James Head to donate next UFC fight purse to Oklahoma tornado victims

USA TODAY Sports

Less than two weeks ago, one of the deadliest and most destructive tornadoes in U.S. history struck the town and surrounding areas of Moore, Oklahoma. A rare EF5 tornado, the wind speed exceeded 200 miles per hour as the one-mile wide twister ravaged homes, took lives and injured dozens. All told, 24 people have been killed and an estimated $2 billion in damage was caused.

UFC welterweight James Head, who calls Edmond, Oklahoma - a town 30 miles from Moore - his home, was as shocked and stunned as every other American as he witnessed the devastation firsthand and on the news. But as an adopted Oklahoman, he knew he had to do something to help out and give back.

"The Oklahomans, they're a resilient bunch," Head told Ariel Helwani on Monday's The MMA Hour. "They inspire me. I'm just going to be here along the way to help anyway that I can and I think the whole community feels the same way."

As Head explained, there isn't a lot from a hands-on relief effort that the average person can do at the present moment. "With the clean-up effort, they really weren't allowing anybody other than emergency response people down in the area. So, we're just kind of waiting, biding our time trying to help in all we can right now, but next week I think they're going to open it up for some civilians to come and help the people who need help, come and clean up their area," he said.

"They're supplying all we can. There's different phases of the relief effort where initially people needed water and supplies people with small children needed diapers and stuff like that.

"This is going to be a long process," Head continued. "The media's going to be gone in a week or two, but the effort's going to be a long, long slow one and we'll be here as a community the whole way."

But Head isn't just biding his time. In addition to encouraging others to give everything they can to local charities and the Red Cross, Head is putting his own money where his mouth is.

Last week on Twitter, Head announced he'd be donating his next entire UFC fight purse - including any win or bonus money - to relief efforts for tornado victims. He's also actively encouraging others to purchase Cage Fighter's '#Pray4OK' t-shirts, where 100 percent of proceeds are also being donated charity.

"Stoked to announce that I'm going to donate my next @ufc fight purse and 100% of all profits from @CF_Athletic #Pray4OK tee to benefit #Oklahoma tornado victims!" Head tweeted.

According publicly released figures, Head made $12,000 in his most-recent UFC bout with Mike Pyle at The Ultimate Fighter 16 Finale in December. Head lost to Pyle by first-round, earning only his show money in the process.

Still, Head's offer is a generous one, in part made possible by the reality that he holds a full-time job as a petroleum engineer for Chesapeake Energy. Fighting is something Head says he loves to do, but it's different than his 'work' life.

"I'm blessed to perform at such a high level," he said. "I was just inspired by the people. Everybody's donating what they can and I think [donating my purse] is a great way to get the word out.

"Every little bit counts," Head noted. "I'm just trying to do my part."

Head isn't sure when he'll have a check ready to donate. He's eager to make it happen if not just to be a part of the relief effort, but also for the chance to compete. The welterweight was most-recently scheduled to face Nick Catone at UFC 159, but at the eleventh hour, the fight fell through.

Just hours prior to fight time, it was revealed Catone's weight cut had gone poorly. The New Jersey-native had failed to make weight the previous day and after being rushed to the hospital to treat severe dehydration, the entire fight was called off.

"The rug's kinda pulled out from underneath you. It's like getting dressed up for prom and having nobody to dance with, I guess," Head said.

"It was disappointing, you know? I woke up that morning thinking I was going to fight. Kinda went through the routine: ate breakfast, stretched, got a little workout in and was just laying around and found out about a few hours before I was supposed to head to the venue.

"You're shocked a little bit because you're upset that's 12 weeks of training camp built up for no release, but I'd never been to the East Coast before. I had some friends and family that made the trip out to watch me fight and we took a subway out to Times Square and walked around New York and did all that. We went and watched the fights, so we made the best of it."

Now Head plays the waiting game to hear when he'll fight again. "I don't know. Just waiting to hear from Joe Silva and the UFC," he noted. "I'm hoping maybe late August sometime, but nothing's set in stone, so I'm just biding my time, training and waiting for them to call."

As he explained, he initially wanted to be on the Fourth of July card. It'd give him enough time to prepare and he wouldn't have to use as many vacation days to go compete since the fight card would overlap with a holiday where his company offered the Thursday and Friday off preceding it.

UFC matchmaker Silva told him, however, that all the cards through July were booked. Now he's hoping for late August. Maybe UFC 164. He'll even take a short notice fight under the right conditions.

In the meantime, Head is focused on helping the community he's a part of. As he told Helwani, the relief effort will be long, slow and sometimes painful. Even if he doesn't have a fight purse to give now, there will surely be a family in need later. If he has to wait to donate his purse, that means there's all kinds of help he can provide until then, including raising awareness for those in need.

"Whatever we can do to help and R-1 MMA, the gym that I'm affiliated with down here, we're going to come in full force and help out in anyway we can."

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