Martial arts and the military have a long and intertwined history. Many MMA fighters have served their countries in various military branches before transitioning to the world of mixed martial arts. These fighters have not only proven their valor while serving their country, but they’ve also tested their mettle in the world’s toughest combat sport.
Brian Stann is a former United States Marine Corps officer and retired MMA fighter. He served as a platoon leader in the Marines, earning the Silver Star for his heroic actions during the Battle of Al Qaim in Iraq. Stann was deployed twice to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. After completing his service, Stann began his MMA career, which saw him quickly rise through the ranks.
Stann competed in the UFC’s middleweight division and held the WEC Light Heavyweight Championship. He faced opponents such as Michael Bisping, Alessio Sakara, and Jorge Santiago. After retiring from MMA in 2013, Stann became a successful UFC commentator and analyst.
His military background and experience as a professional fighter gave him unique insight into the sport, making him a valuable asset in the broadcasting booth.
Tim Kennedy is a retired MMA fighter who served in the United States Army as a sniper and a Green Beret. He participated in numerous combat missions during his time in the military, including deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Kennedy’s military background helped him develop the discipline and mental toughness required for success in MMA. He began training in Brazilian jiu-jitsu while still in the Army and quickly became a formidable competitor.
Kennedy fought in organizations such as Strikeforce and the UFC, where he competed in the middleweight division. He faced top-tier opponents like Robbie Lawler, Michael Bisping, and Yoel Romero (what a war that was).
In addition to his fighting career, Tim Kennedy is also known for his role in the TV series “Hunting Hitler,” where he used his military expertise to investigate possible escape routes for Adolf Hitler after World War II.
Randy Couture’s contributions to mixed martial arts extend far beyond his impressive fighting record. He is a legend in the sport, and his legacy continues to inspire fighters and fans alike.
Couture’s service in the United States Army for six years, where he attained the rank of sergeant, is a testament to his courage and dedication to his country. He took the discipline and work ethic he gained from his time in the military and applied it to his MMA career, helping to shape him into the fighter he became.
Couture’s wrestling background was another key factor in his success in MMA. He was a three-time NCAA Division I All-American wrestler and a two-time Olympic alternate, which laid the foundation for his successful transition to the sport.
Couture’s fighting style was characterized by his exceptional wrestling, cardio, and ability to adapt his game plan during fights. He competed against some of the most iconic fighters of his era, including Tito Ortiz, Chuck Liddell, and Vitor Belfort, and he always performed well.
Couture’s impact on the sport of MMA extends beyond the Octagon. He has been a strong advocate for veterans’ causes and has used his platform to bring attention to the needs of those who have served in the military. In addition, Couture has authored several books on MMA training and techniques, sharing his knowledge and experience with others who aspire to follow in his footsteps.
Liz Carmouche is a retired MMA fighter who served in the United States Marine Corps for five years, including three tours in Iraq. She worked as an aviation electrician and a helicopter mechanic during her time in the military.
Carmouche’s discipline and work ethic from her military service translated well to her MMA career, where she became known for her relentless pace and grappling skills. Carmouche competed in the UFC’s women’s bantamweight division and made history as the first openly gay fighter in the promotion.
She is best known for her fight against Ronda Rousey in the first-ever UFC women’s bout. She nearly secured a victory with a rear-naked choke before Rousey ultimately won by submission. Carmouche faced other top fighters throughout her career, including Miesha Tate, Valentina Shevchenko, and Lauren Murphy. Her trailblazing presence in the sport has helped pave the way for future generations of LGBTQ+ fighters.
Colton Smith is a retired MMA fighter and United States Army Ranger. He served in Iraq and Afghanistan before transitioning to MMA. Smith’s military background gave him the mental fortitude and physical conditioning needed to excel in the sport. He was also a combative instructor for the U.S. Army during his time in the military, which helped him develop his striking and grappling skills.
Smith competed in the UFC’s welterweight division and won The Ultimate Fighter 16, earning him a contract with the promotion. Throughout his career, he faced tough competition, including Robert Whittaker, Carlos Diego Ferreira, and Michael Chiesa.
Brandon Vera is a former U.S. Air Force serviceman and MMA fighter. He joined the Air Force in 1997 and was a wrestler on the Air Force team. Vera’s military background provided him with the discipline and structure needed to succeed in MMA and an exceptional wrestling foundation.
