MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
Professional fighters from Affliction, a major mixed martial arts organization and clothing line, visited the Combat Center Sunday to mingle with base personnel.
Big-league MMA names such as Bas Rutten, Tim Sylvia, Hermes Franca and Albert Rios met with hundreds of Combat Center service members and their families at the Marine Corps Exchange to sign autographs and take photos with the base community.
“I think it’s really awesome these guys came out here,” said Lance Cpl. K.C. Shailer, an automotive organizational mechanic with Combat Logistics Battalion 46, from Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., and native of Morris, Conn. “They have a really busy schedule and they could be anywhere else, but they’re here. I think that’s really great.”
Tom Atencio, the vice president of Affliction Clothing and an Affliction MMA partner, said the trip to the Combat Center had been planned for some time. Atencio, whose uncle served in the Corps during the Vietnam War, said showing support to service members is something he and the fighters felt proud doing.
“We want to give back to the people who make sacrifices for our country,” said Atencio, a Laguna Beach, Calif., native. “I can’t say in words how much we appreciate what Marines [and sailors] do here.”
While aboard the Combat Center, the MMA fighters split into two groups, one staying at the main exchange; the other traveled further west to visit units preparing for deployments at Camp Wilson.
There, Marines and sailors with dirty hands and slung weapons lined up inside the Camp Wilson Exchange to meet and greet with the fighters.
A raffle was offered at the exchange to give the warriors a chance to win one of three Affliction T-shirts signed by former Ultimate Fighting Challenge light heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell, as well as an Affliction leather jacket.
Other items, such as exchange gift cards and an Affliction poster board, were also raffled off.
“It’s good to know there are still people who care,” said Cpl. Dan C. Williams, a logistics vehicle system operator with CLB-46, and native of Newtown, Conn.
Williams and a few other Marines stayed at the exchange through the entire visit to “soak in all the Affliction” they could.
After the last unit T-shirt and poster was signed, the group gathered as many Marines and sailors as possible for a group photo in front of Affliction’s stretch Hummer outside the exchange.
“It’s the least we can do,” said Rutten, a former UFC heavyweight champion and member of the Affliction broadcast team. “Our fights don’t mean [anything] compared to your fight. When we make a mistake, the ref [referee] just stops the fight.”
Atencio said the team planned to visit Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., the following day. Additional trips to Germany and Japan are also on the group’s schedule in the near future.