Mixed-martial arts fighter Staff Sgt. Colton Smith on Thursday reenlisted for four more years in the Army.
"I've had a lot of people, even those in uniform, say 'chase your dreams,'" Smith said about pursuing a career in professional mixed-martial arts fighting. "But to me, impacting soldiers' lives, whether it be in a combat situation or a young infantryman, that's important to me."
Smith is also concerned about reaching out to veterans or those transitioning from the military. One way he does that is by teaching martial arts classes for free in the evenings, said Smith, who is a combatives master trainer at Fort Hood, Texas.
"On my mats I have sergeants major, flag officers, young officers, young NCOs, families," he said. "The ability to have that kind of diverse population on the mat, and for about 30 minutes after practice people sit around and talk, it's pretty cool to see that."
Colton Smith re-enlists for 4 more years
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"I'm transitioning right now, talking to Ranger branch, figuring out what my next move is," he said. "I want to stay in front of my career, do what's right by my country, what's right by my family. I understand I won't be a combatives instructor forever."
In the immediate future, Smith will fight Marcus Andrusia on May 16 in Harker Heights, Texas. This will be his second fight as part of Rock's Xtreme Fight Night. On Feb. 28, Smith defeated Evan "The Butcher" Cutts in his first fight since leaving the UFC.
In June, he'll attend air assault school on Fort Hood before leaving for the Senior Leader Course at Fort Benning, Georgia.
Once those schools are completed, Smith, an infantryman who has earned the Ranger and Sapper tabs, said he wants to explore opportunities in special operations. He also wants to finish his bachelor's degree.
"Other than that, just keep trying to exceed the standard and set the example for younger soldiers and helping vets and those who are transitioning," Smith said. And, of course, "keep fighting."
Smith, who has two young sons, credits Megan, his wife of seven years, for his ability to pursue his Army career and mixed-martial arts.
"My wife really has to pick up a lot of the slack I leave behind," he said. "It's crazy what she does for me. I don't know how she does it. She's a wonderful woman, and she's pushing on with what she does day to day, and she still picks up all my slack."
Michelle Tan is the editor of Army Times and Air Force Times. She has covered the military for Military Times since 2005, and has embedded with U.S. troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Haiti, Gabon and the Horn of Africa.