Mark Pustelnik, United Township’s athletic director, and Randy Couture, an Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Hall of Famer and six-time champion, have a history of being teammates.
It was back in 1990 that they both won Greco-Roman wrestling titles in the U.S. Open in Las Vegas. From there they have been roommates often, from Pan Am Games to the training centers in New York and Colorado Springs.
Now they are teaming up to raise money in the Quad-Cities with Couture putting his name and glad-handing on an event for the Xtreme Couture GI Foundation, a 501©3 that benefits our nation’s armed forces veterans.
Think of it as something along the lines of what the Chuck Long Sports Auction does for this area, only with a lot more muscle and motorcycles instead of memorabilia.
“I go out to Vegas once a year for his Poker Run, so I said, hey, we out to do one in the Quad-Cities,” Pustelnik said. “We have a great veterans group here; we have a huge military base; it’s a big Harley and biker area; and we have a big MMA following with the Miletich Training Center here.
“He said, ‘Let’s do it!’”
A Motorcycle Fun Run will take place Saturday, Aug. 18, starting at Runners Park, 15th Avenue and 8th Street, East Moline. It will hit sponsored spots in Moline, Rock Island, Andalusia and back in East Moline, pausing for a memorial at Hero Street before joining the Freedom Fest that evening. Besides a meet and greet with Couture, there will be an impressive auction and raffle from 4 to 5:30 p.m. at Runners Park.
Locally based former UFC champ Tim Sylvia also will participate in the ride.
Pustelnik said they already have $8,000 to $9,000 in sponsorship commitments, adding a $2,500 one from Anheuser Busch on Wednesday. He believes there will be 300 to 400 bikers participating. Those driving cars also are welcome.
Pustelnik and Couture are calling it the “East Moline Ride For Our Troops.” For the mixed-martial arts champ, that has special meaning.
“I wore Army green for six years and I know the sacrifices and courage these brave men and women take every day to uphold our nation, military doctrine and to protect the American way of life,” he says on the Run’s flyer.
Much the same way that Long mixed in with the sports auction crowd, Pustelnik knows that Couture will be right in the midst of the riding fun.
“We are asking the riders to stay at each stop for a minimum of 30 minutes. Some will stay 30, some with stay 45,” Pustelnik said.
“Randy will be mingling nonstop, that’s what he does. He’s so good.
“He will be on the stage during the auction, and he’ll be talking throughout. That’s who he is, almost to a fault. He knows it’s a great cause.”
Not to mention that the UFC legend is paying for his own flight here. That says something as well.
“The support we have had so far has been great,” Pustelnik said. “It is going very well.”