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MMA fighters prepare for action at the Fight or Flight event

Preston Bowlin, left, and Kyle Van Atta stand next to one of the Marion County Mobile Command Buses. The two have helped to organize this weekend’s events. (Kyle Lander/WUFT News)
Preston Bowlin, left, and Kyle Van Atta stand next to one of the Marion County Mobile Command Buses. The two have helped to organize this weekend’s events. (Kyle Lander/WUFT News)

Sheltair Aviation is hosting its first MMA Fight or Flight event for local first responders at the Ocala International Airport on Saturday.

This event involves a 5K run that will start in the morning, followed by MMA fights in the evening. Tickets cost between $30 to $100. The 5K run is $30.

Preston Bowlin, the emergency management director of Marion County, gave his thoughts on what this event means for first responders.

“Knowing that we have partners such as Sheltair, to be able to look out and say, ‘we want to assist your organization,’ and which eventually will assist our first responders in Marion County, we're just very grateful,” Bowlin said.

All of the net profit from the event will benefit Marion County first responders. The proceeds of the event will be going to the Public Safety Assistance Trust and the Professional Firefighters of Marion County Benevolence Fund.

The Public Safety Assistance Trust was created to benefit all first responders in Marion County. This trust assists financially those who have been struck with life-altering circumstances such as natural disasters, cancer or a vehicle wreck.

When deciding what charities the proceeds would go to, Kyle Van Atta, the fixed-base operator general manager at Sheltair Aviation, made sure it was inclusive to all first responders.

“We wanted to select a charity that would cover all of the first responders in the Marion County area. We didn't want to just pick the cops or just pick the firefighters, we wanted to make sure that everybody was taken care of. We're also going to include Marion County Fire Rescue by donating to their benevolent spot, the professional firefighters of Marion County benevolence fund. That essentially does the same thing as [the Public Safety Assistance Trust],” Van Atta said.

The fighting portion of the event will begin at 6 p.m. and will have 17 fights. Van Atta sought a unique venue by choosing one of Sheltair Aviation’s aircraft hangars.

MMA fighter Jacob Collins, who said he has been fighting for about a year, said this is a new experience for him.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime thing. I think it's amazing. I don't know anybody who wouldn't be excited to go inside an airport hangar and watch an MMA fight,” Collins said.

Collins said he is happy that this event is benefitting first responders and that he feels grateful to be able to help out others.

In addition to the MMA fights, the 5K run will be held at the same airport. The run starts at 7 a.m. and will be run along a runway at the airport.

Van Atta first had the idea in November, and while it’s common for organizations to host charity runs, the MMA fight as fundraiser was a new twist.

“One of our team members here is a brown belt in Brazilian jujitsu. While he was working here, he told me it’d be really cool to have an MMA fight in this hangar. And I was like ‘you know what, that’s a great idea’,” Van Atta said.

Those who attend the MMA fights can see Sheltair Aviation’s display spotlighting the Ocala Fire Department, Ocala Police Department, Marion County Sheriff’s Department and Marion County Fire Rescue.

In the end, Van Atta believes this event could be as good as any professional event in the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

“The venue is going to be like nobody's ever seen,” he said. “I think it'll rival a UFC fight.”

Kyle is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing