Staff. Sgt. Colton Smith, top, serves as chief combatives instructor at III Corps and Fort Hood, Texas. (Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
If the military MMA gods smile, it will be National Guard mechanic vs. active-duty grunt on the "TUF" House fight card.
Staff Sgt. Colton Smith, a Ranger-tabbed infantryman now based at Fort Hood, Texas, has captured the spotlight as the first active-duty mixed martial artist to make it onto "The Ultimate Fighter" reality show. But flying under the radar is another military fighter, Army National Guardsman Staff Sgt. Neil Magny.
Placed on opposing teams and both weighing in as 170-pound welterweights, Magny and Smith appear destined to meet in the octagon if not in the live Dec. 15 finale, then at least in one of the upcoming regular-season bouts.
A wheeled vehicle mechanic for the Chicago-based 708th Medical Company, Magny finished third in the 2010 Army Combatives Championships and has racked up a 7-1 record since turning professional two years ago.
Maj. Jeffary Jiannoni, his National Guard team captain since 2009, describes Magny as "very easygoing, truly an all-around nice guy."
But Jiannoni adds, "Just because he is a nice guy, don't make the mistake of thinking he will be the same on the mat or in the cage, because he can flip the switch and hurt you."
Magny proved that in his first bout on "TUF," scoring a unanimous-decision victory and clinching a place in the quarterfinals. If Smith is able to do the same, the stage could be set for an all-Army bout.
"They are both very much in the running," says a "TUF" insider.