He competed in the UFC’s heavyweight and light heavyweight divisions before moving on to the ONE Championship, where he became the inaugural heavyweight champion. Vera has been involved in some exciting fights throughout his career, including memorable bouts against Frank Mir, Tim Sylvia, and Keith Jardine. With his dynamic striking and strong wrestling base, Vera has established himself as a fan favorite and a formidable competitor.
Jorge Luis Rivera is a retired American mixed martial artist who had a successful career competing in the Middleweight division of the UFC. Rivera joined the Army and served in the 19k Tank, A/1-70 Armor, and 5th Infantry Division at Fort Polk, Louisiana. After leaving the military in 1992, he began his mixed martial arts career in 2001, where he quickly made a name for himself with his exciting fighting style and striking prowess.
Rivera made his UFC debut in 2002 and had 15 fights in the organization. He faced some of the toughest competitors in the Middleweight division, such as Rich Franklin, Chris Leben, and Michael Bisping. Rivera’s best performance in the UFC came in 2007 when he defeated Edwin DeWees by technical knockout in the first round of The Ultimate Fighter 4 Finale.
Neil Magny is an active and formidable MMA fighter serving in the United States Army National Guard. During his time in the military, Magny was deployed to Iraq, which instilled discipline and mental toughness in him. He began training in mixed martial arts while still in the National Guard and quickly made a name for himself as a talented up-and-comer.
Magny has competed in the UFC’s welterweight division since 2013 and has faced some of the top fighters in the division, such as Kelvin Gastelum, Rafael dos Anjos, and Robbie Lawler. Magny is known for his well-rounded skills and relentless fighting style, which have helped him become one of the most successful fighters in the UFC’s welterweight division.
Mirko Cro Cop
Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipović is a legend of the sport, known for his devastating striking skills and his iconic head kicks. Before he began his storied career in the world of MMA and kickboxing, Cro Cop served in the Croatian Army and the elite Croatian Special Police forces during the Croatian War of Independence. The nickname makes much more sense now, doesn’t it?
This experience would later serve him well in his combat sports career, as he became known for his striking prowess and aggressive fighting style. It also helped him keep a cool head when fighting absolute monsters.
Throughout his career, Cro Cop competed for several organizations, including PRIDE, the UFC, and RIZIN. He was known for his powerful left high kick and impressive record of knockouts. He has notable victories over legendary fighters such as Wanderlei Silva, Josh Barnett, and Mark Coleman.
Cro Cop retired from a professional mixed martial arts competition in 2019, finishing his career with a record of 38 wins, 11 losses, and 2 no contests. He remains a respected and admired figure in the world of combat sports, known not only for his fighting skills but also for his service to his country as a member of the Croatian Anti-Terrorist Unit.
Chan Sung “The Korean Zombie” Jung
Chan Sung Jung, better known as “The Korean Zombie,” is a popular MMA fighter who served in the South Korean military. As South Korean law requires, Jung completed his mandatory two-year military service between 2014 and 2016.
His time in the military helped solidify the discipline and mental toughness he displays in the Octagon. Despite the break in his fighting career, he returned to the UFC more determined than ever. Jung competes in the UFC’s featherweight division and has become a fan favorite due to his exciting, relentless fighting style.
He has faced top competition, including Jose Aldo, Dustin Poirier, and Frankie Edgar. The Korean Zombie’s military service and thrilling performances have earned him a unique and respected position in the MMA community. Although the Zombie has fallen off recently, he will always be remembered as the great fighter he was.
Luigi Fioravanti is a retired mixed martial artist best known for his stint as a welterweight in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). Before embarking on his MMA career, Fioravanti served in the United States Marine Corps, where he honed his skills in grappling and hand-to-hand combat.
This military background proved invaluable as he transitioned into the world of MMA, providing him with a solid foundation in various martial arts disciplines. Fioravanti’s UFC career spanned from 2006 to 2009. He faced formidable opponents like Jon Fitch, Diego Sanchez, and Chris Leben.
While his time in the UFC might not have been as triumphant as he would have liked, Fioravanti showcased his never-say-die attitude and unyielding determination inside the cage. Luigi would finally retire in 2016 with a not to bad 26-15 record.
