Fort Polk received some very special guests on on November 20th. It was UFC Patriot Day at Fort Polk and soldiers got the chance to do some live combat training with big names from the world of professional mixed martial arts (MMA).
In what was described as both a morale booster, as well as a training session, the soldiers got the chance to learn from top notch fighters such as Jeremy Horn, Houston Alexander, Ryan Jenson, and Juan Adams.
Each of the fighters ran live combat drills with the soldiers that involved striking, take downs, grappling, and close quarter combat. The soldiers learned skills relating to MMA and Modern Army Combatives.
"Our overall goal is to raise morale, and teach these soldiers soldiers a thing or two," said SPC John Gallardo. Gallardo was one of the soldiers assisting the fighters during the drills. He expressed that the fighters coming to Fort Polk had a positive impact on the soldiers.
The Leesville Daily Leader spoke to each of the fighters about what it was like to hang out and train with Fort Polk soldiers.
"It's an honor to be here and to get to interact with some of the troops. Because of guys like these, I get to do what I get to do. So, I definitely respect them," said Juan Adams.
Adams is a heavyweight fighter who has had multiple fights in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). Adams expressed his admiration for the hard work and sacrifice made by those who choose to enlist in the military. Adams also noted that he enjoyed touring Fort Polk and learning about what life was like on post.
Adams said: "It means a lot to me that the army reached out to me to come visit and do this. I graduated from a military college myself. It's really cool to see the inner workings and day to day life of these soldiers."
Houston Alexander led an intense session of drills that emphasized quick takedowns, and striking.
"We are boosting morale, and at the same time we are showing our soldiers how to put someone down on the ground without playing with them," Alexander said. "We don't have time to play with the enemy. We don't have time to play with anybody that's in front of us. So we gotta take them down and move on."
Alexander is a world renowned MMA Fighter known for his years fighting in promotions like the UFC and Bellator MMA. His first round knockout victory over Keith Jardine in 2007 is still one of the most memorable debuts in UFC history. Alexander expressed his deep appreciation and respect for the military.
He said: "It's an honor [to be here]. These are our men and women who are protecting our country and they deserve our respect."
Alexander shared his outlook on life, and expressed his message of respecting others no matter who they are.
He said: "No matter wherever you are in life, make sure you respect whomever it is [that you meet]. It doesn't matter if their low on the totem pole or high on the totem pole, treat everyone with respect and always do the right thing."
Jeremy Horn led an intense grappling session with the soldiers. Horn is an MMA legend who has had 119 professional fights with 91 victories on his record. He has notable victories over fighters like Chuck Liddell, Chael Sonnen, and Forest Griffin.
Horn noted that it was fun for everyone involved, and afterwards he talked with the soldiers and answered their questions about his storied MMA career. Horn took great pride in being able to give back to the soldiers in any way possible.
"It's huge for me. I didn't join the military myself, and I'm somewhat regretful of that. When I was younger it wasn't foremost in my mind," Horn said. "The path I took was martial arts. As I got older I really have learned a great deal of appreciation for all they do, and for all they sacrifice. It is such a privilege and honor to give back in one way or another. I am really thankful that I get to do things like this. It is one of the ways that I can give back and show my appreciation to the military."
Ryan Jensen taught the soldiers about tactical combat training drills, something he is all too familiar with. Jenson is a well traveled MMA fighter who competed in top promotions like UFC, Bellator, and Strikeforce. He is also one of the driving forces behind Complete Tactical Consultants, which offers anyone a comprehensive training program that combines skills and techniques from advanced military training, and combat sports.
"Everything I did with these soldiers today is what we offer on our [Complete Tactical Consultants] website. What we do is all about building people into better people."
Jensen expressed that he is a proud supporter of the U.S. Military and is a strong advocate for more tactical combat training for the soldiers.
"I support these guys one thousand percent," said Jensen. "We need more training for all of our troops and for our law enforcement."
Jenson stated that consistency is needed to gain proficiency in even the most basic of combat skills. He emphasized that these skills can benefit anyone from soldiers to law enforcement. "What we do is all about building people into better people," he said.
Jensen noted that he personally enjoyed getting to meet all the soldiers. "Being able to meet these guys is great. It's just great to meet them and get to hang out with them."