MMA In A Combat Zone


By FIGHT! contributor Eric Killelea

Monica Sandford is promoting the first sanctioned MMA event ever held in Iraq. She just can’t tell you exactly where or when it’s taking place. Because of security concerns, the Armed Forces requested that the exact date and location of “A Fight Night for Heroes” be withheld until after event.

“Supporting troops is a passion, not just a gimmick,” says Sanford, the child of an Army couple. Her sister served in the Army as well and Sanford’s husband is a Marine Corps. Lieutenant Colonel with two tours if Iraq under his belt. Three years ago, Sanford started a Brazilian jiu jitsu and mixed martial arts club at Camp Lejeune, N.C. and shortly thereafter started her own production company, Devil Dog (DD) Productions because she wanted to bring events to the Marines on the base. Her events at Camp Lejeune have been successful, but one recent deployment triggered the process that led to “A Fight Night for Heroes.”

“Marine/pro fighter Lieutenant Lee Stuckey trained at my gym,” Sanford said. When he and several other amateur and professional fighters were deployed, Stuckey asked if Sanford could produce an event in Iraq, “so we started the process of seeing what it would take,” she said.

It took approval from base command in Iraq, the office of Armed Forces Entertainment at the Pentagon, and sanctioning from the International Sports Combat Federation. The entire process took ten months.

Hosted by Brigade Command, Multi National Corps, and the Army’s 25th Infantry Division, the fight card is impressive, showcasing active duty military professionals and amateurs from the U.S. Armed Forces. The show, which will take place somewhere on some date during the month of September, will feature XFC heavyweight title holder Patrick Miller, Bellator FC’s Jason Norwood, Army Combatives expert Andrew Jones, WEC veteran Scott Harper and Navy man Mike Brown among others. Xtreme Couture’s G.I. Foundation and Tapout are among the organizations sponsoring the event.

The event is free to servicemen and women in-country and will be filmed for release at a later date.

To read more about this event, pick up the November issue of FIGHT! Magazine, which will feature a story about “A Fight Night for Heroes” by editor-in-chief Donovan Craig who will be on site for the event.

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