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Do MMA Fighters Make Good Navy SEALs?

This is a question many people often ask if MMA fighters could be good SEALs. And Navy SEAL and BJJ practitioner answered exactly that on his episode 47 of his podcast. His answer was: it depends. He thinks that some fighters would make great SEALs while others wouldn't stand a chance.


Jocko says that it takes much more than athleticism and physical toughness to be a SEAL. To be a good SEAL, you need to have the following characteristics:

  • Comfortable with water, the cold, and height
  • Cerebral
  • Have a high capacity for memorizing
  • Situational awareness
  • Ability to suppress instincts
  • Have adequate endurance and strength
  • Not (too) injury-prone

While there is an obvious physical element to SEAL training, there is also a big mental/intellectual element involve. Whereas MMA is a mostly physical and athletic endeavor. Of course, Jocko isn't saying that MMA is a completely athletic or physical endeavor. Brains are needed and there is an intellectual element to fighting. But he is saying that physicality and athleticism takes up a smaller part of the pie when it comes to be a SEAL (or special force).

Going further, Jocko illustrates a specific example. Someone who has found success inside the octagon by tapping into their natural instincts and wild nature would not be a good SEAL and be a major safety issue. Although he does not say anyone by name, Diego Sanchez is something that comes into my mind quickly. Conversely, the host also states that someone who is a good SEAL doesn't automatically make them a top MMA competitor either---as they may not be as athletically gifted to excel at the highest levels of the sport.

While both MMA training and SEAL training are tough grinds, the famed SEAL thinks the grind between the two is different. In MMA, there is an element of luxury to the grind. In MMA camp, the grind is broken up into segments. And between those segments you can experience little luxuries such as massages, good food, sleep, etc. However, during SEAL training, the grind is constant.

Watch that segment of the podcast episode below:


A less than stellar martial artist