HABBANIYAH, Iraq --
Sacrifices are made when preparing to deploy. When a reserve battalion is activated, the Marines are required to put their entire lives on hold. Not only do they sacrifice being away from family, friends and jobs, some of them even put their dreams on hold.
One Marine attached to 2nd Battalion, 24th Marines, Regimental Combat Team 1, put his dreams on hold to fight for the freedoms Americans enjoy on a daily basis.
Before being activated to deploy to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Lance Cpl. Sean E. Varriale, a radio operator with Headquarters and Service Company, was training to get a shot at becoming a professional mixed martial arts fighter and possibly trying out for and competing on the popular television show, the Ultimate Fighter.
“My goal going through training was to be a professional fighter, make it to on the show and eventually make it to the Ultimate Fighting Championship,” said the 27-year-old from Old Bridge, N.J. “My training partner, Chris Finnelli just made the Ultimate Fighter for the upcoming season and I feel like I have a chance to make it as well, because of my attitude, heart, will and drive.”
Varriale volunteered to deploy to Iraq and was individually selected to augment to 2nd Bn., 24th Marines, putting his chance to make it on the show and turn pro on hold, but he said he has no regrets.
“I love fighting and I love the Marine Corps. I don’t regret volunteering to come out here at all,” Varriale said. “Even though I’m not training at home, we’ve put together a bunch of great guys that want to train and learn (martial arts). So now, I’m right back at it, teaching MMA and getting to train along side the Marines.”
Varriale began learning boxing and mixed martial arts at the age of five, learning from his father.
“My dad taught me never to fear anyone and most of all, to take the edge and never let anyone get the upper hand,” he said. “My dad was a huge influence on me.”
Throughout the years, he continued to train in MMA and eventually joined the New Jersey International Martial Arts and Boxing Team, where he sharpened his skills in several different styles of martial arts, including; mauy tai, Brazilian jui jitsu, boxing, submission grappling, eskrima and jeet kun do.
“I started with the team when I was 23, and my coach, Jerry Fatjo, said that I wasn’t ready to start cage fighting until after two years with the team,” said Varriale, who graduated from Old Bridge High School in 1998. “Fatjo has coached me since I joined the team and has become like a second father to me.”
When asked how his coach felt about him volunteering to deploy to Iraq, Varriale said his coach was worried, but he also said that he is supportive.
Varriale will get back into training as soon as he returns home from his deployment and said that if he does not stay in shape while he is in Iraq, his coaches will ‘enjoy’ getting him back into shape.
Varriale would like to recognize his coaches, Jerry Fatjo, Eric Colon, Chris “Oldness” and Fernando Sarmento Jr. “Cabeza,” and his teammates saying, “I would like to wish all my teammates good luck in their upcoming fights and I will be home soon to train with them.”