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7 UFC Fighters Who Served in the Military

Figure 1 A background in the military seems to be a good basis for a UFC career

Anyone who has spent any time in the military will tell you that the physical demands are high. The Army needs to train soldiers to be able to cope with just about anything and we are extremely proud of the fitness programs we run in order to make sure that our people are in the best shape that they could be.

Training this way is obviously beneficial for those still in the military. But it also sets up people for a life after they leave the service. Such a high level of physical capability is useful in a wide range of occupations and disciplines but it is not a surprise that many mixed martial arts athletes have spent time in the military. In fact, if you take a look at the best UFC betting sites, you will see countless fighters who previously served their country.

We thought we would take time out to celebrate some of these fine men and women who served so valiantly – and went on to become stars of the UFC.

Randy Couture

One of the most successful names in the history of UFC, Randy Couture joined the Army as a teenager and attained the rank of sergeant in the 101st Airborne. He had wrestled in high school – and a little during his time in the service – and was named as an Olympic alternate three times before taking up MMA.

Couture’s first fight in UFC was in 1997, winning the heavyweight tournament in only his second bout. Over the next 14 years, he became one of the very best, as a three-time heavyweight champion and a two-time light heavyweight titleholder. Retiring with a 19-11 record, he has gone on to enjoy an acting career alongside training fellow wrestlers.

Liz Carmouche

Nicknamed the “Girl-Rilla”, Liz Carmouche made history when she took part in the first-ever female UFC fight. But before she began mixed martial arts, she had already served for five years in the Marine Corps as an aviation electrician. During her time in service, she did three tours of duty in the Middle East.

Carmouche began her MMA career in 2010 and just three years later she was fighting for the UFC’s women’s bantamweight championship. Although she lost that bout – and a later challenge for the flyweight belt – she did win the Bellator flyweight title in 2022 and has defended the belt successfully on three occasions to date.

Brian Stann

“The All-American” was actually born on an air base in Japan and, after enrolling at the United States Naval Academy, was assigned to the Marine Corps where he ultimately attained the rank of captain. He was also awarded the Silver Star for his leadership and courage during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Stann began his MMA career in 2006 when still in service and, on retiring in 2008, joined UFC. He had previously been the light heavyweight champion in the World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) but was unable to repeat that feat in UFC. He did go on to become a commentator for UFC and for ACC football games.

Brandon Vera

A talented wrestler in his youth, Vera won a scholarship to Old Dominion University but dropped out after a year to enlist in the United States Air Force. He actually became one of the best-ever wrestlers for the Air Force team but was medically discharged after tearing elbow ligaments in 1999.

That didn’t stop him from pursuing an MMA career though. Vera fought under the UFC banner from 2005 to 2013 but enjoyed more success once he signed with the ONE Championship in 2014. He became the heavyweight champion there before retiring in 2022.

Neil Magny

Still enjoying a successful career in UFC, “The Haitian Sensation” holds the record for the most wins in the welterweight division although he has never been crowned champion. He is well respected within the organization and regarded as one of the most consistent fighters in the business.

Magny credits his time in the Illinois National Guard with the discipline and skills he now shows in the octagon. It was there that he learned hand-to-hand combat and was also deployed to Afghanistan in 2007. He left the service in 2013 after attaining the rank of sergeant.

Figure 2 UFC is regarded as the best MMA organization

Jake Ellenberger

On the swim and diving team at high school, Jake Ellenberger left wrestling to his twin brother. But he started training for MMA after a friend became successful and won national championships for wrestling while at college. He then went on to serve in the Marine Corps for ten years, while also beginning an MMA career.

One of the most prolific fighters on the circuit, Ellenberger won his first 12 fights and had already clocked up a 21-4 record by the time he joined the UFC. He went on to fight in 18 UFC events and, although he never became a champion, he was a well-respected fighter and a role model to many.

Jorge Rivera

A former light heavyweight champion in the USMMA, Rivera began fighting competitively relatively late, at the age of 29. But he enjoyed a successful career in mixed martial arts, going 8-7 during his time in UFC. He eventually finished his MMA career with an overall record of 20-9.

“El Conquistador” had also spent time in the military as a 19K M1 Armor Crewman and acted as a Calvary Scout. Rivera became a well-regarded boxer during his time in service and put the skills he learned there into his tactics for the octagon. After retiring in 2012 he went on to help younger MMA fighters.

George N.