If given the opportunity to wish for anything in the world, the average civilian would request multiple materialistic items such as a new car or a pair of golden slippers or a robot that cooks better than their spouse.
But there is only one thing that our troops oversees would ask for, and that is simply to come home in one piece and be with their loved ones again.
The noble warriors of the United States Military are away from their families for years on end when on deployments. When and if they do eventually return home, they rarely ever come back in the same condition.
In the absolute worst cases, some never return at all.
These men and women died for our freedom. Their lives were lost defending the Constitution of the United States and fighting to protect each and every single one of us.
As part of a continued effort to help support the armed forces, The Ultimate Fighting Championship recently partnered with The Boot Campaign and The Lone Survivor Foundation.
The partnership will offer a charity auction that will benefit the Lone Survivor Foundation’s construction of the Veteran Ranch in Texas. The Ranch will cater to veterans recovering from traumatic injuries and mental stress from the war on terror.
Naturally, many Soldiers, Marines, Airmen and Seamen find MMA very appealing. In fact, there are many MMA fighters that have served our country in the past before they ever stepped foot in a cage.
In honor of former Marine Captain and current middleweight contender Brian Stann’s upcoming Memorial Day weekend bout with Jorge Santiago at UFC 130, let’s take a look at 10 MMA fighters with military backgrounds.
Undoubtedly one of the greatest champions in UFC history, Couture served six years in the Army as an Air Traffic Controller from 1982 to 1988 before becoming the MMA legend he is known for today.
Basically, he was trained to direct the movement of air traffic to make sure that helicopters and planes stayed a safe distance apart. It’s a very technical job that requires the use of radar and satellite technology.
The UFC Hall of Famer made it to the rank of Staff Sergeant and spent the last four years of his service representing the Army in national and international wrestling competitions.
In 2007, Couture founded the Xtreme Couture G.I Foundation to raise money and awareness for those wounded in battle and their families.
Rivera was a 19K Armored Cavalry Scout with A/1-70 Armor at Fort Polk, Louisiana. He helped move the unit from Fort Polk to Fort Hood, Texas before the end of his enlistment in 1991.
Cavalry Scouts are the Commander’s eyes and ears on the battlefield. They engage the enemy with anti-armor weapons and scout vehicles in the field. They also report and track enemy movement and activities as well as helping secure and transport ammunition.
Known in MMA as “El Conquistador,” Rivera volunteers to visit troops overseas and give MMA seminars to soldiers.
After dropping out of Old Dominion University, Vera enlisted himself in the United States Air Force.
Vera was an absolute monster on the Air Force wrestling team and went through rigorous training sessions at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado on a daily basis.
Unfortunately, his military career was cut short when he suffered severe damage to the ligaments in his right elbow and was medically discharged from the Air Force in 1999.
Vera still gives back to the military community by hosting Muay Thai and wrestling seminars for our troops.
One of the only MMA fighters to simultaneously serve full-time in the Army while fighting professionally, Kennedy has more battlefield experience than any MMA fighter (other than Brian Stann) who has ever served in the military.
An Army Green Beret, Kennedy has received multiple awards for his service—including the Army’s Bronze Star Medal, which is recognized as the fourth highest combat award in the U.S Armed Forces.
Kennedy has deployed many times in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.
As part of the Army’s Special Forces, Kennedy’s job requires both conventional and unconventional warfare tactics.
Conventional warfare deals with military operations on a massive scale whereas unconventional warfare involves small-scale tactics and fast-strikes that typically have a big effect—such as Guerilla Warfare.
Army Green Berets perform some of the most dangerous objectives in the military. Which means that fighting in a cage is nothing compared to what Kennedy has dealt with in Iraq and Afghanistan.
A fast rising star in the Women’s 135 lbs division, Carmouche served five years in the Marine Corps as a helicopter electrician.
She spent three tours oversees in Iraq inspecting, testing and repairing components of military helicopters.
