During last night’s episode of “The Ultimate Fighter 7,” Brandon Sene became the latest fighter to be eliminated from the middleweight tournament after losing a very close three round decision to Dante Rivera.
Courtesy of Spike TV, FiveOuncesOfPain.com was able to speak with Sene a day after the loss was shown on television. We not only were able to get Brandon’s thoughts on the fight, but we were able to discuss in great detail his background as a sniper in the Marines.
Sene’s military background made for a very unique interview, which you can view in its entirety below.
Sam Caplan: Your fight vs. Dante Rivera that was shown last night looked very close. Do you agree with the decision?
Brandon Sene: No (laughs). No I didn’t.
Sam Caplan: First, there was a decision announced to indicate that a third round of sudden victory would be needed. Were you surprised at that point?
Brandon Sene: A little bit, yes. Yes I was. I had a hunch that that might happen but I was surprised also. I was being told that I had won the fight.
Sam Caplan: What was everyone’s reaction towards you immediately after?
Brandon Sene: It was well-shown on the show, but everybody was pretty much like, “Dude, you won that fight. You were so much more active. You were fighting with elbows and knees… you were fighting as much as you could for being tied up.” Everybody was saying I had won the fight.
Sam Caplan: Switching gears here, I wanted to get into your background as a retired Marine. Right before we started this interview I was notified that you hold the record for the longest kill during the current conflict in Iraq. Can you talk a little bit more about that?
Brandon Sene: Honestly, I’ve been getting asked that question a few times today, and I’m not sure where the rumor came from that I hold the record or held the record. I don’t really know if there was ever a record or anything like that. I had some long shots over there and to tell you honestly in regard to the whole situation, I have no problem talking about my experience but I don’t want to exploit me shooting people in Iraq. Know what I’m saying?
Sam Caplan: Understood. Can you talk a little bit people about the process in becoming a sniper? Is that a role you apply for once in the Marines, or is it something you get recruited to do?
Brandon Sene: Basically, once you’re in, I was in infantry, and once you’ve been in for awhile they’ll come around and they’ll kind of go, “Look, we’re looking for some guys to be snipers. These are the prerequisites to apply if you’re interested in doing it.” So as long as you meet all of that criteria, which generally speaking is that you have to have certain ASVAB scores; you have to have certain scores on your physical fitness levels; and a background investigation — you have to be able to get a security clearance — all of this stuff.
And as long as you meet all of the criteria on paper, you can then go ahead and take what is called an “indoctrination,” and the indoctrination usually is about a week and what is, they just take you and they just pretty much thrash you; pretty much just put you through hell for a week with very little food, very little sleep; constant movement, constant operations. Just physically very demanding; moving upwards of 20 miles on some days with especially heavy roughs.
They start out with 50 candidates, generally speaking and by the time the indoctrination is over, just due to the physical portion they’re usually down to about 10 or 11. It’s a very high attrition rate. And then from there, if they only need 5 or 6 guys for the platoon, what they will do are some interviews in front of an oral board. From there, they just make the selections from who they want.
Once you’re in the platoon then you go through a very long process of basically being on probation, where they kind of evaluate you and your performance (and) how well you’re learning. Then you stay in the platoon and then eventually you get a chance to go to the school and pick up the MOS. And once you have the MOS, then you’re officially a sniper in the platoon.
So it’s a long, drawn out process and it actually takes a lot to become a Marine sniper. There’s very few of them in the Marine Corps. at any given time.
Sam Caplan: What’s the longest you had to stay awake for?
Brandon Sene: Literally, we have a Hell Week. And literally for a week, man, I mean, we got brief periods of rest for maybe 30 minutes would be the most. It would just be like a little cat nap and that would happen once or twice a day. That week is unbelievable. It starts at midnight on Sunday and it ends midnight the next Saturday. It’s crazy; it’s unbelievable. It’s during sniper school, when you go to the actual school. It’s very similar to the indoctrination but they just push you. You’re patrolling for unbelievable amounts of miles with very heavy roughs and you’re completely self-sustaining. You have to meet certain points, like you’ll have to get to this checkpoint by a certain time, so you’ll have to do land nav(igation) and patrol to the checkpoint and if you don’t get there in time then you can get dropped. So it’s just a huge mental and physical and stress test that ends up being about a week continuous operations without sleep and also food. It’s very hard.
