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JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash.-- Groups of Soldiers gathered at three different locations on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., eagerly waiting to meet five mixed martial arts fighters from the Ultimate Fighting Championship, Dec 6.
Professional fighters Demetrious "Mighty Mouse" Johnson, Brendan "The Hybrid" Schaub, Bryan "Kid Lightning" Caraway, Court "The Crusher" McGee and a strike force women's fighter, Meisha "Takedown" Tate made their first stop at Carey Theater and swapped stories with wounded warriors.
"Having the UFC fighters take time out of their busy schedule to come out and see our wounded, ill and injured Soldiers means a lot to JBLM," said SSG LaToya Gregory, squad leader, WTB, Headquarters and Headquarters Company.
McGee "The Crusher" opened up to Soldiers about his past addictions and overdose on drugs.
"I didn't think that I could make it on the Ultimate Fighter because I didn't have the right attitude," McGee said. "The only reason they (UFC) gave me a shot was because I stayed sober one day at a time for four years straight."
One Soldier in the crowd said McGee's story let him know he was not alone facing personal struggles.
"Stories like Court McGee's remind me that I'm not the only person who has been knocked down," said Sgt. Sherwood Diggs Jr., cavalry scout, Warrior Transition Battalion.
"In 2009, I went from being a physical training stud to PT dud while on my second deployment to Iraq," Diggs said. "I physically felt like I was dying. I didn't know at the time that I was suffering from a rare lung disease called sarcoidosis."
After their visit with the wounded warriors, the fighters headed to the Gibson Dining Facility to eat a meal with a few Soldiers from JBLM.
Staff Sgt. Brian Desantiago, military police, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, sat next to McGee and interacted with him during lunch.
"It was really nice to get to know the person behind the athlete," Desantiago said. "I can appreciate an athlete's drive and thirst for competition. I believe they (UFC fighters) share a concept similar to the warrior ethos. Never accept defeat, never quit. Fight through the pain and accomplish the mission."
The fighters made their last stop at the Warrior Zone for photo opportunities and an autograph session.
Among the fans in the crowd was Staff Sgt. Joshua Hughes, human intelligence collector, I Corps who said he watched a lot of Chuck Norris and Jean-Claude Van Damme movies as a child and admired the fancy jump kicks.
"Watching UFC fighters who've reached the pinnacle of martial arts is like watching the Olympic Dream Team for basketball," Hughes said. "These fighters are the best of the best."
Schaub "The Hybrid" was scheduled to fight at the Key Arena in Seattle, but his opponent pulled out, giving him an opportunity to meet Soldiers here.
The UFC fighters departed JBLM with a new appreciation for military troops.
"Not many people get to meet troops, especially wounded warriors and hear their stories," Schaub said.
Schaub continued, "People think fighting is risky, but after I heard their stories I didn't even want to tell about my experiences. What we do is very small compared to what the troops do for the U.S."