LAS VEGAS (FOX5) – Inside UFC legend Randy Couture’s MMA gym off Sunset Road, a group of about 30 people start an intense workout. They lie in punching bags and save with a partner.
They are all different sizes, different weights, and some with completely different backgrounds, but they are all united.
“This place created a tribe for me,” Bruno Moya said.
Moya, a Marine Corps veteran, is the program manager for the Las Vegas branch of Veterans and Players Fusion (MVP).
“I am here to support them and they are there to support me,” Moya said. “It’s a peer program.”
This is support Moya said he needed but couldn’t find when he returned from the war in Iraq.
“I’m in Las Vegas on my own. I’m with my wife, she doesn’t understand, and at the time I have a 2 year old. It was difficult for me to communicate with them,” Moya mentioned.
Like so many veterans, he has struggled with mental health and desperately tried to adjust to a society that seems so distant. It turns out that this is also something that many former professional athletes feel.
“You don’t know what to do once you’re done,” retired professional football player Romby Bryant said. “You are used to people telling you what time to wake up, what time to go to bed, to eat and when to eat.
Bryant spent three years in the NFL as a wide receiver and 10 overall in professional football.
“It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do is get out of football,” said Bryant. “The players didn’t have this place where we talk to people who have been through similar situations to us and empathize and be able to speak to us and speak our language.”
Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer and Green Barret and former NFL player Nate Boyer had epiphany in 2015. They realized the two groups are struggling to re-enter society and are looking for a team around them again. .
“I had this idea in my head of what professional athletes were. It was overwhelming getting to know these people. Getting to know their backgrounds, their struggles. It allowed me to understand them and them. to understand us, ”Moya said.
When the group of 20 to 40 members practice every Friday night, everyone enters the octagon. However, it is not to fight. Instead, it’s about talking about feelings and a chance to be vulnerable.
“You can let out whatever goes through your mind instead of letting it bottle up where it could explode at some point,” Moya said.
A big topic inside the cage lately is the end of the war in Afghanistan, and it has sparked many memories for combat war veterans.
“You have this thing on your shoulder that’s bothering you. You come in to train, you get vulnerable and you share what’s going on in your head. And you get a support system. Not people trying to fix what’s going on. with you, ”Moya mentioned.
“It really challenged me to come back and come back so I can keep up,” said Marine Corps veteran Kyle Rodgers. “So that really took me out of my shell.”
A radio operator in Iraq, Rodgers roamed the Humvees and constantly avoided explosions. He suffered so much head trauma that his temporal lobe was permanently damaged. Rodgers spent years in therapy at the VA.
“Just coming to MVP really helps with that, because even having to memorize the keystrokes it helps a little bit to reconnect your brain,” Rodgers said. “Having to remember workouts back and forth is a challenge for me. I will forget in the middle of a workout.”
Today, Rodgers is pursuing a doctoral program at UNLV.
The amalgamation of veterans and former pros is a simple idea that has given dozens of people across the country and in Las Vegas the outlet they need on the battlefield of life.