In addition to his competitive career, Fioravanti has also contributed to the sport outside the cage. He has served as a coach and mentor to aspiring fighters, sharing his vast knowledge and experience in the world of MMA. His military service and fighting career made him a valuable resource for those looking to learn from someone with real-world combat experience.
Jake Ellenberger is a retired mixed martial artist who served in the United States Marine Corps before starting his successful career in MMA. As a Marine, Ellenberger acquired invaluable experience in grappling and striking, forming the basis of his martial arts expertise.
This military background shaped Ellenberger’s fighting style, characterized by relentless aggression and devastating knockout power. Competing primarily in the UFC’s welterweight division, Ellenberger faced many top-tier fighters during his tenure with the organization.
Notable opponents included the likes of Carlos Condit, Rory MacDonald, and Robbie Lawler, among others. These high-stakes bouts served as a testament to Ellenberger’s skill and tenacity, as he consistently went toe-to-toe with some of the best fighters in the world.
Ellenberger, nicknamed “The Juggernaut,” was a fan favorite due to his aggressive fighting style and the thrilling matches he participated in. His ability to finish fights spectacularly garnered him a reputation as a dangerous and exciting competitor. Fans eagerly anticipated his appearances in the Octagon. He retired with a record of 31-15, with 21 of those wins coming via KO/TKO.
Beyond his exploits inside the cage, Ellenberger also made significant contributions to the MMA community. As a coach and mentor, he helped guide and develop the next generation of fighters, passing on his knowledge and experience gained from his military service and fighting career.
Ellenberger’s commitment to the sport’s growth was evident in his dedication to teaching others and sharing his passion for MMA.
Oleg Taktarov, a pioneering Russian mixed martial artist, began his career in combat sports after serving in the Soviet military. During his time in the military, Taktarov trained extensively in Sambo. This Russian martial art combines elements of judo and wrestling.
This training provided him with a strong foundation in grappling, which would later become a cornerstone of his fighting style in MMA. Taktarov rose to prominence during the formative years of the UFC, a time when the sport was still finding its footing and fighters from various disciplines competed against one another to prove the superiority of their respective martial arts.
Taktarov was a key figure during this era, winning the UFC 6 tournament and earning the moniker “The Russian Bear.” In addition to his victory at UFC 6, Taktarov faced off against notable fighters such as Ken Shamrock and Tank Abbott, further solidifying his reputation as a formidable competitor.
Taktarov’s exceptional grappling and submission skills were instrumental in his success in the cage. He was widely regarded as a dangerous opponent. His relentless pursuit of victory, background in Sambo, and military experience made him a unique and respected figure in the early days of MMA.
Oleg Taktarov’s influence extends beyond his fighting career. As a pioneering figure in the sport, he helped pave the way for future generations of Russian MMA fighters, including the likes of Fedor Emelianenko and Khabib Nurmagomedov. Furthermore, Taktarov has been instrumental in promoting the sport in Russia, mentoring aspiring fighters, and advocating for the growth and development of MMA in his home country.
Jack Marshman is a UFC middleweight fighter who served in the British Army before starting his MMA career. As a member of the prestigious Parachute Regiment, Marshman underwent rigorous physical and mental training, which prepared him for the demands of professional combat sports.
It’s worth noting that Marshman spent 10 years in the Parachute Regiment and even deployed to Afghanistan. Marshman made his UFC debut in 2016 and quickly established himself as a force to be reckoned with in the middleweight division.
Throughout his time in the organization, he has faced several formidable opponents, such as Thiago Santos, Antonio Carlos Junior, and Karl Roberson. Marshman’s striking prowess, unyielding determination, and resilience have earned him the respect of fans and fellow fighters.
In addition to his impressive stand-up game, Marshman has also demonstrated proficiency in grappling and submission techniques. His well-rounded skill set and the mental toughness forged during his military service have made him a formidable and dangerous opponent for anyone in the UFC’s middleweight division.
Outside of the Octagon, Marshman has used his platform to inspire others, particularly those from military backgrounds, to pursue their dreams in sports and beyond. His journey from the British Army to the UFC is a testament to the power of dedication and hard work, and his story has resonated with fans worldwide.
