While Zuffa recently barred clothing company Ranger Up from sponsoring fighters in Strikeforce, that didn’t stop the clothing company from getting a shirt into the cage during last weekend’s show via war hero Mike Schlitz. Because when a guy has gotten both his arms and face burnt off in service to America, he can wear whatever the fuck he wants. MMA Fighting has the crazy story of what happened to him:
“It was a pretty standard day,” said Schlitz. “We were in the southern Baghdad area doing a basic road-clearing mission. The mission is, find the IEDs. There’s only two ways that happens: either it finds you or you find it first. Unfortunately, it found us that day.”
The it that found them on this particular occasion was a bundle of two artillery shells attached to a propane tank. When it went off, it destroyed Schlitz’s vehicle, killing the three other soldiers who had been inside with him and throwing Schlitz clear of the blast.
“Unfortunately, I never lost consciousness,” he said. “When I hit the ground I kind of looked up at my vehicle, and I could see it was on fire, but I didn’t see my guys anywhere. My initial reaction was to run for my guys, but as I got up and was nearing the vehicle that’s when I could tell that I was on fire. I felt the flames hitting my face, and I noticed that the flames were right on my torso. I took my gear off, hit the ground to roll, basically burning alive. You get to the point where your muscles heat up so much that they basically lock up on you.
“I was just face-down in the dirt, burning alive. In my head, I thought I was done at that point. But then I could hear my guys yelling that they were coming, and I felt that fire extinguisher hit me. I still say it’s one of the weirdest feelings. It’s a moment that’s hard to explain, because you have two sensations. You have the sensation of that coolant coming over your body, like you’re being burned, but then you also know you’re being saved. It was very emotional. All my guys on the ground that day did an extraordinary job. I’m here because of those guys.”
The true hero story begins after Schlitz returned home and helped start Gallant Few, an organization that helps war vets get jobs back home in careers that don’t involve flying 8000 miles away from home or having their skin catch fire. We talked a lot during the UFC’s Fight for the Troops about how sucky it was that the government wasn’t taking care of all this stuff. But once again, the bigger story here is how awesome individuals picked up the ball and created networks like this to shore up the care gap.