The term “warrior” carries all sorts of meanings. Obviously, it can carry the literal meaning of someone in the military. It can also mean a warrior of sport, like an NFL player or a UFC fighter. In the weakest form of the term, “weekend warrior” has even referred to the average dentist who heads up to Winter Park for a weekend of family skiing.

Fortunately, in most cases, countries have real warriors that fight for their values, ideals and beliefs every day. Even more fortunate are the fans of MMA, who have the privilege of seeing some of the military warriors battling it out in a cage for sport and entertainment. Not all real-life warriors have what it takes to excel in a ring, and vice versa. However, the UFC’s signature Octagon has been graced with some soldiers who have done their respective countries proud on multiple levels.

Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic of Croatia and Paulo Thiago of Brazil are examples of warriors who have encountered hostile situations both inside and outside of the Octagon. In the United States, guys like former U.S. Marine Brian Stann or current soldier of the U.S. Army Colton Smith have been on the battlefield and in the cage. Trained to kill, yet highly skilled in competition, a member of any military very rarely puts on a poor performance in the regulated and controlled setting that is professional MMA.

Well, another soldier is about to enter the UFC arena for the first time, while still serving after 10 years in the U.S. Army. His MMA record tells a story of its own.

In Garett “Goodnight” Whiteley’s three-year pro career, he has finished every single one of his opponents, with only one making it past the first round. He trains out of Indy Boxing and Grappling, home of perennial UFC standout Chris Lytle, and he is certainly no one-trick pony. Whitely has four TKOs and three submissions, and he is finally getting his shot at the big show.

“It was actually pretty surreal,” said Whiteley in an exclusive interview with The MMA Corner. “I first got a text from my coach and manager asking if I had a passport. I said that I do, and I started to get excited, but we didn’t know anything yet. When I actually got the contract, it was almost surreal that I was getting a shot. That’s all I wanted, to just get a chance and show people what I can do. It’s so exciting. Everybody doesn’t get this chance, and I feel so blessed. I’m going to go out and take advantage of it.”

Six weeks ago, the current U.S. Army Staff Sergeant got the call to make his UFC debut in Brazil against a Brazilian fighter. That is very hostile territory, but nothing this soldier hasn’t seen before. In 2006, Whiteley was deployed to Iraq for a year, so while the Brazilian crowd has been known to send some serious jeering toward Americans, this shouldn’t phase Whiteley too much. In fact, he’s so excited, he’s embracing the opportunity with open arms.

The man Whiteley will face tomorrow night is no stranger to competition, but, much like the American, he is unfamiliar with losing. Alan Patrick is undefeated as a pro with a record of 10-0. The biggest difference is that half of Patrick’s fights have gone to decision, whereas none of Whiteley’s have. It’s a classic battle between an explosive finisher and a grinder. Whiteley has done what he can to learn as much as possible about his opponent in a month and a half.

“I’ve seen just a couple fights on YouTube, and, of course, I looked up his record and he has a lot of decisions,” explained Whiteley. “It looks like he’s a wrestler, which is unusual for a Brazilian. He looks like he has a good power double and likes to stay on top and control guys and kind of grind out wins. He’s got a good ground-and-pound and good transitions. It just doesn’t seem like he tries to finish guys. He doesn’t look as comfortable on his feet as he does on the ground.”

Whiteley is right on two accounts. The famed X-Gym in Brazil, where Patrick trains, was the original home of the Black House MMA team and is known for housing many of Brazil’s top national wrestlers. Patrick carries a wrestling style in the ring, but he is very rudimentary with his stand-up, as well as his finishes. Patrick will get on top of his opponents and essentially hold them down until the bell. This bodes well for Whiteley, who brings it every time.

“I like to press the pace in my fights,” said Whiteley. “As people can see from my finishes, I like to get in there and get at it. I’m going to get in his face, and, of course, be wary of the takedown too. But I’m going to get in his face. I’ve got great cardio and like to push the pace, so I’d like to wear him out and see where that takes me.”

Whiteley’s confidence is not completely unwarranted. The Indiana native is not only a soldier, but he also wrestled in college at the University of Indianapolis and has been training with Pat McPherson and Chris Lytle for several years. That NCAA Division II experience and high-level MMA training should help Whiteley a great deal against a guy whose best attribute is wrestling.

Tomorrow night, Patrick will certainly have his hands full in the cage, as will Whiteley, but very few people have the willpower or gusto to live a life like Whiteley does day-in and day-out.

“I just had my first son, Greyson, three months ago,” the new father elaborated. “I do a run in the morning, then I go to work, then I pick him up, take him to the gym, where his mom picks him up. And I practice from the time I get off work until the evening, then I eat dinner and go to bed. When I’m training for a fight like this, it’s work and training and whatever family time I can squeeze in. That’s it.”

Wait a second. That’s it?

In addition to training and family, Whiteley is not your average “weekend warrior”-type of National Guard. He is actually a full-time employee of the government.

“I’m a Staff Sergeant, now, and I’m National Guard, what they call AGR, so I’m one of the active Guards that work at the armory,” explained Whiteley. “We’re with an artillery unit, so we shoot the big cannons, which is pretty cool. My weekly job is that I’m the training NCO, so I do a lot of the stuff for pay and paperwork and the guys’ benefits.”

Paperwork, fighting, parenting…and cannons? It’s beginning to seem like “warrior” does not give enough credit to the jobs that Whiteley does everyday, and yet he says it so nonchalantly. Most people would be embarrassed to describe their lives while standing next to this guy.

Tomorrow night, everyone will get a firsthand taste of what Whiteley’s MMA skills are all about. This is a fight not to be missed as two undefeated fighters make their UFC debuts in what is sure to be a war for the ages. If fans want to know why, take it right from the man’s mouth.

“I’m an exciting fighter. I’m a fan, too, so I understand that people want to watch an exciting fight. I’m not going to go out there and just try not to lose a fight. I like to have an exciting fight. I get some of that from Chris Lytle. I always loved watching his fights, win or lose. They were always exciting. It’s a business, and if people aren’t going to pay to watch you, then you’re not really worth anything to any company. You’ve got to make yourself exciting.”

Whiteley would like to thank coach Pat McPherson, all of his training partners at Indy Boxing and Grappling, his wife and son, and his sponsors: Revgear, Lexani and Griffins Gang. Follow Garett on Twitter: @GarettWhiteley

Photo: Garett Whiteley (Fernando Mucci/Olhar do fa no MMA)