Carmouche attributes her ferocious intensity in the cage to her time in the United States Marine Corps.
Currently sporting a 5-1 record, Carmouche certainly fights like a well-trained Marine. She constantly moves forward putting pressure on her opponents with powerful striking and relentless grappling.
Best known for his role on the sixth season of The Ultimate Fighter as the energetic wackjob of Team Hughes, Barrera fell in love with fighting while serving our country in the United States Air Force.
An All-State wrestler in high school, Barrera began training in the sweet science of boxing once he joined the service.
Barrera, who worked as a Fire Fighter for the Air Force, quickly became one of the military’s best boxers with a 13-3 record that included a close loss to Olympic Gold Medalist Andre Ward.
He spent six years in the Air Force, including a tour in Pakistan to help the War on Terror.
Eventually, his boxing career slowed down due to changing duty stations, but he quickly found MMA, and the rest is history.
At the young age of 14, Credeur watched UFC 2 with his father in Lafayette, Louisiana and was instantly intrigued by the sport.
He knew he wanted to be a fighter, but at that point in time, MMA wasn’t exactly as big as it is today. It especially wasn’t popular in Louisiana at all, but Credeur was determined to compete.
In fact, Credeur joined the United States Navy after high school to get closer to MMA.
Of course, he joined to serve his country as well, but he knew he would have the opportunity to travel and train in the sport if he enlisted, and it worked out just as planned.
Credeur was a Sonar Technician on the Destroyer, USS Milius.
Some of his duties included operating sonar sensors for detection, operating underwater fire control systems, interpreting sonar messages and analyzing acoustic data.
With a 10-3 MMA record and three tours of duty in Afghanistan under his belt, Stelly is the true definition of an Army bad ass.
Stelly enlisted in the Army just before Sept. 11, 2001, in the elite 3rd Ranger Battalion at Fort Benning, Georgia.
Since then, he's had three combat tours, including the initial assault into Afghanistan in 2001.
He is currently a Combatives Instructor at the Modern Army Combatives School at Fort Benning.
Nicknamed “The Omen,” Stelly has competed in various MMA organizations across the south and was the Army’s over-205 lbs champion in 2005.
He was knocked out by Bellator Middleweight Champion Hector Lombard in his last fight, but prior to that, the Army Ranger was riding a five-fight winning streak.
The United States Air Force thrives by the core values of integrity first, service before self and excellence in all we do.
This means that as an Airman, no matter what you are required to do, you will accomplish that task to a higher standard than what is expected of you.
Staff Sgt. Williams exemplified that in his MMA debut at Valdosta Summer Heat 2010, quickly and swiftly knocking his opponent out with a left head kick.
It took Sgt. Williams seven seconds to accomplish that particular mission. That is how quickly and efficiently the United States Air Force operates on a day to day basis.
A five-hour movie, 25-season long television series and 100-chapter novel could be made on Stann’s career as an officer in the United States Marine Corps.
Captain Stann was the 2nd Mobile Assault Platoon Commander and from May 8-14, 2005, he led his men into battle.
Their primary mission was to seize a bridge near Karabilah, Iraq and on three different occasions, he negotiated four kilometers to uphold their position from enemy attacks. However, on the third time, the enemy had set up an ambush for the Marines.
Displaying the character of a true leader, Stann called in close-air support and direct fire from tanks while taking on over 30 rocket-propelled grenade attacks, multiple machine guns firing and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) detonating.
All 42 Marines in Stann's platoon survived, and the following March, Stann was awarded the Silver Star which is the nation's third-highest award for valor in combat.
Mitch Ciccarelli is the sexiest columnist in MMA and an Airman in the world’s greatest Air Force. He is currently a staff writer for Heavy MMA, featured columnist for Bleacher Report MMA and host of Crouching Tiger Hidden Leprechaun MMA Radio.
Follow Ciccarelli on twitter @mitchciccarelli