After snub over porn star, Marines embrace UFC

After snub over porn star, Marines embrace UFC

By Lance Pugmire

Diego Sanchez will continue his quest to become Ultimate Fighting Championship's first unbeaten champion Dec. 13 when he fights Joe "Diesel" Riggs at Miramar Naval Air Station in San Diego.

Nine fights are scheduled and an estimated 3,000 members of the military are expected to attend UFC's first event on a U.S. military base. UFC will set up its Octagon inside one of Miramar's large jet hangars, Marine spokesman Maj. Jason Johnston announced Tuesday.

"This one's for the soldiers," Sanchez said. "It's an honor to be fighting in front of the troops, and I hope I can give them the Christmas present of a knockout or submission."

Albuquerque's Sanchez (18-0) has won his three most recent fights by unanimous decision, including an Aug. 17 welterweight victory over Karo Parisyan. Riggs (28-8), from Phoenix, beat Jason Von Flue by submission Aug. 17, but he's 3-3 in his last six fights.

"Riggs is real strong and he hits hard; with every punch he tries to end the fight," Sanchez said. "Doing that, he gets tired, and he knows he doesn't want to get on the ground with me."

Spike TV will televise the Sanchez-Riggs fight and at least three others in a card that will include lightweight Marcus Davis (13-4), middleweight Shonie Carter (66-13-7) and welterweight Josh Koscheck, Spike TV General Manager Kevin Kay said.

"This is a pay-per-view quality fight," Kay said. "The soldiers deserve entertainment at this time and they love UFC. They'll enjoy seeing Diego fight. He's scary. He has that killer instinct, that once he gets on top of you, you're not getting up."

Sanchez said a victory should ensure his next fight will be against the winner of Saturday's Matt Hughes-Georges St. Pierre welterweight championship bout in Sacramento.

The Miramar event was announced two weeks after military officials and popular UFC light heavyweight Tito Ortiz agreed to cancel Ortiz's planned appearance at Sunday's Miramar birthday ball. Ortiz wanted to escort his girlfriend, adult film star Jenna Jameson, to the ball, but Miramar spokesman Johnston e-mailed Ortiz: "There is some serious consternation here about having your girlfriend attend our ball. Of course, I, and a lot of Marines, are very excited about it, [but] many of our commanders feel it might be inappropriate for the type of event we are having…. It is professionally embarrassing for me to have to possibly retract our invitation, especially when I am such a big fan."

The Dec. 13 event has been in negotiations "for months," Johnston said. The event is closed to the public, although UFC officials said they will auction off a few seats to the public and donate the money to Miramar's troops and their families.

Several Marines on base share "an affinity" with UFC fighters, and the Marines have started a popular martial arts program in Quantico, Va., that used UFC fighter Ken Shamrock as an advisor.

"We mirror a lot of what they do, like the submission, although our training is geared one step further toward killing," Johnston said. "A lot of the UFC fighters are at the pinnacle of their games, physically and mentally. In combat, we need the same attributes in Iraq, as [Marines] step into their own Octagon."

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