LONG ISLAND, N.Y. (AFNS) --
In a combined recruiting effort, Air Force Reserve Command and Air Force Special Operations recruiting teamed up and scored a knockout at the Professional Fighters League season debut at the Nassau Coliseum, May 9.
The tag-team effort is something that will become the norm in the future as Air Force Recruiting Service integrates into one team, combining active duty and Reserve recruiting functions.
The PFL, which features both men and women fighters, is the first mixed martial arts organization to present the sport through a regular season, playoffs and championship format. The fights were broadcast on ESPN2 and ESPN+.
The Air Force Reserve and Air Force Special Operations logos were featured prominently in the ring. Reserve and Special Ops commercials aired on the ESPN channels during the fights and digital advertising was displayed at the show.
“We couldn’t be more excited to be partnered with the Air Force Reserve,” said Peter Murray, PFL chief executive officer. “One of our primary causes with the PFL is supporting the military, both active and retired. We believe in the Air Force Reserve’s mission and we believe we can help the Reserve recruit and get its messaging out. We are deeply dedicated to supporting our military and veterans and we look forward to strengthening our relationship with the Air Force Reserve by providing the ability to reach millions of MMA fans here in the U.S.
“We have many athletes who are former military and we recognize them and celebrate that fact,” he said. “The PFL will work with the Reserve to raise awareness of the incredible work our servicemen and women are doing through events, digital and social platforms, and broadcasts.”
AFRS sees the PFL as a great avenue to reach a large demographic of men and women with a propensity to serve.
“The league’s commitment to supporting military personnel and the growing MMA fan base of strong, passionate young people makes this partnership ideal,” said Chief Master Sgt. Michael Johnson, AFRS, chief of strategic marketing at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas. “The PFL’s relationship with ESPN provides an incredible platform for us to communicate our mission and the benefits of serving to an engaged national audience. We’re thrilled to be part of the 2019 season.”
Recruiters at the event said they embraced the Total Force recruiting effort.
“Having our active-duty counterparts at the event side by side makes absolute sense,” said Senior Master Sgt. Kenneth Bachman, a Reserve senior recruiter at JB McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey. “When there is an applicant interested in the Air Force, we want to make sure we have the right opportunity to offer, whether that be active or Reserve. Sharing the event is a great way to better utilize our resources.”
While the integration is leading to more shared marketing events like the PFL, the ultimate goal is to get the word out about opportunities in the Air Force.
“This concept is long overdue,” said Senior Master Sgt. Michael Lear, 313th Recruiting Squadron, active-duty recruiter, Syracuse, New York. “It just didn’t make sense for us to be going in different directions and not utilize each other’s talents. If we can come together and work as one team, one fight, this is going to be something very good for the Air Force. In the end, we are trying to build a total force and we are all trying to obtain the same goal – defending this country.”
The recruiters said there is a great fit for Air Force recruiting at an MMA event because there are many shared values between the two organizations.
“Having both the Reserve and active components in one location is a great way to provide customer service to those looking to get information or make an informed decision,” said Master Sgt. Jared Lacovara, a Reserve recruiter stationed in Philadelphia. “The MMA aspect allowed us to offer some fun physical activities and gauge the fitness level of the prospects who seemed interested. Assessing the fitness level is a good tool for the active-duty special operations guys, as well as the line and enlisted accession recruiters from both components. It’s a win all around.”
MMA legend and former Army soldier, Randy Couture, is one of the television personalities for the league. He talked about some of the traits he thinks are shared by the military and MMA.
“We share a warrior spirit and discipline is a characteristic this sport breeds,” he said. “If you want to be the best fighter, you’re going to have to make sacrifices and do a lot of things the average person doesn’t want to do. I think the same thing is true about people who wear the military uniform. That’s why they are the one percent. They have done things the rest of the population doesn’t want to do.”
Couture said he was happy to have military organizations be part of the PFL.
“I think it’s awesome the Air Force is behind us,” he said. “As someone who signed that contract, made that oath, I think any exposure we can get you guys is great. We appreciate the support for sure.
Before becoming a three-time heavyweight and two-time lightweight MMA champion, Couture was a sergeant in the Army. He talked about how his days in the military made him who he is today.
“It was during those six years I spent in uniform where I learned I could compete at that level on an international stage,” he said. “I wrestled for the Army while I was in and competed in the inter-service championships a few times and ultimately ended up being an Olympic alternate as a soldier in 1988. It was a pretty formative time in my life and I look at the world now in a particular way because of that experience. There were definitely a lot of lessons there that I carried down the road into fighting and everything else I do.”
The PFL will have six regular-season, bi-weekly events leading to the playoffs in October and championship on New Year’s Eve. Winning fighters can take home $1 million.