Meet the Wolff brothers: former Navy SEALS turned MMA fighters
Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press
Published Tuesday, December 9, 2008 3:28PM EST
Talk about double trouble. Brandon Wolff is a former Navy SEAL turned mixed martial arts fighter -- with a twin brother who has gone down exactly the same career path.
Wolff (7-2) steps into the cage Wednesday night to make his UFC debut against Ben Saunders on the "Fight for the Troops" card in Fayetteville, N.C.
Brother Brenton Wolff -- 3-0 as a pro and "one of my best training partners" -- has done his part to help Brandon prepare for the show at the Crown Coliseum (Spike TV, 9 p.m. ET, and Rogers Sportsnet, check local listings).
The SEALs -- it stands for Sea, Air and Land -- are the elite special operations forces of the U.S. navy. Add in mixed martial arts training and the Wolff brothers clearly know how to handle themselves.
"I never looked at it like before but I guess it sounds good," said Brandon Wolff. "I'm a big believer in actions speak larger than words. So I try to focus on that rather than my reputation or what people think I am."
That is the SEAL creed.
"I humbly serve as a guardian to my fellow Americans always ready to defend those who are unable to defend themselves," it states in part. "I do not advertise the nature of my work, nor seek recognition for my actions. I voluntarily accept the inherent hazards of my profession, placing the welfare and security of others before my own."
Wolff can look forward to a supportive crowd Wednesday. The fight card was organized to raise funds for a hospital for traumatic brain injuries for the U.S. military and the stands are expected to be filled with thousands of soldiers from nearby Fort Bragg.
The main event features welterweights Josh Koscheck and Japan's Yoshiyuki Yoshida while Montreal welterweight Jonathan (The Road Warrior) Goulet faces Mike (Quick) Swick in the co-main event.
Apart from Wolff, other military veterans on the card are former marine Luigi Fioravanti and former U.S. navy vets Steve Bruno, Tim Credeur, and Dale Hartt. The UFC last held a military-themed show in December 2006, from the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar outside of San Diego.
"It's a good opportunity for me to give back to these guys." Wolff said. "I wasn't able to see any combat, I got out before 9-11, so a big part of me wants to give back to them and do my part. So this is one way I can do it, put on a good show for them and get 'em all fired up."
Wolff, 33, spent four years in the navy, joining in 1997 and went through the extensive SEAL training alongside his brother.
The SEALs' rite of passage includes a "Hell Week" during BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition School/Seal) that features 5 1/2 days of continuous training on less than four hours of sleep. On average, only a quarter of trainees make it through Hell Week. Those who survive the ordeal get to wear the Seals' coveted trident pin.
"It was probably one of the most challenging things that I've been through," said Wolff, who fights out of Kailua on the windward side of Oahu.
"It's just one of those things that you really don't realize how hard it was until you reflect on it. I was in the right mindset at the time. It was something I wanted more than anything. But it was definitely no joke. It was difficult in all aspects."
In 2001, he decided it was time to try something new. Mixed martial arts beckoned.
"I just never looked back once I got a little taste of MMA," he said. "Now I'm here."
Wolff also has a day job, but took the last six weeks off to train for the UFC. Normally he works for a company training military personnel in hand-to-hand combat, using his MMA expertise.
"I'm really fortunate to have the job that I have," he said. "It kind of keeps me in the loop with the sport and it isn't really physically demanding. So I don't have it hard compared to some of the guys out there."
Wolf, who stands a little under 5-10 and normally walks around at 180 pounds, says he and his brother grew up with the martial arts, starting off with Chinese kempo karate, boxing, Muay Thai and kickboxing. He started fighting just before joining the navy.
Wolff has been around the block as a pro. While his nine fights span almost nine years, he has battled under the EliteXC, World Extreme Cagefighting and Rumble on the Rock banners.
Still Saunders (6-0-2) could be a handful for the UFC newcomer. A graduate of Season 6 of "The Ultimate Fighter," the 25-year-old from Orlando, Fla, is one of the tallest 170-pounder around at six foot three.
Wolff, whose name is one of many tattoos adorning his upper torso, expects the two will stand and trade blows, which suits him fine.
"We both like to keep it on our feet," he said.
Saunders, meanwhile can expect an opponent who won't quit, as per the SEAL creed that promises "the execution of my duties will be swift and violent when required yet guided by the very principles that I serve to defend."
"I persevere and thrive on adversity," it continues. "My nation expects me to be physically harder and mentally stronger than my enemies. If knocked down, I will get back up, every time. I will draw on every remaining ounce of strength to protect my teammates and to accomplish our mission. I am never out of the fight. ... I will not fail."
NOTES -- A fan poll carried out by England's Fighters Only Magazine has chosen Anderson Silva as fighter of the year. Silva took 49 per cent of the votes, beating out finalists Georges St. Pierre of Montreal, Forrest Griffin, B.J. Penn and Fedor Emelianenko. St. Pierre did win submission of the year for his armbar victory over Matt Hughes.
Other winners included England's Michael Bisping (European fighter of the year), Gina Carano (female fighter), Demian Maia (breakthrough fighter). Brazilian Wanderlei Silva was honoured both for fight of the year (his loss to Chuck Liddell) and KO of the year for his fight for his win over Keith Jardine.