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UFC representatives visit Montana Air National Guard to tout partnership

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Posted at 2:49 PM, Feb 29, 2024

GREAT FALLS — Representatives from the Ultimate Fighting Championship visited the Montana Air National Guard base in Great Falls on Wednesday to strengthen a growing partnership between the organizations.

UFC light heavyweight fighter Dustin Jacoby along with Kristian Stengel, the UFC Director of Global Partnerships, toured the base and learned about the mission of the Air National Guard as well as the daily lives of airmen.

“It’s really opened my eyes about the Air National Guard,” Jacoby said. “What they do for the state, what they do for the community and the duty they show when called upon to give a helping hand. It’s been very cool.”

The day included a presentation from MT ANG public affairs reps, a visit with security forces at the shooting range to test our weaponry, and a meeting with base commander Colonel David Smith. The trip will continue with a visit to the RED HORSE squadron at Malmstrom Air Force Base and a flight in a C-130.

Jacoby, who fights at 205 pounds, fired an M4 rifle on Wednesday and drew laughs when he staggered backwards from the recoil.

“I’m a bigger guy, but you put that thing on on full auto and you squeeze that trigger and it kicks you back a little bit. And I just can't imagine, doing that in a real life scenario, in real combat,” Jacoby said. “I just have so much respect for for these men and women that do that for our country and to protect us. We are the land of the free because of the brave.”

The partnership between the UFC and the Air National Guard might not seem like a natural fit at first. But MSgt. Daniel Bedford, the ANG Program Director of Partnership Development, believes it makes perfect sense on both sides. Partnering with the UFC gives the Guard access and exposure to its immense fanbase which is largely comprised of the same demographics that they’re trying to recruit.

“Our slogan is ‘Serve Your Way’. So there's people out there that could be accountants, billing managers, nurses, and then maybe one week in a month, two weeks a year, they may want to take that civilian job and turn it to a military position where they can learn a different trade, a different skill set,” Bedford said. “And that’s what’s nice about the UFC is that their fans have type-A personalities, which is nice. It's a younger demographic, typically between 17 to 42 years old. So when you look at UFC, that's your age demographic right there and that’s who we recruit.”

And according to Jacoby, there are certainly similarities between airmen and UFC fighters.

“It's a fight or flight mentality. When you step into the Octagon, you're going to war. You have that fight or flight and you're in the combat zone,” Jacoby said. “And the guys in the in the guard that are protecting our community and our country, they're in the same mindset. They're going to war as well and they're defending their turf. And that's kind of how it is. When I step into the Octagon, I look at it that way. I'm defending my turf and fighting for my family and my team.”

Recruiting and base visits are just one aspect of the partnership. But there are plans for large scale events in the future.

“So there's been some talks about hosting a fight in a hangar some day,” Bedford said. “I’m an avid UFC fan and I would love to see a fight on base in the future. So if (UFC CEO) Dana White can see this, yeah, bring it. Bring a fight out to the state of Montana, it would be awesome.”