Photo Barry Meyer, Wanderlei Silva, Jeff Meyer Courtesy of Ray Kasprowicz and Tuff-N-Uff
It's not everyday that MMA gets promoted in a positive light. The sport has been mired in negative publicity and good old fashioned ignorant politics since its inception.
Anyone who has been paying attention remembers the human cock fighting tag, or Quinton Jackson's reckless driving tantrum. Take your pick of Dana White's vulgarity laden tirades, or most recently a former UFC Heavyweight Champion's debatable remarks about his dear friend Brock Lesnar.
Point being, those who have been paying attention understand when it comes to MMA and mainstream media that bad publicity is virtually the only publicity. For those who haven't been paying attention, that bad publicity is all they know of the sport.
This is a sad fact about a sport that at the very least is world class, and deserving of a new evaluation in the public eye.
Which brings us to the point of this article.
It's the efforts of organizations like Tuff-N-Uff Amateur Fighting Championships that really paint a picture to offset the oft perceived negativity in this sport.
One example would be their latest project, Unity Through MMA 101 (more on this in a moment).
Another example would be the collection of memorabilia signed by Randy Couture, Wanderlei Silva, and Frank Mir being auctioned off on EBay for the Haiti relief fund.
Obviously Barry and Jeff Meyer have raised the bar concerning community outreach within the sport. And damn it, this is what needs to be talked about.
Unity Through MMA 101 is a youth program devised by TNU and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Las Vegas meant to give direction to young kids through MMA.
"I really have been excited about this program. It's been a long time in the making," said TNU Vice President Jeff Meyer. "When I say that, I mean my brother Barry, told me a long long time ago he really wants to reach out to the community."
For Meyer's brother the creation of the program was a very big deal.
"It's a big thing for him. Even before he was able to afford to hire me full time he was busing in these kids from a local at risk teen facility, called The Shade Tree. He sponsors a lot of kids that otherwise wouldn't be able to afford to train in MMA and he'll pay for them to join some of these gyms," said Meyer.
"We decided it's something that a lot of kids out there would probably love the chance to learn about and maybe for whatever reason whether it's financial, or they're just logistically not close to a gym, they just don't have access to that."
The program is cathing on with local organizations agreeing to cooperate.
"We approached The Boys and Girls Clubs here in Las Vegas with a partner we've actually synced up with in town locally sportsonsports.com that has done a lot of basketball, football, and wrestling camps," said Meyer.
According to Meyer, the program will be featured at two of the biggest clubs in town. While other satellite clubs will bus their kids over to those two locations. The two week program will starts on March 1st.
Meyer talked in detail about how the program is not just about practical application of martial arts, it's a commitment to showing these kids a better way; "The kids come directly after school, from four to six pm. They first start and do their homework; we're there to assist them with all their different daily activities," said Meyer.
"You have to be a good student and all these other things in order to be a martial artist, so first things first they do their homework. Then they learn a little bit about the tenants of martial arts: discipline, respect, honor, and of course self defense."
Again this is not your every day martial arts camp, this is a fully interactive and positive experience for these kids.
"We have fighters from TNU who are going to be teaching the class, and then after that they will go into to the computer labs over at The Boys and Girls clubs and blog about their experience," said Meyer. "I think that really helps them interact not only with their peers but also with the teachers who will be blogging as well."
Those teachers include an elite group of amateur mixed martial artists including Ryan Couture, Larry Mir, and Chris Holdsworth—all future stars of the sport of MMA.
Meyer feels this is a great way to introduce these youngsters to alternatives in life.
"It's a really exciting program and I think it's something that's just so needed here in town. Really the ultimate goal is give these kids a chance at a better life, there's so many temptations and dangers out there on the street," said Meyer.
Ryan Couture was asked to demonstrate some techniques to the kids as a part of the program, "I think it’s great that they’re giving back to the community," said Couture.
"I’m proud to be involved in any program that is helping to expose kids to something that can give them some direction and keep them out of trouble. On top of that, it’s always fun to share something that I’m so passionate about with others who may grow to love it as I do."
Chris Holdsworth also had some great things to say about his aspirations with the program. "It's my pleasure to help spread Jiu Jitsu and MMA to the next generation. Any thing I can do to help improve peoples lives, especially kids is a complete honor. You always have to give back. Even if it's something small. But I plan on putting my heart and soul into showing these kid/teens the right path and a better future."
Holdsworth's own youth has taught him how important it is to help others. "I was leading down the wrong path in high school until I found Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and MMA. At 16 My life changed completely. If I can help these kids/teens do the same I'll feel like I've accomplished a lot."
"Ive been really fortunate to learn and make friends with some really talented and good people all around the world," said Holdsworth. "I was helped so much along the way that I feel like it's my duty to teach people what I've been taught on becoming a better person and athlete."
According to Holdsworth, who is an instructor at the prestigious Cobra Kai club and teaches almost everyday, to find that when he shows someone a move or talks them into the right choices in life and sees them do it correctly or make improvements, it's one of the best feelings in the world
"I'm going to try my best on being a good role model for these kids and show them what MMA is all about. I was lucky to have people to look up to at their age and it helped me tremendously on becoming a complete man with goals, dedication, commitment, and values. It's a really good feeling watching these kids develop into young adults on and off the mat."
Sounds like the Meyer brothers picked the right guys for the job.
It's encouraging to hear such dedication and excitement when guys talk about playing a role in an effort like this one.
It's so important that perceived negativity surrounding MMA be offset by the truth that really permeates the sport.
Good people are working hard to do their part in their communities and give back to those who may come behind them.
It may not be ESPN worthy news in the eyes of mainstream media, but rest assured, this is more important than any bad press they can muster.
Thank you Barry and Jeff, thank you fellas who will be teaching down at the program, The Boys and Girls Club, and sportsonsports.com And good luck to all those kids who will be learning from some of the best. Your efforts are of the most noble intentions, and you should all be applauded.
Hats off to you all, on behalf of the entire MMA community.