Usually when UFC veteran steps on the mat, he lives up to his nickname “No Love” as he’s fighting to make his opponent tap or nap, but this Saturday was a different story. Sort of. Rich Clementi teamed up with Black Force MMA Gym of Summerville, SC, to take on his toughest fight yet as he sticks up for families battling cancer.
Rich Clementi stopped came in to train with MMA fighters from Charleston to Spartenberg for this special cause, with the proceeds going to In the Cage for Cancer. In the Cage for Cancer is organized by and run by Navy veteran, and fellow MMA fighter, Chico Santiago. But to understand Black Force MMA’s Manager Dwight Decker’s passion to get behind this organization, you first have to hear Chico Santiago’s story.
Santiago, a 23 year old veteran of the Navy, saving other people’s lives in the military…and fighting for his own life in the cage. It’s everything life should be, until one day six years ago, Santiago learned that his 4 year old son was diagnosed with a rare form of kidney cancer. Everything changed from there.
Doctors reassured the Santiago family that everything would be okay after chemo and radiation. Not exactly the easiest thing to have to go through for a grown man, let alone a 4 year old boy, but the family seemed optimistic. But less than six months later, they were told that the treatments were not working. Even worse, young Diego Santiago now only had six months to live. Understandably so, the family was devastated.
After hundreds of thousands of dollars spent and multiple hospitals and specialists visited, no cure could be found.
Somehow, through all the trouble and pain, the Santiago family seemed to find the best of the worst situation, and their positivity quickly became everyone else’s inspiration. So much though, the US Navy (through an act of Congress) named Diego Santiago the youngest Navy Chief Petty Officer in US history. Fulfilling young Diego’s dream to be an officer like his father.
But to everyone’s discontent, Navy Chief Petty Officer Diego Santiago passed away at the age of 6.
Chico Santiago seemed set on making sure all of this doesn’t come in vain. He started the In the Cage for Cancer, not just to share his story, but to help others who are going through what he experienced years earlier. In the Cage for Cancer is fighting to make a difference.
In an effort for change they now raise money and donating the proceeds to help pay for a struggling family’s hospital bill, take a cancer family out to dinner, or whatever they can to help ease the pain or take their mind off the situation even if only for an hour. Santiago continues to fight, with 100% of his fight earnings going to this amazing foundation.
But he couldn’t do it alone. He’s teamed up with fighters and gyms, like Black Force MMA, all over the country to takedown cancer. They also need your help. In addition to the MMA seminars, In the Cage for Cancer is selling fierce t-shirts and accepting donations…all of which go to helping another family defeat cancer.
This is what led to the great event, and the grand opening, at Black Force MMA of Summerville. With former UFC star Rich Clementi leading the seminar, fighters from all over the Lowcountry came in train with the top tier talent. In addition to the $75 fee to help the charity, shirts were sold and awareness was raise. And it didn’t hurt that the local talent got to pick the brain of the 11 time UFC veteran for three hours along the way.
Best of all, Manager Dwight Decker said this is only the beginning. In the Cage for Cancer will be opening their own gym in North Carolina very soon, and Santiago and his team will continue to KO cancer with the help of fighters and gyms across the country.
For more information on how you can help or donate, please visit In The Cage for Cancer’s official website.
Special thanks to Black Force MMA