"I watch football and baseball and get pumped up, but there is something
special about a fight. It’s the purest form of combat because there’s
nothing standing between you and the other guy except your fists and
your brain." - Marcus Luttrell
“Fear: It will either shut you down, or make you want to perform.” – Marcus Luttrell
LAS VEGAS - One of the most gripping and heart-wrenching stories you will ever encounter is “Lone Survivor,” a No.1 bestselling book that captures the against-all-odds saga of Marcus Luttrell -- the only man to miraculously escape alive from a war operation that resulted in the tragic death of 19 of his U.S. Navy Seals brethren.
In honor of his peers who perished in the remote mountains of Afghanistan at the hands of Taliban fighters, and other military personnel who return home from combat still battling a host of life-changing physical and/or mental hurdles, the 35-year-old Texan now spends a good deal of his time raising money for wounded U.S. troops through his charity, “Lone Survivor Foundation,” and the “Boot Campaign” (For info about how to donate toward these important causes, as well as how to bid on rare UFC items that are being auctioned to benefit these charities, please click on this Web site: http://www.bootcampaign.com/UFC).
Luttrell’s fundraising partnership with the UFC is fairly recent, but his love for the skyrocketing sport is not.
“I remember watching the first UFC ever,” said the recipient of the prestigious Purple Heart and Navy Cross awards, referring to UFC 1 back in November 1993. “I was in the dojo after class and we sat down together and watched it. But I never thought in a million years I’d ever get to see one live.”
The former medic/sniper has sat Octagonside at a handful of live UFC events and is poised to add UFC 130, at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on Saturday night, to that number.
“I don’t miss a UFC event unless something catastrophic happens,” said Luttrell, who stands 6’5” and weighs roughly 240 pounds.
In Luttrell’s view, a common thread unites courageous fighters and courageous soldiers. Those commonalities, and the pressure to perform under extreme conditions, are a big part of the sport’s appeal to him.
“I admire the attitude of the fighter: His body is a machine, it’s a temple,” Luttrell said. “They train so hard and do everything for that one moment. When they get into the ring my adrenaline gets pumping too -- and I don’t even know most of these guys. I watch football and baseball and get pumped up, but there is something special about a fight. It’s the purest form of combat because there’s nothing standing between you and the other guy except your fists and your brain. It’s just everything I got against everything you got and let’s see who walks away with their hand up.
“The military is a huge fan base for the UFC because we pretty much walk the same line. People always say, ‘Well you guys could die.’ But, you know, there are times I’ll make it out alive. And it’s the same in that I trained and trained and trained for that one moment. Everybody knows what to do until they get punched or until the bullets start flying. There are so many things that run hand in hand in what they do and what we do. It’s just a natural fit.”
Luttrell shared a bit more about the thrills of fanhood.
“All fighters think they want to win, but sometimes things change when you get hit for the first time,” he continued. “There are guys who keep getting up, or blood is pouring down their face but they won’t wave it off. Something inside of them says ‘Keep going, keep going.’ There are those fights where a guy is being badly damaged and he looks up at the other guy like, ‘Come get some more.’ That gets my adrenaline flowing. You’ve got some guys that get tired and they quit or they break their hand and decide, ‘I’m done.’ Then you have another guy who gets a broken hand and he’s like, ‘Come on, let’s go, I’ll hit you with the other one!’ That’s the mind at work right there. It really fuels me when I see those guys who go, ‘Come get some more.’”
“Hey, why don’t you walk out with me,” Hughes suggested.
“Absolutely, man,” Luttrell responded.
During Hughes’ walkout to the cage, with Hank Williams’ “A Country Boy Can Survive” blaring throughout the arena, Luttrell walked alongside the future Hall of Famer.
“That was beyond a bucket list kind of thing,” Luttrell said. “Then I got to step into the Octagon with him after the fight and give him his shirt, take his mouthpiece and things like that. It may seem trivial to everybody else but I was humbled that he would ask me to walk in his train.”
The Luttrell-Hughes bond makes a lot of sense. Both are country boys and super-tough guys. Both are loyal supporters of the U.S. military. And both are avid hunters.
“We’re still waiting for the day when we can go hunting together,” said Luttrell, who hunts about once a month throughout the world, including excursions in Africa, New Zealand and Hawaii. “Usually one of us (him or Hughes) is so busy and the other one has time off. One day we’ll go hunting. We talk about it regularly and I’m sure we’ll get it done.”
As much as Luttrell admires guys like Matt Hughes, Randy Couture and middleweight Brian Stann (a U.S. Marine who commanded combat missions in Iraq and was awarded a Silver Star), they in turn harbor exponential admiration for Luttrell’s extraordinary sacrifices and warrior spirit. Couture and Stann, as well as a host of other UFC fighters, including Jon Jones and Ryan Bader, gladly participated in the Boot Campaign.
“It’s a great way to support the troops,” Luttrell said. “The cool thing about it is that once people get the boots and get their pictures taken in ‘em and raise awareness and then pass it on, and tell all their friends about it, it just spreads like wildfire. It’s for the troops and it’s been really exciting to watch this thing grow.”