The world of military veterans by and large follows the same general pattern as their civilian counterparts. We get up in the morning, have our jitter liquid, and go to work at whatever sort of post service occupation we’ve chosen for ourselves. We arrive at whatever our ‘office’ is, we say hello to Janice from HR, and so on. There are differences, of course; some may choose to skip coffee and go right for the energy drink for extra jitter, daydreams may include how to correctly clear the office of tactical threats, and the water cooler conversations might be spicier. For some however, their martial talents just couldn’t go back in the footlocker once their enlistment contract expired.
Enter the world of combat sports. From Mixed Martial Arts surging in popularity in the early 2000’s to a more recent boost in participation in medieval armored combat, these organizations have fought their way to the forefront with as much vigor as their champions. There is little question why veterans gravitate towards these games, as years of training and real-world application leaves them uniquely suited to excel from the moment they step in the door, and some were simply built for battle. Who are the heroes of these arenas, you might be wondering? I’m glad you asked.
Daniel Krug – Armored Combat
Armored combat sports, often referred to as historical or medieval combat, are intense and physically demanding athletic competitions where participants engage in full-contact combat wearing protective armor. These sports draw inspiration from the martial traditions of the past, encompassing a wide range of disciplines, from jousting to armored foot combat. Swords, war hammers, axes, pikes… And sometimes just a large human wrapped in a lot of steel punching you in the face. If you’re already at your concussion limit or don’t enjoy feeling your bones rattle, this isn’t the sport for you.
Enter former Army Sniper Daniel Krug. Captain of the world renowned armored combat team the Knights of Dominus, the Oregon based fighter is an expert in BJJ and MMA. Aside from absolutely wrecking opponents on the field, Krug considers himself to also be a motivator, expanding the sport while spreading a message of bringing yourself to your greatest potential. In a sport filled with rage and concussions, Krug maintains his positive disposition. While stats on this sport remain in their infancy, being the head of the one of the best teams on the planet says volumes.
Mike "The Marine" Richman – Bare Knuckle Boxing
Bare-knuckle boxing, an ancient combat sport, involves pugilistic bouts where fighters eschew traditional boxing gloves in favor of using their bare fists. It harks back to 18th-century England and has experienced a resurgence in recent years. The lack of gloves accentuates the raw and brutal nature of the sport, where fighters need exceptional skill, resilience, and endurance.
Mike “The Marine” Richardson, named for his service in the Marine Corps where he racked up three combat tours to Iraq as an Infantryman, began his professional career in MMA in 2008. After a brief appearance on The Ultimate Fighter, he then fought in the Bellator arena where he collected some impressive wins. After being stepping away from the sport for a period, Richardson began Bare Knuckle Boxing overseas, as it was illegal in the United States… Until 2018. Since then, Richardson exploded onto the sport with a fire, winning several contests through knockouts, and capturing the interim light heavyweight championship. Unfortunately, his chosen sport is an unforgiving one, and extremely hard on the body. He officially announced his retirement on July 14, 2023.
Randy Couture - MMA
Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is a full-contact combat sport that blends various martial disciplines, such as boxing, wrestling, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Muay Thai, and more, into one dynamic and multifaceted competition. In the octagon-shaped arena, fighters employ striking and grappling techniques, making MMA one of the most versatile and demanding combat sports. Anyone who has ever watched two fighters go five straight rounds, only for one to get in a strike with 16 seconds left on the clock that takes a chunk of their opponent’s face with it knows MMA is intense.
While there are plenty of names to spread around, the one that rises to the top is Randy Couture. Joining the Army in 1982, Couture earned the rank of Staff Sergeant while a member of the 101st Airborne Division. While in the service, Couture spent a lot of time boxing and wrestling, so it was no surprise that when he got out, he continued his focus there. Almost a decade later after some success as a wrestler, Couture decided to change direction into the MMA. Despite already being older than average when he entered, he won the UFC title in his first year on the professional circuit. Couture went on to rack up a total of 14 years as a champion fighter, even dropping to a different weight class and becoming the first champion in multiple divisions. No matter who steps up in the future, Staff Sergeant Couture certainly left his mark.
Neil “Haitian Sensation” Magny – MMA
Neil Magny was born and raised in Brooklyn, which almost explains his exceptional skill as a mixed martial artist. Moving to Illinois at the age of 12, he then had a solid record academically and in wrestling and football, both sports he maintained through high school and college. After earning a B.A. in Criminal Justice, Magny signed up with the Illinois National Guard, where he spent time in Kuwait and Afghanistan, and in his spare time turned to hand-to-hand combat training. Magny made his MMA debut in 2010, three years before leaving the Guard, which he chose to do to focus on his MMA career. So far, that choice has been a good one. In 2013 he won his debut fight by unanimous decision, and ten years later holds the record for the greatest number of Welterweight wins in UFC history at 21. With a current record of 28 – 11, Magny has another championship fight scheduled for 2024.
Rocky Marciano – Boxing
Boxing, often referred to as "the sweet science," is a combat sport that encapsulates the essence of discipline, strategy, and physical prowess. It's a sport where precision and timing matter just as much as brute force. The combination of offensive and defensive tactics, as well as the mental resilience needed to face an adversary in the ring, makes boxing a sport that demands dedication, training, and a profound respect for the craft. Due to the combination of the flavors of violence and technique, this sport isn’t for the weak of spirit.
Rocky Marciano, born Rocco Francis Marchegiano on September 1, 1923, in Brockton, Massachusetts, is a name etched in the annals of boxing history. Marciano, the "Brockton Blockbuster," had a legendary career that left an indelible mark on the sport. There was some hesitation in reaching back so far rather than list someone more contemporary, but that would do a disservice to both. Having been drafted in 1943 during World War II, Marciano spent his time in the Army ferrying supplies into Normandy after D-Day… And honing his boxing skills. Once Marciano stepped into the ring, he left a path of destruction in his wake; known for his relentless fighting style, formidable punching power, and incredible work ethic, he turned professional in 1947 and quickly gained prominence in the heavyweight division. His career was defined by an astounding statistic: he retired undefeated. In 49 professional fights, Marciano achieved a perfect 49-0 record, with 43 of those victories coming by knockout (also a world record of 85.71% wins by knockout).
His most iconic moment was on September 23, 1952, when he defeated Jersey Joe Walcott to become the heavyweight champion of the world. He held the title until his retirement in 1956.