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Marine Infantry Veteran Finds Meaning As A Professional MMA Fighter
“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.
Senior defense officials offered a wide range of excuses to reporters on Wednesday about why they may not comply with a subpoena from House Democrats for documents related to the ongoing impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.
On Oct. 7, lawmakers subpoenaed information about military aid to Ukraine. Eight days later, a Pentagon official told them to pound sand in part because many of the documents requested are communications with the White House that are protected by executive privilege.
Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA) will announce legislation Wednesday aiming to "fix" a new Trump administration citizenship policy that affects some children of U.S. service members stationed abroad.
The inside story of how The Village People shot the Navy's most controversial recruiting video onboard an active warship
The video opens innocently enough. A bell sounds as we gaze onto a U.S. Navy frigate, safely docked at port at Naval Base San Diego. A cadre of sailors, dressed in "crackerjack" style enlisted dress uniforms and hauling duffel bags over their shoulders, stride up a gangplank aboard the vessel. The officer on deck greets them with a blast of a boatswain's call. It could be the opening scene of a recruitment video for the greatest naval force on the planet.
Then the rhythmic clapping begins.
This is no recruitment video. It's 'In The Navy,' the legendary 1979 hit from disco queens The Village People, shot aboard the very real Knox-class USS Reasoner (FF-1063) frigate. And one of those five Navy sailors who strode up that gangplank during filming was Ronald Beck, at the time a legal yeoman and witness to one of the strangest collisions between the U.S. military and pop culture of the 20th century.
"They picked the ship and they picked us, I don't know why," Beck, who left the Navy in 1982, told Task & Purpose in a phone interview from his Texas home in October. "I was just lucky to be one of 'em picked."
Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Tuesday casually brushed aside the disturbing news that, holy shit, MORE THAN 100 ISIS FIGHTERS HAVE ESCAPED FROM JAIL.
In an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour, Esper essentially turned this fact into a positive, no doubt impressing public relations and political talking heads everywhere with some truly masterful spin.
"Of the 11,000 or so detainees that were imprisoned in northeast Syria, we've only had reports that a little more than a hundred have escaped," Esper said, adding that the Syrian Democratic Forces were continuing to guard prisons, and the Pentagon had not "seen this big prison break that we all expected."
Well, I feel better. How about you?
On Wednesday, the top U.S. envoy in charge of the global coalition to defeat ISIS said much the same, while adding another cherry on top: The United States has no idea where those 100+ fighters went.
A senior administration official told reporters on Wednesday the White House's understanding is that the SDF continues to keep the "vast majority" of ISIS fighters under "lock and key."
"It's obviously a fluid situation on the ground that we're monitoring closely," the official said, adding that released fighters will be "hunted down and recaptured." The official said it was Turkey's responsibility to do so.
President Trump expressed optimism on Wednesday about what was happening on the ground in northeast Syria, when he announced that a ceasefire between Turkey and the Kurds was expected to be made permanent.
"Turkey, Syria, and all forms of the Kurds have been fighting for centuries," Trump said. "We have done them a great service and we've done a great job for all of them — and now we're getting out."
The president boasted that the U.S.-brokered ceasefire had saved the lives of tens of thousands of Kurds "without spilling one drop of American blood."
Kade Kurita, the 20-year-old West Point cadet who had been missing since Friday evening, was found dead on Tuesday night, the U.S. Military Academy announced early Wednesday morning.
"We are grieving this loss and our thoughts and prayers go out to Cadet Kurita's family and friends," Lt. Gen. Darryl Williams, superintendent of West Point, said in the release.