Could A Navy SEAL Beat An MMA Fighter On The Streets?

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On each UFC fight night, it’s easy to see the prowess and abilities of an MMA fighter.

But you often hear a lot about Navy SEALs being some of the most robust fighters. You just don’t see it in action too often.

Key takeaways 🎖️

A Navy SEAL would be unlikely to beat an MMA fighter on the streets where weapons aren’t involved, depending on experience.

Mixed martial artists train almost every day, specifically in developing skills to knock out or submit opponents as efficiently as possible.

Whereas a Navy SEAL spends a massive amount of time on essential training, comms, and patrolling and not much time on any martial art.

They have extreme fitness capability and physical combat training, but it doesn’t compare with the regular fight training of an MMA fighter.

But it’s still open for debate, and in the rest of this article, I’ll compare the differences in fighting skills between them.

Fighting skills of a Navy Seal

Navy SEALs are often considered the toughest people on the planet, with the phrase “A Navy SEAL is trained to kill” often being the punchline.

While that is likely true, I would add “in the most efficient way possible,” as Navy Seals are trained to kill with weapons, mainly knives and guns.

The quickest way to get the job done is with one of these weapons.

Guns allow a Navy SEAL to eliminate threats from a distance and work well as a grouped effort with extremely regimented military patrols and area sweeps with their comrades.

The knife skills of a Navy SEAL are developed to ensure they always have a final defense of eliminating the enemy as quickly as possible when in close quarters.

A SEAL knife can be very versatile for a variety of situations in self-defense.

These skills with the gun and the knife don’t relate very much to a fistfight.

While Navy SEALs undergo a lot of physical challenges to earn their status, actual hand-to-hand combat training time is mostly spent on using a knife.

They don’t use a lot of their training, or even downtime, to become deadly with their limbs.

The reason is that it just doesn’t seem the most practical when you have an extremely lethal knife in your pocket.

Navy SEALs martial arts training

Navy SEALs don’t have any training on a specific martial art, contrary to what you might read elsewhere on the internet.

Instead, they are taught optimized versions of self-defense to make them highly efficient in hand-to-hand combat.

Again, the focus is always on beating the opponent quickly and (usually) eliminating them.

Navy SEALs don’t spend training time on any specific martial art, unlike mixed martial artists.

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Most of their training time is spent on what is considered more important skills, like underwater diving, parachuting, communication, working as a unit, guns, and knife-fighting.

The only time a SEAL will spend on specific martial arts is in their downtime or rare martial arts training with their teammates, like boxing tournaments for comradery.

So they’re not trained as a requirement in any martial art that you would expect with a mixed martial arts fighter.

Some Navy SEALs have a vested interest in learning all kinds of fight skills to improve their ability, and they will have the opportunity to do that.

Ex-Navy SEAL Jocko Willink is one of those people who even prioritizes Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu as a priority to learn for self-defense:

There’s no doubt that Navy SEALs are seriously strong and tough, but they simply don’t have the requirement to learn martial arts like an MMA fighter does.

And when it comes to a street fight without weapons, they might not have what they need to win.

What Navy SEALs training actually involves

Navy SEALs training is undoubtedly extraordinarily challenging and is designed to push candidates beyond their physical and mental limits.

Physical Screening Test

Before you can even enter Navy SEAL training, you must pass the Physical Screening Test (PST):

ActivityMin. Requirement
1Swim 500 yards (breast or side stroke)Timed 12:30 (or faster)
2No. Push-ups in two mins50
3No. Sit-ups in two mins50
4No. Pull-ups (no stopping)10
5Run 1.5 milesTimed 10:30 (or faster)

Meeting the minimum allows a Navy officer to start training with their assigned Scout Team as part of the Delayed Entry Program (DEP).

But before you get your SEAL contract, your test scores from the PST are ranked nationally.

Then only the best scores will get through for the next boot camp cycle.

That’s usually average or better, so the top half of the scores. This is called the Spec War Draft.

Newly accepted SEALs begin their basic Navy boot camp, lasting for ten weeks and preparing them for the BUD/S Prep Program.

BUD/S stands for Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL.

BUD/S Prep is a five-week program that focuses primarily on fitness to prepare candidates’ bodies for the next set of testing.

It’s followed by two weeks of the Naval Special Warfare orientation program.

BUD/S Entry Test

The potential SEAL needs to pass their next test to get into full BUD/S training:

ActivityMin. Requirement
1Swim 4,000M (side stroke with fins)20:00 (or faster)
2No. Push-ups70
3No. Curl-ups60
4No. Pull-ups10
5Run 4 miles31:00 (or faster)

BUD/S training itself is seven months of tests in mental fortitude, physical stamina, and leadership skills. It is divided into three key phases:

  • First phase: Continuous physical conditioning and small-boat seamanship.
  • Second phase: SCUBA skills, including open and closed-circuit combat diving and long-distance underwater transit dives.
  • Third phase: Land navigation, small-unit tactics, rappelling, land and underwater explosives, and weapons training.

During training, they are also subject to a weekly test of swimming 4,000 yards with fins, running four miles and completing an obstacle course.

