The sport of mixed martial arts has changed much in reputation, audience size and consideration of fighter safety since the first men and women took to an octagon cage more than 25 years ago. Just as it has for other sports, Sanford Health has partnered with key MMA athletes and organizations in an effort to be part of this growing phenomenon that promotes self-respect, self-discipline, self-defense and respect for others.
Sanford Health is sponsoring a professional team called Sanford Mixed Martial Arts that’s comprised of some of the top-ranked names in the business. It’s also opening a supporting clinic in Deerfield Beach, Fla., adjacent to the team training facility.
Veteran Sanford Health orthopedic surgeon Brad Reeves, M.D. will serve as the team’s exclusive medical director and physician, and will staff the clinic and travel with the team. Sanford Health will be the team’s exclusive health care sponsor and preferred provider.
The team includes roughly 40 fighters, 25 of whom fight within the largest three MMA promotions (UFC, Bellator and ONE), as well as former and current world champions. Fighters will adhere to a strict code of conduct imposed by team owners.
Besides providing care to those fighters in Florida and at Sanford Health’s flagship medical center in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, the organization also sponsors a number of MMA events. One card at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls drew a national viewing audience of nearly 123,000 households. A televised Bellator MMA fight in August 2018 at the same venue drew 245,000 households nationally.
Beyond bringing such events to MMA fans in the Midwest, the effort will help promote Sanford Health’s high level of care by making it a player in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of injuries related to the sport. The goal is to make the sport safer through care and concussion research, benefitting the fighters and thousands of other professional and amateur athletes Sanford Health treats every year.
Follow the Sanford Mixed Martial Arts team on Instagram and Twitter.
Vitor Belfort is an American-Brazilian mixed martial artist with ONE Championship. Belfort previously competed for the UFC, where he fought in the Heavyweight, Lightweight and Middleweight divisions. He is the UFC 12 Heavyweight Tournament Champion, as well as the former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion and Cage Rage World Light Heavyweight Champion. Known for his explosive knockout power, Belfort is tied for second for the most finishes in UFC history with 14.
Adam Borics is a competitor in the Bellator Featherweight Division. Borics is a native of Hungary. He started his professional career in 2014 against Daniel Hajzer where he won via Submission. Borics is currently undefeated. Borics has been nicknamed “The Kid.” On April 6, 2018, Borics ended the fight with the infamous flying knee in the second round to defeat Teodor Nikolov.
Derek Brunson is an American mixed martial artist who currently fights in the middleweight division for the UFC. Brunson wrestled at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke and was a three-time Division II All-American wrestler. He made his professional MMA debut in May 2010 against John Bryant where he won by a rear choke in under a minute. Brunson made his UFC debut in December 2012, defeating Chris Leben.
Gilbert Burns is a three time Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu world champion. When Burns was young, his father offered to fix his customer's car in trade for three months of jiu-jitsu lessons for all of his boys. After winning the 2011 World Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Championships, Burns decided to switch his focus to the MMA. He made his professional MMA debut in January 2012. Burns made his UFC debut in July 2014 against Andreas Stahl and won the fight by unanimous decision.
Herbert Burns competes in the UFC Featherweight Division. He is nicknamed “The Blaze.” Burns was born in Brazil and fights out of Singapore. He won his first UFC fight in 2013 against Edward Kelly with a rear naked choke within 44 seconds.
Michael Chandler competes in the Bellator Lightweight Division. Chandler is a three-time Bellator Lightweight World Champion. He started his career in 2009 and defeated Kyle Swadley via TKO. Chandler has three title defenses in his career. In 2011, Chandler was the Sherdog Breakthrough Fighter of the Year. In 2018, he was rated as the #1 Greatest Fighter in Belltor Histrory by SportingNews.com
Keeman Diop competes in the Glory Kickboxing Lightweight Division. He was born in Berrien Springs, Michigan and was obsessed with MMA at a young age. He took taekwondo lessons and eventually earned a black belt. After a very successful amateur career, Diop signed a multi-fight deal with Lion Fight Promotions. Diop made his professional debut with an impressive win via TKO in the second round.
Andre Fialho competes in the PFL Welterweight Division. Fiahlo is a Portugal native and stands at 6’0” 170lbs. Fialho started his professional career in 2014 and defeated Nuno Faria in the first round via rear naked choke.
