UFC fighters visit USAG Yongsan for Thanksgiving
SEOUL, South Korea — Soldiers at U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan were treated to a Thanksgiving Day visit by fighters and from the Ultimate Fighting Championship Thursday.
“I was at Yongsan as a kid, so it’s surreal to be back here,” said Jon Tuck, a Guam native whose step-father served in the Air Force throughout much of his childhood. He will be among those taking park in UFC Fight Night 79 in Seoul on Saturday.
“The soldiers here, they’re the true warriors and I’m only a fighter for 15 minutes every few weeks, or 25 minutes when I get to the championship,” Tuck said. “These men and women are ready and able to fight every day. It’s a huge blessing to be invited here to spend time with my heroes.”
He was joined at Yongsan by retired champion Minotauro “Big Nog” Nogueira, active fighters Dominic Waters, Yair Rodrigues, Julianna Pena and Mark Hunt, and Octagon Girls Arianny Celeste and Red Dela Cruz for the holiday on post.
Command Sgt. Major John Troxell of United Nations Command/Combined Forces Command, a former high school wrestler from Iowa, said he’s a big fan as are many of the soldiers.
“We train ourselves to be physically, mentally and emotionally, not just tough, but hard,” Troxell said. That “warrior ethos” and striving for perfection “is so similar that I think that’s why you see a lot of servicemembers become arguably the No. 1 fan base of UFC.”
Marine Staff Sgt. Joshua Hedberg came to the Yongsan dining facility to see the UFC fighters after spending Thanksgiving with some students from the Korean International School. He was thrilled to have gotten tickets to Saturday’s fight.
“As soon as I found out that this was the first UFC fight on Korean soil, I knew I had to be a part of it. It didn’t matter what the price was,” Hedberg said. “It’s going to be electric in there; everybody is going to be so amped up. It’s going to be a great time.”
Benson Henderson, the former world lightweight champion now fighting in the welterweight division and headlining Saturday’s fight, is familiar with being separated from family. A new father and from an Army family, Henderson said he has the highest respect for U.S. servicemembers stationed and deployed overseas.
“I want to go out there and give the guys a great show Saturday,” Henderson said at a media event earlier in the day. “It’s going to be extra special for the soldiers out here watching.”
Fight Night 79 will take place at Olympic Park Gymnastics Arena in Seoul Saturday night. Tickets may be purchased here: http://tinyurl.com/UFCticks, or at the door if there are any remaning seats.
Servicemembers in Korea can watch the fight on Super Action, SpoTV and OtvN with the first bout scheduled to start at 7 p.m. All other fans can stream the fight on UFC Fight Pass.