I want to thank you for supporting me along this journey. Fighting only encompasses one aspect of my life, yet it is my stable and keeps me grounded. However, my experience in the Marine Corps is my foundation. The connections I’ve made from the Marine Corps are inexpressible. As I’ve mentioned, I was the Marine that showed up to work every Monday morning; with bruises or a black eye every week. On my second deployment, I met a Marine by the name of Sean Stokes that made me promise to check out his MMA gym in California, upon our return. He stayed in my berthing area on ship, as well as slept in the tent next to mine in Iraq. Stokes told me it might help settle me down, and he put his hand out. We shook on it, and he told me he was going to hold me to it.
On July 30th, 2007; I was on a rooftop with my sniper team. We heard an explosion in the distance, followed by a 9-line medevac shortly after. Initially the report had 2 friendly KIA from the tent that was next to ours on deployment. They read out “kill numbers” over the radio, which were individually assigned to us, as names were not mentioned over the net. We made it back to base and awaited the arrival of our neighboring platoon to comfort them. When they arrived, nobody said a word, as every Marine in the platoon walked up hanging their heads. There wasn’t a need to ask who it was, as we used process of elimination. Stokes and another Marine were missing, who also later succumbed to his injuries.
If he were alive today, I’m not even sure he would remember our conversation, but I hold it close in my memory. When I got back to California, I saw a jiu jitsu tournament on base; so I registered. The following day I competed and lost all my matches, with no formal training. A coach by the name of Adam Lynn & Russ Muira approached me and asked where I trained. I chuckled “train? I just mess around with my friends.” They handed me a card, and ironically they gave me my black belt 10 plus years later. Before the biggest fight of my career for Bellator MMA, there was a coach visiting from a sister gym. He gave me advice and told me my tenacity reminded me of one of his old students. He described a “tall handsome fellow, with green eyes. He would always press forward.” He then teared up, lowered his voice, looked down, and said ‘but he got killed in the war.’ Before he said another word, I blurted out “SEAN STOKES!” A tear ran down his face and he said “you knew Sean?” That was the day I signed my contract for Bellator 136, and I won via rear naked choke.
I don’t think we meet anyone by accident, and although we all have different journeys; this was my path to fighting. That path has placed me in San Antonio, TX with an upcoming bout on August 29th for Fury FC. I genuinely appreciate the support over the years and thought I would share a part of my story. Fighting has taught me humility and empathy, after getting beat up enough times in life. I somehow relate to dogs in kill shelters and work with numerous rescues to save them, as well as foster regularly. I hadn’t cried in maybe 10 years, but when I gave my first foster to her fur-ever home, I broke down like a toddler. If you take anything from this message, I ask you never purchase a dog again, and encourage you to rescue one from your local shelter. It will unquestionably change your life and offer perspective. These dogs have a different kind of fight and they need our help. Visit https://www.righteouspawsrescue.org/ for more info, or contact me directly to put you in touch with your local rescue.
Lastly, I want to thank DD214 Fightwear for helping me put this together. I’ve made shirts in the past, and it can be a logistical nightmare. They set everything up and shipped you their fine product, with my gorgeous face on it. However, that’s what we do. DD214 is Veteran Owned & Operated. Vets supporting vets. Thank you again for your continued support, nothing is by accident!