Believe it or not, but there's more to this weekend in Columbus, Ohio, than just UFC 82: "Pride of a Champion" and The Arnold EXPO 2008.
Both major events also coincide with the "Night to Remember" that benefits the Ray Mendoza Leadership Fund — an initiative that provides a yearly monetary gift/award to an Ohio family that has suffered from the loss of a loved one in armed combat overseas.
Mendoza — a former Ohio State wrestling Big 10 medalist and heavyweight runner-up for the Buckeyes at the Big 10 Wrestling Championships in 1993 — was killed in northern Iraq in November 2005 as a member of the United States Marines.
He was a roommate and teammate of former UFC champions Mark Coleman and Kevin Randleman while at Ohio State, helping "The Hammer" train for the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain.
Adam Wagner from MMAmania.com recently caught up with Coleman, who had this to say about the benefit:
"Ray was good buddy of mine, my training partner for the Olympics. He died in the Marines serving our country and the foundation was created to honor his memory. It helps families in the area who share similar unfortunate circumstances. I'm supporting it 100 percent. It's a great cause."
The Mendoza Fund will also be the primary funding source for the Ray Mendoza Leadership Institute at the John Glenn School for Public Affairs at The Ohio State University.
This Thursday, February 28, 2008, the celebration will kickoff with a networking event at Ray Mendoza Leadership Institute at The Ohio State University – Page Hall on campus.
MMA Authentics-sponsored fighters, including Coleman, Randleman, BJ Penn, Urijah Faber, Roger Huerta, Sam Stout, Mark Homonick, Chris Horodecki, Dan Henderson and Diego Sanchez are all expected to be in attendance alongside other dignitaries.
On Friday, February 29, 2008, the "Night to Remember Event" will take place at the Park Street Patio & Sugar Bar (in the same area as Nationwide Arena) from 6:00 to 10:30 p.m. NFL legends such as Eddie George and Chris Spielman will be on hand during a celebrity meet and greet alongside a mix of MMA stars and other notable guests.
UFC ringside announcer, Mike Goldberg, will emcee the event, which costs just $100 to attend. All monies raised go toward the Ray Mendoza Leadership Fund.
For more information on events and interview opportunities contact Michael DiSabato at 614-783-7391 or Randy Haffey at 614-975-1363.
Cage Fighter / MMA Authentics, which has supported established and up-and-coming fighters in the sport of MMA since its inception, is responsible for the festivities. In fact, the company was perhaps the first that went directly to the large retailers to carry its clothing lines and can now be found in some of the biggest chain stores in the United States.