Long before Lex McMahon was an MMA executive with Titan Fighting Championships, he was a veteran of the Marine Corps who wanted nothing more than to serve his country.
In fact after McMahon's service was completed and the tragedy at 9/11 happened in 2001, he tried to re-enlist because he couldn't imagine a better way to support his country in a time of need that to fight for it.
While McMahon wasn't able to enlist again at the time, he decided to make it his life's work going forward to always support the troops and military veterans in any way he could.
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"I spent eight years in the Marine Corps, four years on active duty with two tours to Somalia and time in the reserves while I was in college after I got out of active duty. So my experiences in Somalia highlighted to me that there was a real need to boost morale. It's been my personal passion, philanthropically, to try to serve the troops and the veterans in any way I can, really since I got out," McMahon explained when speaking to FOX Sports.
"9/11 happened and I actually tried to get back in but they wouldn't take me because I had a degenerative eye disease that had become more pronounced since I left service. So at that point I said how can I best serve? The way I continue to serve and support the military was by supporting the individual soldiers and the veterans. So that's been my mission since 9/11."
McMahon has spearheaded a ton of events and charity gatherings to help the troops, but recently he teamed up with Armed Force Entertainment for a goodwill tour where he took some of the fighters from Titan FC overseas to spend time with the troops.
It was a rare opportunity that McMahon couldn't pass up and he knew the fighters would jump at the chance to spend a few days with the soldiers currently serving in the Middle East.
"I really wanted to go to Iraq or Afghanistan really since 9/11 and the opportunity had never really presented itself and when it did the timing wasn't right. The stars just hadn't aligned yet but finally I had the chance to go as part of an Armed Forces Entertainment tour, where I was able to create my own tour with the support of Armed Forces Entertainment along with Titan fighters," McMahon explained.
The trip was one part goodwill as McMahon teamed up with Bad Boy, Title Boxing, Zebra Mats, Onnit, Sorinex, Skeleton Optics and other sponsors to donate over 6,000 pounds of gear to the troops they visited. On top of that, the fighters from Titan actually taught grappling seminars and worked out with the troops several times over the course of a few days.
Titan FC and former UFC lightweight Pat Healy was among the fighters who were invited on the trip and he says the military members he trained with were very capable and quite talented when it came to grappling on the mats.
"It was fun. There's different levels so some of them had combative training with Brazilian jiu-jitsu and could really grapple so it was a lot of fun. The more experienced guys you really feel like you're giving back," Healy said.
"They had a good program and they had Brazilian jiu-jitsu classes, boxing classes, so they are out there training for real."
The grappling seminars weren't just for fun either as McMahon explains, many soldiers in active combat end up in a lot of situations where engagement with a hostile could become physical in close quarters where they are forced to use their bare hands as weapons.
It's there where McMahon really loves watching the troops learn from the fighters because it's not only an experience but it could save them one day if they are ever forced to grapple with an enemy.
"It can save their lives," McMahon said. "The things that they are taught in a four hour grappling session, they could learn one piece, one move that when they are down range and get into a hand-to-hand situation, which happens quite a bit, they could learn something that would save their lives. To me, that's everything."
McMahon says this most recent trip was supposed to include stops in both Kuwait and Iraq, but two bombings took place that week that ended with one Marine dead and eight more wounded. It was also the same time that the attack happened in Brussels and with ISIS and Al-Queda camps nearby, the fighters were kept out of Iraq for the duration of the visit.
As much as McMahon wanted to visit those areas because he felt the troops there deserved the moral support, he was happy to spend as much time as possible with the soldiers in Kuwait, who were very appreciative of the fighters joining them for a few days.
For Healy, who faces "JZ" Cavalcante in his next bout for Titan FC, it was his second trip to the Middle East after engaging in a similar tour previously, and he says it never gets old and he always looks at it as a once in lifetime experience even if he's already gone and he hopes to go again.
"It was incredible just to go over there and see what's going on and get perspective that you can't get any other place," Healy said. "They're so appreciative of you to come over and it makes it feel good. Knowing that they are over there for like six or nine months at a time with no break and they do the best they can with the conditions but it's certainly not like home. It certainly puts things into perspective. They really go through it.
"Every time it's life changing. It gives you a real perspective of what's going on and a real appreciation of what these guys and girls do for us. You soak it up and it's an experience you can't relate anything else to."