Professional fighters are among the toughest people on the planet, but the likes of Kyle Stewart are cut from a different cloth.
Stewart opened up about his time in the Marines and how it shaped the fighter who went 10-1 on the regional scene before signing with the UFC. “When I talk about dealing with fear, there is an example that was set for me. The first team leader I ever had, it was his second deployment and my first deployment. We were in a mounted patrol and we got ambushed. I’m sitting there, I’m 19-years-old and I’m scared. There are real bullets and real explosions,” he told Bloody Elbow. “When you’re preparing for that, it’s just like a fight, you’re preparing for it and thinking all the most positive things. When it’s really happening there is a lot of fear that sets in.”
“How [my team leader] reacted to it set the tone for how I reacted to it. He started screaming, ‘shoot me motherf—ker.’ I saw that and thought, ‘well he’s not being a b—ch so I’m not going to be a b—ch,” Stewart reflected. “That’s kind of set my mentality for how I go into fights. It’s the same thing. Anything can happened in combat, anyone can get knocked out. You go left when you should’ve gone right and it’s all over.”
“I probably wouldn’t be fighting in MMA if it weren’t for the Marine Corps. People change a lot from the age of 18 to 25. There is a huge growth in human beings. Mine was accelerated through my time in the Marine Corps. I was a machine-gunner, I was an infantry guy. I had three deployments to Afghanistan. I got to see a lot of really intense things from the age of 18,” he continued. “It forced me to mature a lot and it gave me a sense of confidence. I wasn’t a very confident kid when I was 18. I joined the Marine Corps to make something out of myself... I was dealt a lot of adversity throughout my time in the Marine Corps and it really shaped who I am as a person.”
Stewart was unsuccessful in his UFC debut, a first-round submission loss to Chance Recountre, but the Marine Corps veteran looks to bounce back against a veteran of MMA. “Erik Koch is a bad motherf—ker,” Stewart exclaimed. “I remember watching him in the WEC.” In fact, “he fought in the UFC before I had my first amateur fight. I’m not taking him lightly. I’ve been training my ass off.”
UFC 240 takes place at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada on Saturday, July 27. The event is headlined by UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway and Frankie Edgar. The co-main event boasts a clash between Cris Cyborg and Felicia Spencer.