The Ultimate Fighting Championship’s “Fight for the Troops 3” will broadcast live on FOX Sports 1 from Fort Campbell, Ky., tonight.
The event will provide an opportunity for soldiers to see a live UFC fight while raising money for the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, a charity which helps support military personnel who were wounded or injured in service and their families.
Among the main card fighters is Staff Sgt. Colton Smith, the chief combatives instructor at Fort Hood’s Combatives Training Facility.
Smith, who is best known for winning “The Ultimate Fighter: Team Carwin vs. Team Nelson,” will face yet another TUF winner, lightweight Michael Chiesa.
“I feel great,” Smith said. “This is my lightweight debut.”
Smith’s current record stands at 6-2-0 against Chiesa’s 9-1-0. While Chiesa may have a slight height and range advantage, Smith expects to close this gap through the use of his newly honed skills combined with sheer athletic ability.
“I believe my skill set is far superior to his,” Smith said. “I take more of a calculated approach to my training.”
Smith has taken every opportunity to build upon his skills in the months leading up to the fight, spending five nights training with Army veteran and Fight for the Troops 3 headliner Tim Kennedy.
Kennedy, a former special forces operator, runs a mixed martial arts gym in Austin. Their shared history as combat veterans provides a common ground on which Kennedy and Smith have built their friendship.
“I look up to him,” Smith said. “He’s a motivating guy to be around. He trains hard, one of the hardest workers I’ve ever met.”
At Kennedy’s behest, Smith went to train at the world renowned Jackson’s MMA gym in Albuquerque, N.M.
“The best fighters in the world train out of Jackson’s,” Smith said. “The Army afforded me the opportunity to go on leave and go out there and train.”
It was at Jackson’s MMA that Smith received the kind of elite training he yearned for.
Clocking 21 workouts a week, Smith was able to drop weight and enter the Lightweight division. More importantly, Smith was able to boost his confidence while learning new techniques and reinforcing the old.
“It’s a grind, but my family understands my dream, my passion,” Smith said.
While the world watches the two gladiators in the ring, it’s easy to lose sight of the monumental effort involved in being able to compete as one of the best fighters in the sport, as well as the support of those around them.
“It’s the same reason why we join the military,” said Air Force Staff Sgt. Domenic Brisbin, a combatives instructor at Fort Hood and Smith’s friend. “You get to be part of a bigger cause. Colton Smith represents so much more than just a soldier fighting, he represents the best of the armed services, going in there and showing that we’re professional in all that we do.”
Brisbin has spent the past year working with Smith at the Combatives Training Facility.
The Modern Army Combatives Program is the Army’s method of training soldiers to defeat the enemy in hand-to-hand combat while developing teamwork, confidence and instilling the Warrior Ethos.
“It’s gotten me where I am today,” Smith said. “(The combatives program) is something that’s very near and dear to my heart.”
“We have a love for it. We’re not here because we have to be, we’re here because we want to be. We want to grow this program as best we can.”
Smith’s investment in the program is personal.
“I’m a front-line soldier first and foremost. I’ve been there, boots on the ground,” said Smith, an Airborne and Ranger qualified infantryman.
“I realize what combatives has done for me as a soldier, not just to take care of a situation, but to de-escalate a situation.”