Students won their first title this year, and now the program has a $10,000 grant from the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
More than 10 students and coaches Brad Clark and Ramon Tillery were presented with the check and UFC’s “Octagon of Excellence” award by UFC fighters at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta on April 20.
The award, which was created this year, is given to a school or program that has “risen to the challenge” and excelled at its sport.
McNair came to the attention of the UFC after a Jan. 21 CrossRoadsNews article on its wrestling team that grew from 12 members in 2007 to 42 this year.
Reed Harris, the Las Vegas-based UFC’s community relations vice president, said he also was impressed with the school’s graduation rate, which had risen from 30 percent in 2002 to 70 percent in 2009.
“That’s amazing,” he said. “It shows the type of leadership they have at the school.”
Harris said the UFC is happy to donate to McNair’s up-and-coming program.
“We all know that wrestling programs need money because it’s not a popular sport,” he said. “We really wanted to do this and bring good things to this program.”
Clark said receiving the award was an honor and pleasure. “It’s well-deserving for the student athletes and coaches,” he said.
The team will buy new equipment and uniforms, refurbish the practice mat, and travel to tournaments out of state.
The McNair wrestlers also got a chance to attend the April 21 UFC’s No. 145 pay-per-view grudge match between light-heavyweight champ Jon Jones and former training partner Rashad Evans and co-headliner fast-rising welterweight contender Rory MacDonald and Che Mills at Philips Arena.
Clark said being in attendance was inspirational. “It’s really exciting for the kids to be exposed to something like this.”