Navy SEALs training on a muddy obstacle course

After completing BUD/S training, graduates attend SEAL Qualification Training (SQT).

This six-month school offers advanced training in diving, shooting, parachuting, small unit tactics, mission planning, and medical skills.

Only after completing all previous programs can graduates be assigned to their SEAL team for duty.

The life of a SEAL is subject to continuous training and physical conditioning that keeps them at a peak level of performance and grit.

But notice how there isn’t any martial arts training mentioned? That’s because there isn’t any.

Most Navy SEALs are equipped with weapons skills and some disarming tools (similar to Krav Maga).

But only the overly interested SEAL has martial arts talents because they have taken up learning in their own time.

Continuous training, physical conditioning, and drills are part of the SEAL lifestyle, with opportunities for further advanced training within the team.

Fighting skills of an MMA fighter

An MMA fighter is exceptionally physically fit and conditioned for a fight.

They have trained in specific fighting skills regularly and for many years, making them so effective in a fight.

Even outside a cage with no rules, an MMA fighter often has an advantage against a SEAL.

MMA fighters in the octagon cage in Bali

The fighting ability of an MMA fighter is usually broad and varied, with a considerable amount of hours put into multiple martial arts.

An MMA fighter might start their training with Boxing or Muay Thai and then commonly expand into Wrestling and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to give them well-rounded skills.

Some fighters even expand their training into lesser-known arts like Judo (like Ronda Rousey), Kenpo Karate (like Chuck Lidell), or Krav Maga.

In a single week, a dedicated martial artist can train between 10-20 hours a week solely on fighting.

In a few months, a year, and over several years this time adds up considerably to produce one extremely well-rounded skill set for an MMA fighter.

If mixed martial artist is learning all of the different kinds of striking and ground-fighting martial arts available to them, they become a serious force to be reckoned with in a fight.

And if that martial artist is learning both striking and ground fighting, they’re very versatile to take on many kinds of opponents – bar an extreme weight difference.

Who’s going to win the fight?

An MMA fighter would likely beat a Navy SEAL in a street fight without any weapons available.

MMA fighters have training in a range of martial arts that makes them hard to beat as they can adjust to any situation, standing or grounded.

If the environment involves tools, implements, or even weapons, then a Navy SEAL is put at a major advantage.

The Navy SEAL would have way more experience training in unusual surroundings and be encouraged to adapt, such as using random objects as weapons.

It’s common for a Navy SEAL to be trained in unpredictable situations with randomized threats, which gives them the effectiveness of using the environment to their advantage.

An MMA fighter, on the other hand, only ever trains in padded flooring and equipment designed to keep them injury-free.

The training space is tidy, spacious, and mostly predictable.

The only unpredictable element is their sparring opponents, which is with what they are best at reacting from.

Take the mixed martial artist and put them in a kitchen environment to take on a Navy SEAL… I know who I’d put my money on.

But in an open area like a park or the side of a road, there’s not much to use other than your reaction and fighting skills.

Professional fighters are constantly coming out on top in those situations. Just search for fights on YouTube if you don’t believe me.

UFC fighter vs. Navy SEAL

UFC fighters are a collection of the greatest mixed martial artists on the planet.

While some less experienced MMA fighters could fall short against the strength and fitness of a Navy SEAL, it’s unlikely for a UFC fighter to have that problem.

A UFC fighter could be considered a pampered individual due to fame and success like Conor McGregor.

It has the potential to make them “softer” in real-world situations.

But then again, there are also pro-MMA fighters that are also ex-Navy SEALs like Mitch Aguiar and Tim Kennedy.

Tim Kennedy, ex UFC fighter
Chief National Guard Bureau, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

It’s common for professional fighters to think of themselves as bigger than they are, outside of the octagon and in the real world.

In the real world, even UFC fighters aren’t trained to deal with more than one opponent, which could be their major downfall.

It’s a whole different show when there’s more than one opponent to deal with.

Dealing with multiple threads is something a Navy SEAL is more comfortable with, even if it’s usually from a gun-firing range.

MMA vs. Navy SEAL inside the octagon cage

In a cage fight, the MMA fighter is more experienced at dealing with the situation, and so has the advantage against a Navy SEAL.

As long as the MMA fighter uses their striking most and avoids the physical strength of a Navy SEAL, they are very likely to win.

While a Navy SEAL is very good at responding to close-quarter situations, in an actual octagon, the MMA fighter is still king because of experience.

Mixed martial arts cage audience view

MMA fighters are used to using the cage to their advantage, maneuvering around it easily and even rebounding off it for repositioning or launching attacks.

Their other key advantage is knowing how to take and hold octagon control. Which is a fundamental skill for a mixed martial artist.

It’s all about knowing how to keep a distance, close distance, or force your opponent up against the cage – right when you want it to happen.

Only an experienced mixed martial artist learns these things through regular practice and sparring.

Being locked in a cage with a professional MMA fighter isn’t a good time for most people, military or not.

What to read next

Now you know that MMA fighters will often have the advantage over a Navy SEAL, these next articles might be just what you’re looking to learn about next:

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