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MMA soldiers, Marines face off in benefit fight

Mar. 13, 2013 - 08:27AM   |  
An Army vs. Marines MMA fight is slated in Loveland, Colo., to benefit wounded troops.
An Army vs. Marines MMA fight is slated in Loveland, Colo., to benefit wounded troops. ()
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It’s the ultimate showdown: Army Strong vs. Semper Fi.

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It’s the ultimate showdown: Army Strong vs. Semper Fi.

And it’s all for a good cause.

Active-duty soldiers and Marines will fight for pride, tradition and their wounded brothers in arms in front of thousands at a military-themed mixed martial arts event in Loveland, Colo., on April 20, according to boxer, trainer and promoter Jeff Cisneros.

Over the past four years, the Sparta Combat League’s Army vs. Marines event has become the biggest of the year for the state, Cisneros said. This year, an estimated crowd of 5,000 will watch 12 evening fights at Loveland’s Budweiser Event Center, with a portion of the proceeds going to preselected wounded troops.

“It’s kind of cool, because the guys attend the event, so you can walk up to them and shake their hand,” Cisneros said.

He said he plans to take the Army vs. Marines event on tour for the first time this year.

The Corps’ Wounded Warrior Regiment, which selects the wounded troops for the event, would not make a coordinator available to comment for this report.

Staff Sgt. Isaiah Johnson, an amphibious assault vehicle crewman based at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, Calif., said the fight is worth it for him if he can bring one more dollar in the door for a Marine who needs the help.

Of course, the age-old service rivalry makes it better, he said.

“It’s more motivation to do well,” said the 28-year-old middleweight, who goes by “Chainsaw” in the ring. “I don’t want to go there and show the bottoms of my feet, let the Marine Corps down.” This will be Johnson’s fourth time participating in the Army vs. Marines showdown.

Johnson will face off against Army Sgt. Dusky Van Ness, a 30-year-old guardsman on active duty at Buckley Air Force Base.

When Van Ness was first invited to participate in the event in 2011, he had a few challenges to overcome: First, he had no MMA experience, and second, he was slotted for a 170-pound fight but tipped the scales at 230.

“I went to the MMA gym and just started training,” he said, adding five hours of cardio and martial arts workouts a day and modifying his diet substantially.

“I dropped down about 60 pounds to fight in four months,” he said.

With the Army leading the Marines 2-1 in standings after the first three events, the conditions are perfect for a friendly interservice brawl, he said.

“Being able to compete against the Marines, being on the Army side … it really does bring out the competitive side of you,” Van Ness said. “Once it’s all done and over with, we all fight for the same country. So we can sit back and enjoy a beer after the fight.”

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