Opinion: UFC 171 and its Uplifting Message
We’re now several days removed from the event that was UFC 171. Fans were treated to an event well worth the price of admission; they were even treated to a bout that should be a top contender for fight of the year. Following the conclusion of the card, the decks—particularly the welterweight division, have been thoroughly shuffled.
However, as wonderful as the event was, and regardless of how thrilling the level of action was for us fight fans, something of greater significance took place at UFC 171. The UFC rose above the proverbial throwing of leather, beyond the level of entertaining, they made a young man’s dream come true.
When a powerful organization uses its muscle to realize dreams, it’s something special. When they extend such hospitality to someone who is sick, it’s noble. When they go above and beyond the call of duty, taking great care to make sure that a terminally ill teenager is made to feel like an integral part of an organization that he deeply loves, now that is quite simply incredible.
At UFC 171, the UFC leadership, staff, and its fighters went to extreme lengths to make the dreams of 19 year-old Jake Stoneking come true. The standout high school wrestler and Oregon native has always dreamed of one day gracing the legendary confines of the UFC’s Octagon as a professional fighter. Unfortunately, Jake is battling brain cancer, and recently his doctors grimly informed him that his battle might be coming to a tragic end.
Jake then wrote out his bucket list, something no young person should ever have to scribe. Two things topped his list, going to a strip club, and attending a live UFC event. The local newspaper published his story, complete with his bucket list, something that caught the attention of fellow Oregonian and UFC fighter, Chael Sonnen. Before long, Sonnen and the UFC had Jake on a plane to Dallas.
Jake was then taken to the American Airlines Center not just to simply watch the event, but to be a part of it. He met with a plethora of star fighters backstage including Ronda Rousey. He watched the prelims with the likes of: Nick Diaz, Gilbert Melendez, and Forrest Griffin. For the duration of the event he sat cage-side as the special guest of UFC President Dana White, and CEO Lorenzo Fertitta. However, the best was yet to come. Jake got the opportunity to walk out to the Octagon with Johny Hendricks as an official member of his posse. After Hendricks’ historic title win, Jake was brought into the cage he so strongly wants to compete in to celebrate.
So often we get mired down in the aggravating stories and the juicy gossip. UFC 171 and the UFC’s heartwarming treatment of an ill fan was something truly special. It was something that transcended the comparative simplicity of throwing leather. Simply put, it was great.