[dropcap]T[/dropcap]o honor our veterans on America’s birthday, the Ultimate Fighting Championship granted two Chicago-area Latino veterans media access to the UFC 175 and the Ultimate Fighter 19 Finale, featuring a match between Frankie Edgar and B.J. Penn. Denisse Montoya and Geovanni Fierro, both Air Force veterans, accompanied by Michael Bacos, Navy vet and boxing/MMA photographer, to help cover the media events and gather interviews. The trip was sponsored in part by the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) and Dodd Camera.
Fierro has been a huge UFC fan since UFC 38. “The highlight was meeting B.J. Penn and watching his last fight live. Overall, just meeting the fighters on a one-on-one level and developing a personal connection with them was simply amazing.”
Montoya found the weekend to be very motivational. “I want to share the stories of these fighters and motivate other vets to push themselves towards what they want to do. It was also very cool of the fighters to talk to and take pictures with us, even if they didn’t have to. All the fighters seemed sincere in what they said to us,” said Montoya.
“There has always been a huge military fan base. The Armed Forces Network always showed the UFC fights,” said Fierro. “I remember gathering with my military buddies on a Saturday if we weren’t working and whether it was boxing or the UFC, we would gather at a friend’s house for the fights. Myself and many other of my fellow vets went ahead to even pursue MMA training, and some were even fighters after they got out,” said Bacos.
MMA is growing in the Latino community as there is an increase of fighters coming out of Mexico and the UFC is capitalizing on this by having an event in Mexico City in November. “MMA is very big in the Latino community. The UFC is a dynamic sport and Latinos will get to experience various arts like boxing, muay thai and Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Also, Chicago is a big fight town and bars that show UFC events get filled,” said Fierro.
Both Fierro and Montoya are very grateful for the opportunity given to them by EXTRA, the IAVA, Dodd Camera and the UFC. International Fight Week was a great success for the UFC and the fight cards definitely lived up to the hype.
On July 5 at the UFC 175 fight in Las Vegas, Russell Doane defeated Marcus Brimage by a split decision; Uriah Hall defeated Thiago Santos by unanimous decision; Ronda Rousey defeated Alexis Davis by TKO in :16 of 1st round (retained women’s bantamweight championship); and Chris Weidman defeated Lyoto Machida by unanimous decision (retained middleweight championship).
At the Ultimate Fighter 19 Finale on July 6, Eddie Gordon defeated Dhiego Lima by TKO in 1:11 of 1st round (became middleweight winner of TUF 19); Corey Anderson defeated Matt Van Buren by TKO in 1:01 of the 1st round (became light heavyweight winner of TUF 19); and Frankie Edgar defeated BJ Penn by TKO in 4:16 of the 3rd round.