Marcel Fortuna is a Brazillian mixe martial artist who competes in the light heavyweight division. Fortuna moved to the United States in 2009 and started his professional career in 2011 where he knocked out Anthony Hamilton in the first round.
Garrett Fosdyck is an American fighter who competes in the middleweight division. Fosdyck fights out of Bristol, Tennessee. He is new to the professional scene, making his debut in January 2019.
Jason Jackson is a Jamaican fighter who competes in the Bellator Welterweight Division. Jackson was born in Kingston, Jamaica and stands at 6’1” 170 lbs. He was a competitor on season 21 of The Ultimate Fighter, representing the Blackzilians against rival camp America Top Team.
DeMarques Jackson is an American fighter who competes in the LFA Middleweight Division. Jackson is a Kansas City native and stands at 5’8” 181 lbs. Jackson started his professional career in 2013.
Michael Johnson, “The Menace,” is a lightweight UFC competitor and made his UFC debut in "The Ultimate Fighter: Team GSP vs. Team Koscheck Finale" against Jonathan Brookins, where he was runner-up. He received a full scholarship to play football at Central Methodist University, but later transferred to Meramec Community College where he was one of the top NJCAA wrestlers in the country. Johnson is a former Midwest Fight League and Xtreme Cage Fighting Champion who won both titles in 2008. He has earned two titles of Fight of the Night and Performance of the Night.
Aung La Nsang, nicknamed "Burmese Python," is a Burmese-born mixed martial artist of ethnic Kachin descent. He made his MMA debut in 2005 and went on to become a major star in his native Myanmar after signing with ONE Championship and winning two titles with the promotion. Aung La made his professional debut in 2005, and soon built a reputation for his outstanding submission skills, earning himself the nickname of “The Burmese Python". During his early career, La Nsang fought for King of the Cage and Ring of Combat as well as other smaller promotions. He made his ONE Championship debut in June of 2014 and has headlined multiple shows at the Thuwunna Stadium in Yangon. After signing for ONE Championship in 2014, Aung La Nsang returned to his home country Myanmar. Two years later at ONE: UNION OF WARRIORS he won his bout and became a national hero. Aung La became Myanmar's first ever world champion in any mainstream sport, beating Vitaly Bigdash to win the ONE Championship middleweight title.
Robert Glenn "Robbie" Lawler is an American professional mixed martial artist and former UFC Welterweight Champion. A professional competitor since 2001, Lawler is also a former EliteXC Middleweight Champion, and has formerly competed in Strikeforce, PRIDE and the IFL. Robbie is widely considered one of the most consistently entertaining mixed martial artists currently competing. He is the only fighter to have won three consecutive "Fight of the Year" awards from Sherdog and MMA Fighting, for his bouts against Johny Hendricks (at UFC 171, in 2014), Rory MacDonald (at UFC 189, in 2015) and Carlos Condit (at UFC 195, in 2016).
Nik Lentz competes in the UFC lightweight division. Lentz was a state champion wrestler in high school in Minnesota. He received a scholarship to wrestle at the University of Minnesota. Lentz made is professional debut in 2005 against Anthony White. Lentz knocked out White in the second round. After going 16-3-1, he signed with the UFC in August 2009. He made his debut against Thiago Tavares at UFC 103 and the fight ended in a rare majority draw. Lentz was honored as the “Performance of the Night” winner at UFC Fight Night 121 when he defeated Will Brooks via submission in the second round. Lentz’s professional record is 30-10 with 11 KO’s and 8 submissions.
Ange Loosa is a Swiss fighter who competes in the LFA/Titan FC Welterweight Division. Loosa is 5’9” and weighs 170 lbs. He started his professional career in 2012. He won his first professional fight in 40 seconds via anaconda choke.
Vicente Luque competes in the UFC Welterweight Division. Luque was born in Westwood, New Jersey where he began practicing in martial arts as a young boy. Luque started his professional career in 2009. He then made The Ultimate fighter: American Top Team vs. Blackzilians. He made his UFC promotional debut on July 12, 2015.
