MMA visits Camp Foster

Kenji Arakaki, left, a member of the local Okinawa community, claims victory during a mixed martial arts event at Camp Foster’s field house, Feb. 15, 2019. The event promoted healthy competition between international fighters; building relationships between the U.S. military and international communities through sportsmanship and mutual respect. (U.S Marine Corps Photo by Cpl. Christopher Madero)
February 16, 2020

CAMP FOSTER, OKINAWA, Japan – The crowd cheered as lights illuminated the cage. Fans cheered the names of fighters expressing enthusiasm to begin their matches. But as with any battle, anxiety consumes the mind of most fighters until the referee yells,“Fight!”

The mixed martial arts community visited Camp Foster’s field house Feb. 15 for an event specifically for members of the U.S. military community.

The event featured international fighters from seven weight classes, and consisted of ten fights with each round lasting three minutes. It was an exciting show from start to finish.

Marine Corps Community Services (MCCS) coordinated the event in hopes that it would bring international communities closer together, as well give a chance to international communities to interact with the U.S. military.

“MMA happens to cross many cultures,” said Richard D. Farnell, an entertainment program manager with MCCS. “[MMA] is popular between military and local communities – so we decided it was the best thing to do.”

While contenders were pitted against one-another, each fight displayed a significant mutual appreciation among the athletes and coaches.

It was an important display of sportsmanship, modesty, and respect by fighters from different nations.

“I’m here to serve my country, but I also knew when I joined the Air Force I wanted to achieve certain goals when it came to fighting; now I’m just happy I can get the best of both,” said Senior Airman Cordell George, an aerospace propulsion technician with 353rd Special Operations Aircraft Maintenance Squadron.

“It’s different when you see your fellow soldiers, Marines, airmen and sailors come out to support you – it means everything,” he said.

The cutman for the event was Hospitalman 2nd Class Ruben Burgos, a corpsman with 3d Medical Battalion, III Marine Expeditionary Force. He played a key role in the success of the event. If a fighter was cut or had excessive swelling, it was Burgos’ job to stop the bleeding. Similar to his role outside MMA, it was his duty to keep the fight going.

“Just like fighters, Marines are out to win, so having a great cutman or corpsman is vital to keeping the fight going and doing what it takes to win,” said Burgos. “With everything these fighters are risking, I understand the importance of what I do – in and out of my uniform.”

MMA has many similarities in the mindsets of both military personnel and martial artists. Fast and efficient decision making, resilience, aggressiveness, a warrior’s mentality and many more traits have been adopted. It’s more than a fight – it’s a lifestyle.