Marine Sniper-Turned-MMA Fighter Takes on ‘Naked and Afraid’

February 24, 2023Mac Caltrider
Justin Governale

Justin Governale, a professional fighter, stand-up comic, and Marine Corps veteran, is appearing on episode three of the 15th season of “Naked and Afraid,” which debuts on Discovery Channel Sunday, Feb. 26, 2023. Photo courtesy of Justin Governale/Instagram.

When Marine veteran Justin Governale heard the ominous whistle of incoming mortar rounds, he sprinted for cover. His platoon mates — watching from the relative safety of an Iraqi family’s house — shouted and waved for him to hurry. Governale tumbled through the doorway and landed on top of another Marine just as the mortars began impacting around them. 

As the Marines tried to make themselves as little as possible amid the explosions, Governale hugged the Marine beneath him. Now face to face on the house’s dirt floor, Governale tried planting a kiss on the Marine’s mouth.

“What the fuck are you doing, dude?” the Marine shouted. “Get off of me!”

Around them, the whole platoon erupted with laughter. Governale had managed to break through the life-or-death tension of the moment.

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Justin Governale

Justin Governale poses with a rifle he found after conducting his first search in Iraq. Photo courtesy of Justin Governale/Instagram.

During his four years of service, Governale developed a reputation for his unique sense of humor. When he recently got a chance to compete on Discovery Channel’s survival-based reality show Naked and Afraid, Governale brought along that same unflappable positive energy

The show is simple: Two strangers get dropped in a remote area of the world with a bare minimum of survival equipment. They aren’t even allowed to wear clothes. The goal is to see if the exposed contestants can survive on their own — naked and afraid — for 21 days. 

Governale, who stars alongside a paramedic in this season’s upcoming third episode, tapped into his training as a Marine Corps scout sniper to survive in the remote jungles of Guyana. 

Though he can’t reveal the outcome of his episode until it airs, he told Coffee or Die the experience was one of his toughest challenges.

“Some of my training translated, but only to a certain point,” he said. “I’ll tell you this — it was a lot fucking harder than I thought.”

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Justin Governale

Governale hitchhiked across El Salvador just to see if he could. Photo courtesy of Justin Governale/Instagram.

Food is always scarce for contestants. 

“One of the first things I realized in sniper school was that you’re not going to eat a lot,” Governale told Coffee or Die. “You can try to catch small animals to eat, but really you just learn to be tough.”

Governale said that toughness helped during the show, but it didn’t make the challenge any easier.

It’s the same toughness that pushed Governale through two tours in Iraq as a Marine scout sniper, where he was wounded in combat, and into professional fighting in mixed martial arts. 

His interest in MMA began in Iraq when Governale promised a friend, Marine Cpl. Sean Stokes, he would try Brazilian jiujitsu at Stokes’ gym once they were back in the United States.

Stokes was killed in action several weeks later.

Related: What It Means To Be a Marine Corps Scout Sniper, According to 5 Scout Snipers

Justin Governale

Governale is also a stand-up comic based out of San Antonio, Texas. Photo courtesy of Justin Governale/Instagram.

Governale kept his promise and was hooked after just one day at the gym. He spent the next 10 years training, eventually earning his black belt in BJJ. From there, Governale began competing in mixed martial arts and now has 16 professional bouts under his belt. 

But the professional brawler said it was his colorful personality that landed him the spot on Naked and Afraid

During the audition process, Governale asked if the show would add a couple inches to the blur over his groin. Evidently the ploy to stand out among other auditions worked. 

It’s no surprise Governale was able to make the show’s producers laugh. When he’s not preparing for a fight, Governale moonlights as a stand-up comic. Ever since dishing out kisses during a mortar attack, the former scout sniper has perfected the art of breaking tension through humor. 

Naked and Afraid is on Discovery, and episodes stream on Discovery+ after their air date.

The episode is this Sunday, Feb. 26, Governale told Coffee or Die. “Make sure you tell readers to check out my small blur,” he said.

Read Next: Chasing the Dragon: A Combat Veteran’s Search for Healing in Central America

Mac Caltrider
Mac Caltrider

Mac Caltrider is a senior staff writer for Coffee or Die Magazine. He served in the US Marine Corps and is a former police officer. Caltrider earned his bachelor’s degree in history and now reads anything he can get his hands on. He is also the creator of Pipes & Pages, a site intended to increase readership among enlisted troops. Caltrider spends most of his time reading, writing, and waging a one-man war against premature hair loss.

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