(Props to RWisTheNewBlack.)
FIGHT! Magazine spoke with Lt. Lee Stuckey, U.S. Marine Corps, as part of our special online coverage of Fight Night for the Troops, the first sanctioned mixed martial arts event held in an active combat zone. Stuckey is the man behind the card staged in Mosul, Iraq. For more on the event pick up the Nov. issue of FIGHT! Magazine from one of our many retailers throughout the U.S. and Canada.
First Lieutenant Lee Stuckey of the U.S. Marine Corps will tell you that technically speaking, it was his idea to hold an MMA even in Mosul, Iraq for the troops, but he makes it perfectly clear that without Monica Sanford and Andrea Lucie the even would have never happened at all.
Says Stuckey, “You know, I can have all the good ideas in the world but without somebody backing me and executing it, it’s nothing—it’s just an idea in my head.”
Stuckey has been involved in martial arts as long as he’s been in the Marines—more than a decade. He trained under Sanford’s husband Lt. Col. David Sanford stateside and in Iraq and won his first MMA fight by submission at :34 of the first round at an event Sanford held at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. His current fight record is 2-2. Stuckey became an instructor at the Sanfords’ gym and turned pro under Monica’s management.
In 2008, Sanford arranged for him to audition for Season 8 of The Ultimate Fighter. Stuckey was thrilled but soon realized he had a conflict. Stuckey was scheduled to speak at a conference for the MRAP (mine resistant ambush protected) vehicle that saved his life in Fallujah in 2007 when it was hit with 100 pounds of explosives.
“I was like, ‘I’ve got to get out of this, I want to be on The Ultimate Fighter.’ Finally…I was like, ‘what is wrong with me?’…this is not that important compared to what these people have done for me. I would have been killed if it hadn’t been for this vehicle.”
Stuckey attended the conference and sent in an audition tape to TUF, but never heard back from them. “I was meant to go to Mosul, Iraq and serve a greater purpose,” says Stuckey.
Stuckey has personally found mixed martial arts to be a tremendous help with post-traumatic stress disorder. He took over former Marine and current UFC fighter Brian Stann’s position as a trainer and says, “I got the opportunity to work with the wounded warriors which was phenomenal and get to teach mixed martial arts to these people who are just like me.”
As positive a force MMA is in the military, Stuckey admits there can be some resistance, but that differing opinions is not always such a bad thing. “My biggest thing is that the commanders and the senior enlisted get educated on it and get educated on the benefits from having these people with this warrior ethos in your unit…because all it’s going to do is spread that warrior ethos through your unit. If they’re dedicated and they’re putting that type of training in, which is just so intense, we need to let them do it.”
Ultimately the Fight for Heroes event in Mosul, Iraq went off without a hitch, but Stuckey wasn’t there to witness his idea come to fruition. “My job in the Marine Corps is very demanding and senior leadership thought I needed to be here and I respect their decision. I was there in spirit.”
Stuckey, who trained many of the soldiers who fought in the event, received many emails from soldiers thanking him for the experience after the event. “In the end, my intent was to have a morale-booster for the soldiers and the Marines and the sailors in Iraq…we achieved it.”
In five years, Stuckey sees the influence of MMA in the military expand to include an all-Marine Corps mixed martial arts team. “Obviously the Army’s taking it over and embracing it with Army Combatives; their tournaments are pretty much mixed martial arts and I just hope to see the Marine Corps kind of evolve through that and have that same kind of tournament because it builds that warrior ethos…it shows we are warriors in every sense and it builds that camaraderie.”
Stuckey hopes to fight again at the Hard Rock on Nov. 20.