The Force is Strong

Ring of Fire brought the action to Buckley Air Force Base for the inaugural Buckley MMA Fight Night.

All too often, phrases like “this is going to be a war” and “preparing for battle” are carelessly thrown around to describe a mixed martial arts bout. Those words, however, have an entirely different meaning for the men and women serving in the United States Military. For them, those descriptions can literally mean they are going to put their lives on the line to defend our country and our freedom—and for them, there’s no tapping out.

Colorado-based MMA promoter and Ring of Fire founder Sven Bean appreciates the commitment our U.S. Servicemen have made, and that’s why he wanted to bring a ROF show to Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora, Colorado.

“I have always supported the Wounded Warrior Project and have been a big supporter of the troops my entire life,” Bean says. “These men and women are out there risking their lives and making huge scarifies, and this is a very small way to give back to them.”

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Working in conjunction with Shameless MMA Productions, MRI supplements, the Colorado State Boxing Commission, and Buckley Air Force Base, Bean made history February 9, 2013, when he staged Buckley MMA Fight Night, the first sanctioned MMA event on an active military base in Colorado. A portion of the Ustream pay-per-view proceeds went to the Wounded Warrior Project, and the show was viewed almost exclusively by the military personnel on the base.

Bean had a lot of help making his dream a reality.

“It’s been wonderful working with the Federal Government on this event,” says Josef Mason, program director of the Colorado State Boxing Commission. “We really appreciate what these men and women do for our country, and we’re happy to bring them an MMA event”.

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Chief Master Sergeant William Ward, Command Chief for the 460th Space Wing, is a boxing fan, but he knows the sport of MMA is exploding in popularity right now. “The younger Airmen are fans of MMA,” he says. “And we’re always trying to find events that they can attend here on the installation—where they can stay here, have a good time, and improve their moral. The military knows discipline is important, and most of these fighters are very disciplined. But it also relates to combatives, which we do as part of self-defense in the military, so MMA coincides with the military mission of discipline and mindset.”

Established in 1943 by the U.S. Army, the base was named in honor of World War I Army pilot John Harold Buckley, and it is home to the 460th Space Wing and the Colorado Air National Guard. It serves more than 92,000 active duty, National Guard, reserve, and retired personnel. One of the main missions of the 460th Space Unit is to deliver global infrared missile tracking surveillance, or as Master Sergeant and Superintendant of Public Relations Jill Lavoie said: “When someone launches a missile anywhere in the world, we see it here first.”

Fight Night

The card was headlined by UFC veteran and native Coloradoan Tyler Toner, as he faced-off against Bellator veteran Cody Carillo. While Toner impressed the military crowd with a dominating second-round TKO, the applause and support he received was no where near the ovation two Airmen making their fighting debuts—and representing Buckley—heard when they stepped into the cage.

Rick “The Reach” Van Seters, a 19-year-old Airman with the 460th Space Communications Squadron, who deals with cyber-security, began training taekwondo and Muay Thai in high school. He was matched up against James Nakashima of Omaha, Nebraska, in a Muay Thai fight.

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“I had my Group Commander and my Squadron Commander there, so there were a lot of people cheering me on, but it definitely put some pressure on me,” says Van Seters. “It was some give and take but it was really good to hear all the people cheering.”
Van Seters lost a hard-fought unanimous decision to Nakashima, but he vowed to come back and train harder.

Staff Sergeant and heavy equipment operator Todd Scheffield began training army combatives in 2001 and jumped at the opportunity to test himself against experienced and undefeated professional Jeremiah Talley.

“Fighting on Buckley—where I work—was a great experience. I had lots of guys from the shops here and a bunch of friends and family,” says Scheffield. “Walking into my first fight, I was kind of numb and had tunnel vision, but once they announced my name and I heard the roar of the crowd, I knew all the people were behind me. It became very real at that point.”

The fight didn’t exactly go as planned for Scheffield. After Talley caught a leg kick and planted Scheffield on his back, Talley unleashed some vicious ground-and-pound. Referee Tim Mills stopped the fight at 2:30 of the first round.

“I actually accomplished more than 95 percent of the people out there,” says Scheffield. “I got in that cage and went at it with a guy who trains six days a week. I have this full-time job, and I train when I can. I’m proud of my effort.”

So was U.S. Air Force Command Chief Master Ward.

“It’s a source of pride for the base that our Airmen walked into that cage against professional fighters and were able to hold their own,” he says. “I’m very proud of those kids tonight.”

Promoter Bean was thrilled with the results and looks to do more of these events in the future. “The goal is to do a couple more here at Buckley, and we also have interest from an Air Force base in California. I’m very excited to see where this may go.”

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