By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class (SW) Casey H. Kyhl, Navy Public Affairs Support Element West, Det., Sasebo
(NNS) -- Fleet Activities Sasebo (CFAS) hosted three Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) fighters Aug. 18-19 in Sasebo, Japan.
Rich Franklin, Dustin Hazelett and Joe Stevenson toured ships, signed autographs and taught amateur mixed martial artists during a visit organized by the CFAS Morale, Welfare and Recreation team.
"It feels great to come out and spend some time with the Navy," said Stevenson. "I got a chance to see how the ships operate and what these guys are doing for our country. There are a lot of hard workers in Sasebo."
The fighters toured USS Essex (LHD 2), USS Denver (LPD 9), USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49) and USS Patriot (MCM 7). While aboard, they took time to pose for photographs and talk with crew members of each ship.
"It says a lot about them that they left their families and busy lives to fly around the world to visit us," said Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Eric Reed, a Denver crew member. "I think the UFC is so popular, partly because a lot of the fighters are very normal guys."
The fighters conducted a grappling seminar for more than 80 Sailors and family members at the Fleet Fitness Center Aug. 19. Participants were able to hit the mat and take ground-game advice from some of the best mixed martial artists in the UFC. After the training, attendees got a one-on-one shot at the fighters.
"I've been into mixed martial arts for a long time, and tonight I got to spar with a middleweight UFC champion," said Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Jose Cerca. "I'm going to be hurting tomorrow."
Before the seminar ended, the fighters fielded questions from participants, signed autographs and posed for photographs with fans.
"Rich Franklin won one of the first UFC fights I ever saw," Personnel Specialist Seaman Brandon Civello. "He is an amazing athlete and is a big part of why I got into the sport."
Franklin is a former middleweight champion who recently knocked out former light heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell at UFC June 12. He holds a professional record of 28 wins and 5 losses and is the co-creator of The Keep It in the Ring Foundation, a group that advocates non-violence and character building for American youth.
"I hear the guys off the ships saying that they appreciate us coming here, but it's really us who are thankful," said Franklin. "I appreciate what everyone in the military is doing for our country."
For more news from Commander Fleet Activities Sasebo, visit www.navy.mil/local/cfas/