Marine Infantry Veteran Finds Meaning As A Professional MMA Fighter

Justin Governale, a former Marine Corps infantryman and scout sniper, now is a professional mixed martial arts fighter.
Image courtesy of Justin Governale

“People think fighting people in cages is crazy,” Marine infantry veteran turned mixed martial arts fighter Justin Governale told Task & Purpose. “I think it’s calm.”

Governale is a warrior, by any conventional definition of the term. A former infantryman and scout sniper with 3rd Marine Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, Governale deployed twice to Iraq — once in 2005 to Haditha, and again in 2007 as part of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s battalion landing team.

Task & Purpose caught up with Governale via telephone just days before his sixth professional MMA bout, Friday, April 10. Governale was set to fight Jay Bogan in Bellator 136 at the Bren Events Center in Irvine, California.

Governale was the underdog in the fight. Going in, he had a 3-2 record as a professional, having lost his last fight by technical knockout. His opponent, Bogan, was on a four-fight win streak.

“He’s won his last four fights by submission in the first round,” Governale said of Bogan before the fight. “The guy’s real tough, I’m not taking anything away from him; but I’m tough.”

Governale defeated Bogan by submission in the second round of Friday night’s fight.

Justin Governale on one of his two deployments to Iraq.Image courtesy of Justin Governale

Governale’s connection to mixed martial arts began eight years ago, in 2007, during deployment to Iraq with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, where he bonded with a combat experienced noncommissioned officer named Cpl. Sean Stokes.

Governale describes himself as “a little crazy … just wild,” and so Stokes told him that he’d be a perfect fit at his gym. Stokes made Governale promise to check out his mixed martial arts gym when they got back from deployment.

“I would just talk to him a bit,” Governale said, “almost every day.”

Stokes was killed in action on that deployment, his third deployment to Iraq, including a 2004 deployment to Fallujah for which he was posthumously awarded the Silver Star.

Governale kept his promise to Stokes and started training for mixed martial arts on ship on the way home from Iraq.

“As Marines, we’re firm believers in keeping our word. Since I told him I’d do it, I started training on ship on the way home.”

He returned to Southern California and joined an MMA gym. In a blog post on his website, Governale describes meeting a coach from another Southern California gym.

“The coach, who I now refer to as Coach Dan, gave me a talk on how I reminded him of one of his fighters that was killed in the war,” Governale writes. “He started describing a handsome badass motherfucker, and I blurted out ‘Sean Stokes.’”

Things have come full-circle for Governale. He now boasts a 4-2 record on the heels of his victory against Bogan. For him, however, his professional MMA career has offered him a sense of purpose after his combat-intense service in the Marine Corps.

“It’s my life. It’s definitely changed me,” Governale said of mixed martial arts. “I used to think I was the toughest guy on the planet, until I got beat up a couple times.”

But now it seems Governale is beating people up more than he is getting beat up himself. While that may not make him the toughest guy on the planet, it does make him someone who has found a renewed sense of purpose. He said he loves the Marine Corps, loves being a warrior, and now he gets the chance to do it every day.

“I feel like MMA is the perfect transition for people to continue the warrior lifestyle,” Governale said. “It’s soothing I think, even if you get beat up, because you continue to strive as a warrior.”

Watch Governale’s highlight reel below.

Chief Mass Communication Spc. Keith DeVinney sleeps between exercises during Fleet Combat Camera Pacific's Winter Quick Shot 2013 combined field training exercise in the Angeles National Forest near Azusa, Calif., Feb. 17, 2013. (U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Peter D. Blair)

(Reuters Health) - Soldiers who experience sleep problems during basic combat training may be more likely to struggle with psychological distress, attention difficulties, and anger issues during their entry into the military, a recent study suggests.

"These results show that it would probably be useful to check in with new soldiers over time because sleep problems can be a signal that a soldier is encountering difficulties," said Amanda Adrian, lead author of the study and a research psychologist at the Center for Military Psychiatry and Neuroscience at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Silver Spring, Maryland.

"Addressing sleep problems early on should help set soldiers up for success as they transition into their next unit of assignment," she said by email.

Read More Show Less
The Armed Forces Service Medal has a green, blue and yellow ribbon and a bronze medal featuring a torch like that held by the Statue of Liberty. (U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. Alexx Pons)

Editor's Note: This article by Gina Harkins originally appeared, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

Thousands of U.S. service members who've been sent to operate along the Mexico border will receive a military award reserved for troops who "encounter no foreign armed opposition or imminent hostile action."

The Pentagon has authorized troops who have deployed to the border to assist U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) since last April to receive the Armed Forces Service Medal. Details about the decision were included in a Marine Corps administrative message in response to authorization from the Defense Department.

There is no end date for the award since the operation remains ongoing.

Read More Show Less
Photo: US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia

A former sailor who was busted buying firearms with his military discount and then reselling some of them to criminals is proving to be a wealth of information for federal investigators.

Julio Pino used his iPhone to record most, if not all, of his sales, court documents said. He even went so far as to review the buyers' driver's license on camera.

It is unclear how many of Pino's customer's now face criminal charges of their own. Federal indictments generally don't provide that level of detail and Assistant U.S. Attorney William B. Jackson declined to comment.

Read More Show Less
Photo illustration by Paul Szoldra/Task & Purpose

It all began with a medical check.

Carson Thomas, a healthy and fit 20-year-old infantryman who had joined the Army after a brief stint in college, figured he should tell the medics about the pain in his groin he had been feeling. It was Feb. 12, 2012, and the senior medic looked him over and decided to send him to sick call at the base hospital.

It seemed almost routine, something the Army doctors would be able to diagnose and fix so he could get back to being a grunt.

Now looking back on what happened some seven years later, it was anything but routine.

Read More Show Less
U.S. Army Cpt. Katrina Hopkins and Chief Warrant Officer 2 James Rogers, assigned to Task Force Warhorse, pilot a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter during a medical evacuation (MEDEVAC) operation at Camp Taji, Iraq, Dec. 18, 2018. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Javion Siders)

U.S. forces must now ask the Iraqi military for permission to fly in Iraqi airspace before coming to the aid of U.S. troops under fire, a top military spokesman said.

However, the mandatory approval process is not expected to slow down the time it takes the U.S. military to launch close air support and casualty evacuation missions for troops in the middle of a fight, said Army Col. James Rawlinson, a spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve.

Read More Show Less