Cameron “Camchida” Else
Cameron Else, a bantamweight fighter from England, took an unconventional path to the world of mixed martial arts, finding his foundation in the British Army. Else’s military background exposed him to various combat styles and techniques, which he integrated into his MMA training.
Making his UFC debut in 2020, Else showcased his adaptability and resilience in the Octagon, facing opponents like Kyler Phillips and Aaron Rosa. His striking skills, honed through years of military training, have helped him become a formidable competitor in the UFC’s bantamweight division. Even though he is on a two-fight losing streak, we are sure he will make a comeback soon.
Benoit Saint-Denis, a UFC welterweight, is a product of the French Foreign Legion, where he underwent one of the world’s most demanding and rigorous training regimens. This extreme physical conditioning has translated into a relentless fighting style that sets him apart from other competitors in the Octagon.
Saint-Denis debuted his UFC in 2021, quickly garnering a reputation as an unstoppable force. His exceptional endurance and explosive power, honed during his time in the Foreign Legion, have helped him overcome some of the toughest challenges in the welterweight division. He is currently 10-1 in MMA and 2-1 in the UFC; believe me, he is someone to watch out for.
Tim Credeur is a former mixed martial artist who was born in Lafayette, Louisiana. He became interested in MMA at the young age of 14 when he watched UFC 2 with his father. Despite MMA not being a popular sport in Louisiana then, Credeur was determined to compete and joined the United States Navy after high school to get closer to MMA.
While serving in the Navy, Credeur worked as a Sonar Technician on the destroyer USS Milius. His duties included operating sonar sensors for detection, operating underwater fire control systems, interpreting sonar messages, and analyzing acoustic data. After serving in the Navy, Credeur pursued his passion for MMA and had a successful career as a professional fighter.
In addition to being a fighter, Credeur is also a coach and owns a gym called Gladiators Academy of Lafayette, where he teaches MMA and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He has also appeared as a coach on the reality TV show, The Ultimate Fighter.
Elise Reed is still an active strawweight who has dedicated her life to pursuing excellence in combat sports. She has shown tremendous discipline, dedication, and perseverance throughout her martial arts journey, which began at a very young age.
Her early training in Taekwondo and kickboxing has given her a solid foundation in both striking and kicking techniques, which she has continued to develop and refine over the years. While studying at the Virginia Military Institute, Reed also excelled in swimming and water polo at the NCAA Division I level, demonstrating her athletic versatility and ability to perform at a high level across multiple sports.
Her commitment to academic and athletic excellence at such a demanding institution highlights her discipline and work ethic. In addition to her athletic pursuits, Reed is also a member of the Army Reserve, where she continues to serve her country while also pursuing her passion for martial arts.
Leah Letson, a recently retired UFC women’s featherweight fighter, served in the United States Air Force, where she honed her mental acuity and ability to perform under extreme pressure. These attributes have played a critical role in her mixed martial arts career. She consistently demonstrates an unwavering focus and mental strength in the Octagon.
After a successful run on The Ultimate Fighter 28, Letson made her UFC debut in 2018, showcasing her striking skills and determination in the women’s featherweight division. After a three-year break, Leah lost a fight against Felicia Spencer via TKO. Leach recently decided that the sport of fighting was too taxing on her and officially retired in January of 2023.
Jared Cannonier is an American mixed martial artist competing in the UFC’s Middleweight division. He started his professional mixed martial arts career in 2011. Before his MMA career, Cannonier served as an aircraft electrician in the United States Army.
Cannonier debuted his UFC in January 2015 and competed in the Heavyweight and Light Heavyweight divisions before eventually settling in the Middleweight division. He is known for his heavy hands and knockout power. His impressive finishes have earned multiple “Performance of the Night” bonuses.
Some of Cannonier’s notable victories include wins over top-ranked Middleweights such as Jack Hermansson, Kelvin Gastelum, and Anderson Silva. As of April 2023, he has a professional record of 16 wins and 6 losses, with 10 of those wins coming through knockout or technical knockout.
Cannonier’s military background, combined with his impressive fighting skills, has made him a respected and popular figure in the world of mixed martial arts. He continues to compete at the sport’s highest level and is regarded as one of the top Middleweights in the UFC.