast track to a shot at the UFC's heavyweight championship, currently held by Tim "The Maine-iac" Sylvia. With three straight wins since his UFC debut, Vera credits his newfound success to his time as an airman. "You know that trumpet they play in the morning to wake you up for PT? That's still in my head," said Vera, referring to the sound of reveille. "It's that discipline to get up and run early in the morning that I got in the military, that keeps me training today." Couture, a UFC hall of famer and former two-time heavyweight and light-heavyweight champion, also served his country in the U.S. Army. Wanting to display their own grappling skill set, the Marines of Military Police Company, Combat Logistics Regiment 17, 1st Marine Logistics Group, put on a Marine Corps Martial Arts clinic, with two Marines at a time squaring off against each other. The Marines had the luxury of having Lister and Grove in each of their corners. Grove recently became the Ultimate Fighter 3 middleweight champion on the hit reality show, "The Ultimate Fighter."
Kendall "Da Spyder" Grove, left, and Brandon "The Truth" Vera, Preparing to sign hundreds of autographs
Shouting out similar commands and tips they would normally receive in the octagon, Grove and Lister helped the Marines assume full and side-mount positions, choke attempts and body-softening blows. After wrapping up their visit with the 1st MLG, the UFC fighters headed to the northern part of Camp Pendleton at Camp Horno, where the Marines of 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment eagerly anticipated their arrival. The UFC, which has recently experienced a surge in popularity thanks to increased cable television and pay-per-view exposure, along with a modest acceptance in mainstream sports, has recently developed a relationship with the military. Tito Ortiz and Andrei Arlovski were the first UFC fighters to embrace Camp Pendleton when they visited Marines and sailors here before their respective fights at UFC 59 in Anaheim, Calif. Dana White, president of the UFC, hinted at running a UFC event at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., during a media conference call in May, and Couture said he is heading to Iraq at the end of the month for 10 days.

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