This day we honor our veterans in the United States so I would like to honor those in MMA who served our country before anything. Just to make some clarifications, the criteria is for those who distinguished themselves both on the battlefield and in the ring or cage. Here we go:
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While not the first to do so, Colton Smith is the only currently known active duty U.S. Army serviceman on the UFC roster. Smith made his MMA debut with the M-1 Challenge and was at a 2-1 record when he appeared on The Ultimate Fighter: Team Carwin vs. Team Nelson.
Because he was active duty during the show, he had to receive special permission from the Army. Smith was selected by Team Nelson and proceeded to not only win the season, but won fight of the season as well. Smith most recently fought at UFC Fight for the Troops 3.
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A retired U.S. Marine, Mike Richman goes by the fight name “The Marine” to define his military background. Richman started out going undefeated in his first eight fights before trying out for The Ultimate Fighter: Team GSP vs. Team Koscheck. He lost in the preliminary round and proceeded to go 3-1 in his next four fights before entering Bellator Fighting Championships.
After a successful debut at Bellator 64, Richman proceeded to the semi-finals of the Season 7 Featherweight Tournament and then made it to the finals of the Season 8 Featherweight Tournament. He recently had a successful rebound match against Akop Stepanyan at Bellator 106 and we can only hope he performs well in the next featherweight tournament.
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Joe Duarte is probably one of the few high profile MMA fighters to come from Guam. Duarte first dabbled in boxing before moving to Texas from Guam and enrolled in the U.S. Army, during which time he was a veteran of the War in Iraq. Duarte then started his MMA career at 3-0 before participating in The Ultimate Fighter: Team Nogueira vs. Team Mir being eliminated in the preliminary round by eventual finalist Phillipe Nover.
Duarte would then go 2-1 before coming in as a late replacement against Carey Vanier in the Bellator Season 2 Lightweight Tournament. Duarte would then go 3-0 in his next three fights before fighting under the Strikeforce banner where his last fight was a split decision to Ryan Couture.
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Luigi Fioravanti is another retired U.S. Marine on this list. Fioravanti already had a wrestling judo background when he joined the Marines out of high school and participated in Operation Iraqi Freedom and rounded his MMA skills with kickboxing and BJJ training.
After his military service, Fioravanti went undefeated in his first seven fights before being called to the UFC. His UFC career lasted three years during which time he went 4-5 and was finally released in 2009. He’s since gone 10-5 fighting for various promotions including M-1 and Maximum Fighting Championships.
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Eric Prindle is probably the heaviest fighter on this list. Prindle was originally a boxer during his time in the U.S. Army and decided to give MMA a try after his service was done. Prindle went 4-1 in his first five fights before being called to fight in Bellator.
After a successful promotional debut, Prindle won the Season 5 Heavyweight Tournament, albeit because of some controversy. Prindle has since hit some hard times going 1-3 in his last three fights with a title loss to Cole Konrad, disqualification loss to Thiago Santos, and a recent loss to Peter Graham.
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Brandon Vera is most known for his accomplishments inside the ring/cage than his military service. Vera went into the U.S. Air Force following a brief stint on the wrestling team at Old Dominion University. Vera was medically discharged after an injury and surgery to his right elbow.
Vera originally made a name for himself in MMA when he won the WEC 2005 Heavyweight Grand Prix, then made a name for himself in the thinly talented UFC heavyweight division. He’s since had mixed results and may have bitten the bullet when his most recent opponent Ben Rothwell tested positive for elevated levels of testosterone and was suspended by the UFC when the Wisconsin athletic commission took no action.
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Liz Carmouche is the only woman on this list. Carmouche spent five years serving in the U.S. Marines as a helicopter electrician touring primarily in the middle east. She then went undefeated in her first three fights before fighting under the Strikeforce banner.
She went an even 2-2 before proceeding to pick up two wins under the Invicta FC banner. She was then a part of history when she fought Ronda Rousey in the first UFC Women’s Championship match. Carmouche has since gone even at 1-1 with a win on Fox and a loss at UFC Fight for the Troops 3.
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Randy Couture has earned the title of “Captain America” and it is partially because of his military service. Couture served in the U.S. Army for six years, making it as far as Sergeant. Afterwards he was an active wrestler before he discovered MMA and entered the UFC 13 tournament winning it and winning the UFC Heavyweight Championship from Maurice Smith.
To try and describe Couture’s career after that is almost impossible but I will try. He won the UFC Heavyweight Championship another two times and the light heavyweight championship twice, coached The Ultimate Fighter multiple times, and is a member of the UFC Hall of Fame.
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Tim Kennedy is probably one of the most distinguished veterans to fight in MMA. Kennedy was not only a member of the U.S. Army but served in the Special Forces that earned the Bronze Star for his efforts in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.
Kennedy fought for various promotions including the WEC and IFL before making it into Strikeforce. He fought for the middleweight championship twice before being merged into the UFC. His most recent fight included a victory over Rafael Natal at UFC Fight for the Troops 3.
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Brian Stann has without a doubt earned his nickname “The All-American.” Stann served in the U.S. Marines and during Operation Iraqi Freedom, earned the Silver Star. Stann then made a name for himself in the WEC where he became their light heavyweight champion.
He then merged into the UFC and had an up and down career before retiring following a loss to Wanderlei Silva. However, he’s since made a career as a commentator with Fox Sports and it is well deserved.
I would like to take this time to thank all of our military service members both past and present for your sacrifice. Your are forever honored.