From Military to UFC: 10 Fighters Who Served

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Liz Carmouche fights Kana Watanabe during a Bellator 261 mixed martial arts bout in Uncasville, Connecticut.
Liz Carmouche, left, fights Kana Watanabe during a Bellator 261 mixed martial arts bout Friday, June 25, 2021, in Uncasville, Connecticut. Carmouche won via TKO in Round 1. (Gregory Payan/AP Photo)


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It should come as no surprise that many service members and veterans have gone on to success in martial arts, particularly UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship). For some, it's become a career and, for others, simply an obsession.

For veterans such as Marine vet and UFC fighter Liz Carmouche, training can be both of the above, as well as a useful tool for smoothing out the transition process.

Training Helps with the Transition

In an interview with Sports Illustrated, Carmouche said hitting the gym aided her transition to civilian life. "If it wouldn't have been for that, I probably would have struggled and wouldn't be where I am today," she said.

Just like UFC helped her transition out, the Marine Corps helped her be the fighter she is today. When asked about Marine Corps boot camp and what she has used from it in her UFC career, she said, "I knew that if they couldn't break me, then no one else could do it, either."

Like Carmouche, I've seen the positive effect of training on my transition firsthand. As a Marine Corps martial arts instructor, I sought out a Muay Thai kickboxing gym when I went to study abroad in Japan. It not only helped with my transition out of the military, but it also aided my transition into life in Japan. It gave me a community and purpose.

Later, when I started working for the government in Washington, D.C., I became a kickboxing instructor at what is now UFC Gym. I taught for two years, made amazing friendships, and even had the chance to teach the cast of "The Real World" when they came by. (They didn't air that part of the show, though; I guess I was too hard on them.)

We All Train for Different Reasons

Not all of us see training as a way of assimilating. According to Bleacher Report, UFC fighter Tim Credeur said part of the reason he joined the Navy was to get closer to UFC. Others compete while they are still active in the military.

Whether they train to be part of a community or simply because they love it (the two can certainly overlap), each of the following individuals below, as noted by Fox Sports and Bleacher Report, have served their country and kicked butt in the Octagon.

Randy Couture celebrates his win against James Toney during their UFC fight at the TD Garden in Boston.
Randy Couture celebrates his win against James Toney during their UFC fight at the TD Garden on Saturday, Aug. 28, 2010, in Boston. Couture won via a first-round triangle choke. (Gregory Payan/AP Photo)

10 UFC Fighters with Military Backgrounds

Liz Carmouche

Carmouche served as a helicopter electrician in the Marine Corps and did three tours in Iraq. She fought Ronda Rousey in the first women's bout in UFC history.

Randy Couture

Couture served six years as an air traffic controller in the Army and is a household name for anyone with an interest in UFC. Fighting until he was 48 years old, Couture and BJ Penn are the only two fighters in UFC history to win titles in separate weight classes.

Tim Credeur

Credeur served as a sonar technician in the Navy immediately after high school, and (as mentioned above) joined in part because he planned on the military helping him to get closer to his MMA and UFC dreams.

Tim Kennedy

Kennedy served as an Army Ranger and was awarded a Bronze Star. He spent time in Iraq and Afghanistan as a sniper, and he was active while competing.

Neil Magny

Magny served as a light-wheeled mechanic in the Illinois National Guard. In 2014, he tied the record for most wins in a single calendar year, with five wins.

Jorge Rivera

Rivera served as a 19K Armored Cavalry Scout in the Army and became known for his heavy hands and boxing in the UFC. He retired from MMA in 2012.

Colton Smith

Smith fought while on active duty as an Army Ranger. He fought in the UFC Fight for the Troops and was the "The Ultimate Fighter 16" winner.

Brian Stann

Stann served in the Marines, was awarded the Silver Star and retired to go on to become a Fox analyst.

Andrew Todhunter

Todhunter served as a sniper in the Army. He's fairly new to UFC, but has an undefeated record of 7-0 at the moment.

Brandon Vera

Vera served in the Air Force but was medically discharged in 1999. He fought in the UFC's heavyweight and light heavyweight divisions, and is a Muay Thai specialist.

Master Your Military Transition

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