Ruben Saldaña is one of many GAMMA representatives working daily to develop mixed martial arts at the grassroots level around the world. What sets Coach Ruben apart, however, is the way he also places the sport at the service of humanity.
Coach Ruben is the founder of Ru Camp (“Ruben’s Unique Coaching And Mentoring Program”) in Orlando, Florida, the only youth crime prevention programme in the world that trains kids in high crime areas for free in mixed martial arts using credible messenger mentors.
More recently, Coach Ruben brought the Ru Camp all the way to Uganda, where the same opportunities are being offered to local orphans.
While the goal Stateside is to provide structure to underserved youth through MMA and turn them into polished athletes, the goal in Uganda is first and foremost to feed, clothe and educate the orphans.
The Ru Camp, Coach Ruben explains, will not encourage young people outside of the United States to participate in MMA events if there is no clear evidence it will benefit them.
He is helping to introduce the sport in the country with the first-ever MMA event organised by GAMMA Uganda and scheduled to take place on 25 January 2022. A portion of the profits will be donated to an orphanage chosen by legendary Ugandan kickboxer Titus Tugume, a co-organiser of the event who is also being trained by Coach Ruben.
Tugume, the acting President for the first MMA Federation in Uganda (GAMMA Uganda), will compete in the Main Event.
“This is a special experience for all of us that a new sport is born in the country. Ugandans are very loving people and respectful,” Coach Ruben told Ugandan sports outlet Sports 256.
“I met Tugume four years ago in the USA, but now today will go down in history as the day the sport that will benefit many Ugandans was initiated in the country. We created a board and we believe the Global Association of Mixed Martial Arts (GAMMA) Uganda by January will be the body to sanction the first fight.”
While Ru Camp orphans will not participate in the MMA competition, they will be on hand to provide out-of-the-ring entertainment. Ru Camp Uganda’s official dance group, the Ghetto Kids, will show why they are considered one of the greatest African youth dance groups. In addition, Breaking crew GTA (God’s Talent Africa) is also scheduled to perform.
Master artist Kel Jose will be present selling hand-crafted paintings, some autographed by the local celebrities, to benefit the Ru Camp Uganda orphanage, which is operated by his father to help the many kids abandoned by their parents after being born HIV positive.
“Coach Ruben was one of the first youth MMA coaches for GAMMA USA under the leadership of President Justin Brown,” GAMMA President Alexander Engelhardt said. “He has helped so many young people through his #GlovesUpGunsDown campaign, first in the States and now in Uganda. He is a massive inspiration and a true credit to the sport of MMA. We are glad to have him on our GAMMA team and wish GAMMA Uganda and the Ru Camp every success in the future.”