COAL TOWNSHIP - Three professional mixed martial arts athletes will be in the area today and Thursday to encourage young adults to stay away from drugs, establish goals in life and continue their education so they can become productive citizens and successful professionals.

The athletes were brought to the area through the efforts of Magisterial District Judge John Gembic III and his cousin, Mark Gross, a Coal Township native who now lives in North Carolina, "Crazy Bob" Cook, a former undefeated Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) fighter who also serves as a trainer, coach and fight team manager at the renowned American Kick Boxing Academy in San Jose, Calif.

Jon Fitch and Josh Koscheck, UFC competitors from Fort Wayne, Ind., and Josh Koscheck of Waynesburg, respectively, will be appearing at 9 p.m. today at Sees' M.A.T.S., located at the former Magic River Skateland on Route 15 , Danville.

The athletes also will address students at Shamokin Area Middle/High School at 1 p.m. Thursday, and will participate in a special ceremony that will honor them as "honorary police officers" at the Coal Township Board of Commissioners meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday. After the meeting, the trio will head to Brewser's SportsGrille to continue spreading their message of eradicating drugs through education, hard work and setting an example for others.

Gembic and Gross came up with the idea to bring the mixed martial arts athletes to the area during a conversation they had over the recent holidays.

Gross serves as president and chief executive officer of Oak Grove Technologies, a multi-national corporation that provides specialized consulting services for the government and private sector.

Gross and Gembic agreed that the most pressing issue confronting today's youth is drugs. Both men said the nature of drug use has changed dramatically from their youth, noting more teens and young adults are using "hard drugs" like heroin, Oxycontin and cocaine rather than recreational drugs like marijuana.

Gross told the judge his company sponsors mixed martial arts athletes who set an example for youths around the country by their work ethic, achieving lofty goals and willingness to say "no" to drugs.

Gross said many of the athletes, including Cook, Fitch and Koscheck, compete in venues such as Strikeforce and UFC.

Through sponsorship, the athletes wear Oak Grove Techoologies logos on their fighting gear. Gross currently provides sponsorship to more than 10 athletes through Zinkin Entertainment founded by DeWayne Zinkin and Cook.

Gross agreed with Gembic to bring Cook, Fitch and Koscheck to the area to promote their message.

Gembic said Shamokin Area Middle/High School Principal Chris Venna and other school district officials agreed to host the athletes' appearance at the school on Thursday afternoon. He also commended Coal Township commissioners and Coal Township police for taking an aggressive stance against illegal drug use in the area and for agreeing to grant Cook, Fitch and Koscheck "honorary police officer" status for their achievements and dedication in eradicating drugs through education.