Sam Caplan: I know you can’t talk about specific missions from when you were in Iraq, but can you talk in general terms about what your duties were?
Brandon Sene: Basically, you do a ton of force protection, which is when our guys are out patrolling when they’re going through dangerous areas. You do over-watch for them so I’d go set up on a roof and watch their movement through a certain area and watch for any threats that might try and engage them. I do a lot of surveillance and recognises of areas. We’ll go out into town away from our base and set up urban hides around town and we’ll observer target areas and we’ll make target folders on certain individuals by means of just doing recon and surveillance on individuals that might be prime targets. We do IED prevention, so we’ll watch roadways where IEDs are real prominent; we’ll set up hides in the area and wait for individuals to come out there and start setting up IEDs and try to eliminate those threats. This is all stuff that I did when I was over there.
And then more recently after I got finished with the Marines, I started contracting for a company called Triple Canopy and I was a sniper for them as well. And basically our (job) over there was to protect high-ranking officials in country so we’d take these guys out of town to do meetings with ambassadors and chiefs of police and things like that. So when we’d get out there I would set up on rooftops or wherever around the venue that we were going to and just provide surveillance and precision fire for any threats to our principal.
Sam Caplan: I’ve talked to a few retired Marines and they’ve said “Jarhead” is the best war movie ever made. Have you’ve seen the film, and if so, what was your impression of it?
Brandon Sene: Yeah, “Jarhead” was definitely an accurate portrayal of modern day Marine Corps. It was really good. It was the truth; it wasn’t so much the B.S. glim and glamour of just completely unrealistic scenes and scenarios of combat. A lot of times that’s how combat goes: it’s just this big… like, nobody knows what’s going on and it’s just this big cluster and it’s over. There aren’t all of these defining moments of running through a hill of gunfire and stuff — that’s not to say that doesn’t happen or hasn’t happened at all — but it was just a good depiction… if you’re in, I guess you have a great appreciation for the movie and for what it showed. I thought it was pretty good, definitely.
Sam Caplan: Brian Stann, the WEC light heavyweight champion, takes a lot of heat because Zuffa plays about his background as a Marine. Do you feel that the criticism towards him is warranted?
Brandon Sene: The criticism of Brian Stann? Honestly, I haven’t heard too much negative criticism of him. I don’t know. I guess I can’t answer that because I haven’t heard a whole bunch of harping on Brian Stann, really. But for any that is going his way, I don’t think (it’s warranted). I think Brian is a pretty model guy. I’ve been in the Marines and I know he’s been awarded either a bronze or silver star in combat and that’s a very impressive award to get. I have a good friend that is up at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina and he basically trains with Brian Stann in MMA and he says he’s a real good, standup guy. And this guy is someone I’ve worked with several times while I was in the Marine Corps. and I’m pretty confident in his decision making as an individual. So just seeing and hearing that and seeing him fight and knowing some of the awards he has, I have great respect for the guy, actually.
Sam Caplan: You train out of Rob Kahn’s Gracie Tampa affiliate, which has placed fighters on the past three seasons of TUF. Could we see a fourth for TUF 8?
Brandon Sene: Yeah, you know, that’s a strong possibility. We’ll see but that’s definitely a possibility. We’ll leave it at that (laughs).
Sam Caplan: I recently interviewed one of your training partners at Gracie Tampa, Marcus Jones. I keep hearing a lot of great things about him. Do you think he’s UFC material?
Brandon Sene: Yeah, absolutely, man. Marcus Jones is a great guy. Very talented athlete. That being said, him being such a talented athlete, having been a former NFL player for the Bucs here, he was a professional athlete. He knows how to train at that level. He’s used to competition. So Marcus stepping into this arena is a tailor fit. It’s just really a transition to fighting.
And Marcus is a real humble guy (and) he has no ego, so he learns things very quickly. He picks things up and asks questions and yeah man, I think Marcus, with the correct time and training could pretty much be a threat in any organization. But like I said, that’s going to come with time and training as well. I think that a lot of people put Marcus on a very fast track and so hopefully he’ll be able to slow that down a little bit and get the experience and the training he needs in order to do really well. But I have no doubt that he’ll do great things.
Sam Caplan: What’s next for Brandon Sene?
Brandon Sene: Next for me is to press on. Take my fights and just train my ass off; do everything I can to grow as a fighter. Honestly, at this point my future is in the hands of matchmakers in the UFC.