Sports Palooza, a tour featuring athletes from the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), World Cup Soccer, and Association of Volleyball Professionals (AVP), will be part of this year’s Armed Forces Entertainment (AFE) Heat Wave campaign. The tour will cover 13 shows, running from June 1 to July 4, 2023, and features JJ Aldrich, Benson Henderson, Jay DeMerit, Natasha Kai, Katie Spieler, and Ty Tramblie.
JJ Aldrich is a mixed martial artist who competes in the Flyweight division of UFC. Aldrich fought against UFC fighters Raquel Pennington, Kailin Curran, and Rachael Ostovich as an amateur and made her professional debut in September 2014. She fought for Invicta Fighting Championships until 2016 and then joined the cast of the reality television series, The Ultimate Fighter: Team Joanna vs. Team Cláudia (The Ultimate Fighter 23).
Benson Henderson is a former UFC Lightweight World Champion and one of the great lightweights of his era. His 3 defenses of the UFC Lightweight Title from 2012-13 remains tied with B.J. Penn, Frankie Edgar, and Khabib Nurmagomedov for the most ever in the promotion’s history. His WEC championship run includes two Fight of the Year winners for his 2009 battle against Donald Cerrone as well as his 2010 battle against Anthony Pettis, and his overall résumé at 155 pounds includes wins over the likes of Cerrone (x2), Edgar (x2), Nate Diaz, Jorge Masvidal, Patricio Pitbull, Gilbert Melendez, Josh Thomson, Clay Guida, Jim Miller, and many more.
Jay DeMerit spent six seasons with England’s Watford Fighting Club (FC), where he served as club captain and scored one of three goals in the 2006 Championship Playoff Final that saw Watford FC promoted to the English Premier League. DeMerit was also named Man of the Match for this game. DeMerit was first capped for the United States Men’s National Team in March 2007, earning 25 caps up to 2011. He retired from the game in 2014 and is currently a club ambassador and TV personality.
Natasha Kai started her first training camp with the full United States Soccer Women’s National Team (WNT) in February 2006. She made her full WNT debut at the 2006 Algarve Cup in Portugal, and became just the fourth player in U.S. WNT history to score in her first two caps. She went on to become the first-ever player from Hawaii to play for the full WNT and to make a Women’s World Cup team. Kai scored the winning goal in overtime to lead the United States past Canada in the quarterfinal round of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Katie Spieler is currently a professional player on the Association of Volleyball Professionals (AVP) tour and international circuit. She holds a career best third-place finish on the AVP tour with multiple top 10 finishes over her AVP touring career. She has won three gold medals and two silver medals internationally, with her most recent win as the 2019 World Champion for Beach Volleyball 4 x 4. She graduated from the University of Hawaii (UH) as a two-time Beach Volleyball All-American; 2016 Big West Conference Champion and Pair of the Year; Top 30 Nominee for the National Collegiate Athletics Association Female Athlete of the Year; four-year captain for UH Beach Volleyball; and 2016 Female Athlete of the Year for UH.
Ty Tramblie began his collegiate volleyball career at California State University, Northridge as their setter, recording the fourth-most assists in school history, which earned him All-Mountain Pacific Sports Federation honors for three seasons. In 2006, Tramblie joined Tyler Hildebrand on the AVP circuit, where the pair advanced to the main draw. After the 2014 season and seven AVP events, he ended the season ranked eighth in kills per set and 10th in digs. In 2016, Tramblie advanced to his first two career AVP semifinals, winning once in Chicago. Entering the 2016 season, three of Tramblie’s four best AVP career finishes have come in his last eight events.
Sports Palooza is presented by AFE. Since 1951, AFE has been providing the best performances for U.S. troops and their families stationed overseas, and they are committed to boosting the morale and well-being of service members through world-class live events and performances.