Michael Governale

Profile Updated: June 3, 2015
Residing In: San Antonio, TX USA
Spouse/Partner: Mrs. G
Occupation: Transportation Brokerage

May 29, 2015

Amy Kaplan

EXCLUSIVE: Former Marine makes good on war time promise

Looking at Justin Governale you’d probably think he was just like any other Mixed Martial Artist – tough, motivated and maybe a little bit wild. But it’s what you can’t tell just by looking at him that really defines who he is.

I spotted Governale at Bellator 136, when he defeated Jay Bogan via a Rear-Naked Choke in round two. I first took notice of his explosive fighting style, he wasn’t holding back. I sensed no hesitation on his part. I could tell he knew what he was in there to do, and he did it. It wasn’t until after the bout when doing some post-fight research that I stumbled upon his story and I realized just how much fighting means to him.

Governale, a former sniper for the United States Marines, had a unique journey into the cage and it started overseas. He was on his second deployment to Iraq when he met Cpl Sean Stokes, a higher ranked marine that Governale often chatted with. It was during one of these conversations on a ship that was heading for war that Stokes suggested getting into MMA when he got back to the states.

“I was really wild, I was crazy. I would get into fights on the weekends. He asked if I had even gotten into MMA because he thought I was a little wild and it might tone me down," he said.

Governale gave Stokes his word and shook his hand on a promiste that he would check it out when he got back. Unfortunately Stokes would never see this come to fruition because he was killed on that very same tour.

“He was a senior marine to me, everybody in the battalion knew who he was. He was a badass straight up, and when he got killed there was a piece of me that thought ‘I told this guy I would do it’ I promised him,” he said.

When Governale was making his way back home, on the very same ship that he last spoke to Stokes, he saw some Marines sparring and he asked to join in, that would be his very first taste of MMA.

“I saw some marines beating each other up, they looked like they didn’t have a clue what they were doing, bare knuckles. So I asked if I could join in,” Governale said.

When he got back to the states he entered a jiu jitsu tournament, mostly to check it out and see what he could do. He lost two in a row, but caught the eye of a coach at Subfighter MMA in Southern California and began training in the sport.

He had left the military and was soon broke. He barely had the money to put gas in his car, but he kept on training.

Shortly after leaving the Marines Governale was offered a job he couldn’t refuse. He was hired has a Designated Defensive Marksman for the US Embassy in Kabul. He was bringing home a 6-figure income, which would be paradise for any other single 20-something. This job provided him with an experience of a lifetime and a pay check most his age only dream of, but he wasn’t happy.

He had tried to keep up the training while in Afghanistan, but it wasn’t the same. In the back of his head he kept thinking about Stokes, the talk they’d had and what he knew was going to finally make him happy. He knew he still had a promise to keep.

“As Marines we hold that promise really tight. Our words mean something,” he said.

After speaking to his mom, and having a rough day at work he decided to quit on the spot. He flew home for a week to figure out what he was doing next and then flew straight to Thailand to begin training.

"I knew life would get in the way, so I wanted to be out of the country to focus on training 100 percent," he said.

Governale joined a gym called Tiger Muay Thai and trained for six months under Ray Elbe and Andrew Gardineer.

"Ray pushed me to do my first fight, and I did a smoker out there as well," Governale said.

He picked up a fight for Master Toddy's promotion against an opponent with over 160 professional Muay Thai bouts. Governale got the submission in the first round.

"I feel like the universe just brought me this way," he said. "I was living in a non-stressful environment for the first time in six years. After about three months of not seeing a firearm I realized a lot," he continued. "I needed some family time."

He decided to return to the states, and his homestate of Texas.

For the next six months Governale trained at Presa BJJ in Laredo, TX under coach Fred Reyes. He stayed there until recieving a call from the gym he had tried out in Orange County. They had a fight for him; he moved the very next day.

He rejoined his former teammates at Subfighter MMA and has been training there ever since. Surrounded and supported by his coaches Adam Lynn and Russ Miura he has continued to grow in the sport.

Things still aren’t easy for Governale. A fighter’s life is hard and he’s often been homeless or slept on friend’s couch to get by. His money dried up a long time ago but he wouldn’t trade the life he has now to go back to his old. He was determined to become a professional fighter.

He says that being a Marine has helped prepare him for MMA, he says that he knows in MMA he won’t die.

“You’re still a warrior. Everybody you fight is a warrior,” he said. “In the Marines, you can die, in MMA the worse that could happen is you get knocked out. That’s why I just go for it.”

