Champion Wrestler, Actor Was Also a Soldier > U.S. Department of Defense > Story

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Sports Heroes Who Served is a series that highlights the accomplishments of athletes who served in the U.S. military.

Randy Couture was a champion wrestler and martial artist, as well as an actor. 

He was in the Army from 1982 to 1988, serving in the 101st Airborne Division, and attained the rank of sergeant when he was honorably discharged. 

During a visit to Fort Benning, now called Fort Moore, in Georgia in April 2014, Couture said he credits his success with the confidence he developed while competing on Army wrestling teams. 

“It was a pretty formative time in my life, and I think I developed a particular discipline and mindset while wearing Army green. It was there that I learned I could compete at an international level and really developed the mindset and the confidence to go out and win. That got me through three or four years of college at Oklahoma State and on into mixed martial arts and winning world championships as a fighter. It all started with the Army uniform,” he said. 

Couture said he was fortunate enough to be in the service at a time when the only thing going on was the Cold War. “I never had to put it on the line. I did all the training; I wore the uniform; I understand that commitment and that discipline, but I never had to go [into combat]. 

“It’s been great to meet some of the guys coming back from the war who have made some pretty significant sacrifices,” Couture added, meaning troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. 

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the International Military Sports Council of Military, or CISM, on Oct. 2, 2014, at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, Couture said: “It was here on this post back in 1985 where I got my start on the Army’s wrestling team, which allowed me to represent the U.S. at the CISM championships in Sicily. It was at that time in my life when I learned I could compete at an international level. It’s an honor for me to be back here.” 

CISM is the abbreviation for the French name Conseil International du Sport Militaire, which organizes various sporting events for dozens of armed forces throughout the world. 

In 2009, Couture started the Xtreme Couture GI Foundation, known as the GI Foundation, which is dedicated to helping injured veterans of the armed forces. 

Couture has also teamed with Jay Glazer of Fox Sports and Green Beret and National Football League player Nate Boyer to create Merging Vets and Players. The program is designed to address challenges that many combat veterans and professional athletes face when transitioning their service/professional life to a new mission in civilian life. 

More About Randy Couture 

Couture wrestled at the World Championships in Greco-Roman in 1991, 1993, 1995 and 1997 and became a three-time Olympic team alternate (1988, 1992 and 1996); a semifinalist at the 2000 Olympic Trials; a three-time National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I All-American; and a two-time NCAA Division I runner-up (1991 and 1992) at Oklahoma State University. 

By December 1997, at the age of 33, Couture made his debut into the world of professional fighting, claiming victory in the Heavyweight Division of his first appearance in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, soon earning the moniker of “Randy ‘The Natural’ Couture.” He has fought in 16 title fights and has six UFC title reigns in the Lightweight and Heavyweight divisions. He also became the 4th pro fighter to be inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame. 

Couture’s growing career in acting includes the hit films “The Expendables” and “The Expendables 2,” opposite Sylvester Stallone and Bruce Willis; he reprised his role as Toll Road in “The Expendables 3.” 

He also played a recurring character on the CBS television show “The Unit,” in a role written specifically for him. More recently, he has appeared in the following TV shows: “Lip Sync Battle,” “Ballers,” “Whose Line is it Anyway,” “Dancing with the Stars,” “Impractical Jokers” and multiple episodes of “Hawaii Five O.”

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