Matt Mitrione played college football at Purdue University and also with the Minnesota Vikings and New York Jets. He fights in the heavyweight division in Bellator MMA. Mitrione appeared in the tenth season of “The Ultimate Fighter.” He was given the nickname “Meathead" by his coach. He made his professional MMA debut against Marcus Jones and won via KO in the second round. Mitrione defeated Kimbo Slice in his second fight via TKO in the second round. Mitirone signed with Bellator MMA in March 2016 and made his debut against Carl Seumanutafa on June 14 2016. He won via KO in the first round.
Omar Morales is a Venezuelan fighter competing in the UFC Lightweight Division. Morales stands at 5’10” and weighs 155 lbs. He started his professional career in 2011. He is on Team MMA Masters.
Steve Mowry is a towering figure at 6’8” and 238 lbs. He is an American fighter who competes in the Bellator Heavyweight Division. Mowry’s impressive strength has garnered him the nickname “The Harvester.”
Martin Nguyen is a competitor in the FC One Featherweight Division. He is the current Featherweight World Champion and is the first ever FC One two-division titleholder in history (featherweight and lightweight). He was born and raised in Sydney, Australia and was a promising rugby player until he had problems with injuries. He only started training in MMA at 21 years old.
Shamil Nikaev fights in the UFC Lightweight Division. He is nicknamed “The Chechen Wolf.” Nikaev was born in Russia and is fighting out of Grozny, Russia. The Wolf started his career in 2011 at the age of 15.
Ismail Naurdiev, “The Austrian Wonderboy,” competes in the UFC Welterweight Division. He began his professional career at the age of 16. All of Nauridev’s victories so far have come by way of knockout or submission, including 13 in the first round.
Tyler Ray is an American fighter who competes in the LFA Welterweight Division. Ray fights out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He started his professional career in 2017 in Sioux Falls, SD. He stands at 6’0” and weighs 170 lbs.
Danny Roberts competes in the Welterweight division in the UFC. He made his professional debut for the Cage Warriors in December 2010. He was 11-1 before signing with the UFC in 2015. Roberts made his UFC debut in 2015 at UFC Fight Night 80. He fought Nathan Coy and won the fight via submission in the first round.
Luke Rockhold competes in the UFC Light Heavyweight division. He is former UFC Middleweight Champion. Rockhold was born in Santa Cruz, CA and started training in judo when he was just 6 years old. He made his professional debut in 2007 against Mike Martinez and won by submission midway through the first round. Rockhold is the face of Ralph Lauren Cologne.
Saul Rogers, “The Hangman,” is an English mixed martial arts fighter who competes in the featherweight division. He made his professional MMA debut in 2011 against Danny Welsh. Rogers also competed in The Ultimate Fighter season 2 and was undefeated.
Takashi Sato competes in the UFC Welterweight Division. Sato started his professional career in 2013. Sato stands at 5’11” and weighs 171 lbs. He was born in Tokyo and fights out of Nigata, Japan.
Chas Skelly competes in the Featherweight division of the UFC. Skelly held on overall record of 164-3 for his high school wrestling team and lettered four times. Skelly made his professional debut in 2009 and won his first two fights via submission and TKO. Less than a month after he signed with Bellator MMA. Skelly made his Bellator debut on May 29, 2009 where he won the fight by spit decision. Skelly signed with the UFC in 2014 and made his debut against Mirsad Bektic. He holds the UFC/WEC featherweight record for fastest submission and also holds the UFC record for fastest consecutive wins (13 days).
Logan Storley competes in the Bellator Welterweight Division. Storley is a former Minnesota Gopher wrestler and was a four time All-American. Storely is a native of Webster, SD. Storely made his professional debut in August 2015 where he won via TKO. He has dubbed the nickname “The Storm.”
George Tokkos is an English fighter competing in the Bellator Light Heavyweight division. Tokkos was born in London, England. He is affiliated with Hard Knocks 365. Tokkos stands at 6’3”. His professional career started in 2017.
Christian Torres is an American fighter who competes in the Flyweight division. Torres was born in Gwinnett, Georgia. Torres started his professional career in 2017. Torres is nicknamed “The Terminator.”
Caio Uruguai is a Brazillian fighter who competes in the Titan FC Lightweight Division. He is 5’10” and weighs 150 lbs. Uruguai started his professional career in 2013. He defeated Pedri Liberato in a split decision.
