MORENCI — Justin “The Highlight” Gaethje, the No. 4-ranked UFC lightweight, held his inaugural mixed martial arts camp for local youths at the Community Center last weekend.
A Safford native and one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the UFC, Gaethje said he came to Morenci to help others learn a thing or two from his friends.
“The camps have been great; we had 95 people total, 80 kids between 6-12 years. I go to accomplish what I came out here for, to reach the kids, and we had a great time,” Gaethje said.
The camp started off with the campers warming up, which led to Gaethje and fellow instructor Ben Cherrington demonstrating wrestling techniques to the students.
Gathje and Cherrington then walked around the mat and observed each camper, giving tips and demonstrating what the camper should work on.
Cherrington won the 2006 NCAA national championship match at 157 pounds for Boise State University.
After a period of wrestling techniques, the camper got to spend some time with Gaethje’s head coach, Trevor Wittman, and work on some striking and other MMA moves.
In 2017, Wittman won the Shawn Tompkins Coach of the Year award, and he was named the 2018 World MMA Coach of the Year.
Gaethje and his team held four camp sessions over Saturday and Sunday, with the morning sessions dedicated to younger athletes aged 6-12, and the afternoons for those 13 and older.