USS WASP -- While the USS Wasp traveled from Norfolk, Va., to New York City for Fleet Week 2007, fighters from the International Fight League came along for the cruise to give a mixed martial-arts demonstration to Marines and sailors from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit on May 22.
Among the fighters were Ben Rothwell, Patrick Miletich and Renzie Gracie, who rode the ship to show their appreciation to the sea services by teaching Marines and sailors some of the fighting techniques they have mastered in the Ultimate Fighting Championship and IFL.
"At first I was just going to do a demonstration for the troops, but then I decided I wanted to do something more - I wanted the troops to get something out of it and practice (martial arts) with me," said Miletich, who has trained with the military police for 12 years.
Miletich and Gracie instructed the Marines in mixed martial-art (MMA) techniques, which include strikes, takes downs, grappling and holds. The sport is known for combining boxing and grappling, but the application to a combat environment is not exact.
"Our sport is so much different than what these guys have to do in a hand-to-hand situation. It's not their job to compete with people, it’s their job to win," said Miletich. "For example, they are generally not going to find themselves using submissions in a warfare situation."
Miletich, a UFC and IFL veteran who has trained such fighters as Matt Hughes, demonstrated his fighting techniques first before having the Marines practice it one on one.
"The training gave us real-life scenarios," said Sgt. Eric Hargrave, 24th MEU supply chief. "A lot of times we're training with people who don't know too much about fighting, and all we do is scrabble and practice on each other. He's (Miletich) actually been in the ring and fought - he knows what works."
While the Marines and sailors practiced their new fighting techniques, the fighters went around individually, critiquing each service member.
"Pat Miletich came up to me and trained with me one on one," said a smiling Pfc. Joshua D. Hubbard, 24th MEU supply administration clerk.
"Having all of them here was real cool. I'm a young a Marine, and I had a superstar teaching me martial arts. It's great stuff, especially when you are on a ship and there's not that much to do."
The IFL fighters were impressed with the determination of the Marines and sailors to practice and fully learn the fighting moves they were being taught.
"With all the Marines and sailors training, it looked like a big jujitsu school," Gracie said with a laugh. "From what I have seen, they have been training and have a basic notion of what they are doing. They did a really good job practicing body-to-body combat on each other."
The IFL fighters said they all had a blast and were glad they were given a chance to show the troops their appreciation.
"I think every fighter I have ever met is very patriotic and very supportive of the troops," said Miletich. "This is easily one of the best special events I have ever done, and it means a lot to me to see all of these young guys and girls who are putting their lives on the line for our country."
"This is an experience I will never forget," said Rothwell, who is in the heavyweight division with a record of seven wins and no losses. "It’s been a privilege and an honor to be on the ship with the troops. They need to be appreciated at all times, and I'm just happy to be here and show my support."
It was quite obvious the IFL fighters weren't the only ones who enjoyed themselves.
"I really appreciate the fact that they came out and gave me their time and day," said Hubbard. "I mean, they came out on the float with us. They probably have millions of dollars and didn't have to come out. They have to train a lot, and for them to take a few days out of their busy training schedule to just chill out, means a lot. You don't see that too much these days."