Kamaru Usman was a Nigerian immigrant to the United States at the age of 7 and moved to Nebraska where he took up wrestling. He attended and wrestled for the University of Nebraska at Kearney and then spent two years training at the U.S. Olympic Center in Colorado before transitioning to MMA. Usman showed remarkable strength in his wrestling style, capping his wrestling career off by winning 1st place at the 2010 NCAA Division II wrestling championships. Usman was a competitor on season 21 of The Ultimate Fighter, American Top Team vs. Blackzilians. He represented his home gym, Blackzilians and won the first bout of the season, defeating ATT's Michael Graves by majority decision. In Usman's second bout on the show, he took on former WSOF champion Steve Carl. Usman handed Carl his second consecutive defeat of the competition and became the first and only Blackzilian fighter to win two bouts on the show. This win allowed Usman to advance to the finals and compete against ATT's Hayder Hassan in The Ultimate Fighter 21 Finale.
Robin Van Roosmalen is a Dutch fighter who competes in the Bellator Featherweight Division. His father is a former world champion in Muy Thai and kickboxing. Robin began his training in MMA, boxing and wrestling at only 3 years old. He is a two-time Glory Featherweight Champion and a one-time Glory Lightweight Champion.
Linton Vassell competes in the light heavyweight division for Bellator MMA. He is the former UCMMA Light Heavyweight Champion. Vassell started his professional career in October 2007 and won his first fight after 6 months of training. Three weeks later he fought for the AMMA Championship vs. Danny Hudson and won via submission. In Feb. 2012, Vassell beat Aurelijus Kerpe to become the new UCMA Light Heavyweight Champion. In 2013, Bellator announced Vassell had signed a contract with the promotion. He made his debut vs. Matt Jones on November 8, 2013 at Bellator 107 and won via unanimous decision.
Tial Thang competes in the One FC Featherweight division. He fights out of New York for Clinton St. Boxing. He started his career in March 2019.
Henri Hooft is a MMA trainer. He specializes in kickboxing. He was born and raised in the Netherlands. When he was 15, he developed a love for combat sports. He competed in more than 89 professional kickboxing fights, 11 boxing matches and earned both World and European Titles. Currently, Henri is teaching his HKickboxing system at Combat Club in Boynton Beach, FL. He is in high demand for professional athletes who want to be the best.
Greg Jones is a MMA trainer. He specializes in wrestling. Jones was born in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. He is one of the most successful college wrestlers of all-time. He wrestled at West Virginia University and won three NCAA titles. He is one of only 39 wrestlers to do it. He is considered one of the top wrestling coaches in the MMA.
Kami Barzini is an Iranian-born former pro wrestler and is a current MMA coach. Barzini was consistently ranked in the top 3 wrestlers in all of Iran and trained the American wrestling team for the 2008 Olympics. Barzini holds great respect in the MMA community. Some of his best pupils include Dan Henderson and Joanna Jedrzejczyk.
Ryan Bader competes in the Bellator Light Heavyweight and Heavyweight division. Bader attended Arizona State University where he was a three-time Pac-10 champion. Bader is the current Light Heavyweight and Heavyweight Bellator Champion. He is the number six pound for pound fighter on the planet. He is the first fighter to hold belts in two divisions simultaneously in Bellator history. Bader’s latest fight was September 7 against Chiek Kongo where an inadvertent eye poke ended the match in a no contest. It was Bader’s first title defense.
Darrion Caldwell competes in the Featherweight division of Bellator MMA. He was the 2009 NCAA Wrestling Champion at Norht Carolina State University at 149 lbs. and is a former Bellator Bantamweight World Champion. He started his professional MMA career in 2012 and debuted against Daid Armas where he won the bout via unanimous decision.
Dr. Bradley Reeves practices orthopedics and sports medicine, specializing in orthopedic surgery. He provides comprehensive care for athletic injuries and patellar instabilities. He provides services including knee scope, meniscal repair and transplants, ACL and PCL reconstruction, shoulder reconstruction and labral repairs. He has served as team physician for University of South Dakota, South Dakota State University and Sioux Falls Skyforce.