Governale sure has gone for it, earning a brown belt in BJJ, was a former Tuff-N-Uff Lightweight Amateur Champion and currently holds a 4-2 pro record according to Sherdog.

His first pro bout was Oct. 2013 and he’s fought another five times since his debut. Most recently he fought for one of the largest MMA promotions in the country, Bellator. He was given only an 11 percent chance of winning. Governale won in the second round by submission.

“I just want to grind. In order to get noticed I have to keep going, I need to fight anybody,” he said.

Governale’s next fight will be June 16 at Soboba Casino in San Jacinto, CA for King Of the Cage. He will be dropping down from his normal weight class of 145 to 135. This will be is 135 debut.

You can follow Justin on Instagram
Justin Governale
King of the cage

I have been blessed with two of the best kids to raise one could ever hope for. My son's story above....

He turned pro in November 2013.

One daughter, all ribbons and curls. Awesome kid. Into singing and dancing. She was selected for hostess at the new elementary school's Innauguration; selected from all district students to represent the student body at the annual Local Business Partnership-Recognition. For the past three years, she has been selected to perform singing solos at every music event her school(s) have held. (she has attended several schools due to closures and re-destricting). She also places 1st, 2nd, or 3rd in every talent show or singing contest she enters

I am obviously very proud of both of them.
States which you have lived in:

Arizona, Texas, Illinois,


No near-future plans on that.

School Story:

No HS story, I didn't think about high school until one day i decided to go to college afterall: U of AZ, Tucson.

I remember a lady told me from Admin I was inadmissable because "We have our admission standards, and, quite frankly young man, you don't meet them". I had graduated toward the bottom of our class, so had to go continuing ed my first year.

When I signed up for English and Math class, I remember the guy laughed and said your class is over there with the jocks in remedial. For Math they gave me a book, self study.

That's what I got out or high school.

After my first year, I went back to Root and appologized to every teacher I could find.

However, college for me was everything high school was not. I fell in love with learning and had more fun than I ever dreamed possible. Truth be told, I was late growing up.

Funny thing, I ran into that same Admin lady on my way out of the Admin building several years later with my transcripts in hand. I was on my way to finish my college in Spain.

I showed her my Dean's list and Dean's list of honorable mention transcripts and told her their admission standards must have been wrong. Other than working full time and studying hard my passion had become Spanish, and somehow I had managed to become almost completely bilingual. All I needed was 6 months in Spain to perfect it.

Looking back on it she probably did me a favor, basically telling me I wasn't good enough.

Ok, so it may not have been high school, but it's a story.

I want to go "Green". Communicate with me via electronic methods only. If you indicate Yes, please make sure you have a valid email address.


States you have visited:


Countries you have visited:

During college I $aved all year and took off most summers to travel.

Spent two and a half months backpacking Europe: England, Holland, France, Denmark, Norway, Switzerland, Italy, and Belgium. (Countries i at least spent a little time in as opposed to traveling through).

Another summer resulted in 6 weeks in Mexico, made it as far as Oaxaca and had to start back.

My last semester I studied in Segovia, Spain and spent an additional 3 months touring Spain only, with the exception of 1 month in Switzerland to visit a friend.

After college worked on the Mexican side of the border for several years, saw much of the country on trips to Mexican GM facilities when i was responsible for Mexican transportation and logistics (contract employment).

What are your plans for retirement? What is on your "Bucket List?

Think we'll ever get there? Government keeps upping the age....

What was your first job? What jobs have you held?

Stupid, but bus boy at IHOP they day i turned 16. The restaurant business got me thru college. Sometimes it seems i was better off back then.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time/hobbies?

I tremendously enjoy watching my children acheive their dreams and assisting them any way i can.

My son's goal is to be a professional UFC fighter, currently working his way thru the amatuer circuit. Currently, he has just 4 fights under his belt, 3 wins, all in the first round, and one draw.

Additionally he competes in Jujitsu tournaments and has never placed less than third.

This year he is set to pro and begin the long process of working thru fights to establish a record that will lead to bigger draws.

My daughter wants to become a professional singer. She can bring down the house at most any karaoke place at just 10 yrs old (with no formal training).

It may sound boring, but i would rather watch them develope and provide them advice and support than most any other activity i can imagine.


If anyone runs into Mr. Terosi, please give him my regards and tell him the following for me:

Muy Estimado Senor Terosi:

Hubiera querido haber vuelto a NRHS para personalmente disculparme por el tipo de estudiante que era en aquel entonces.

Ud. me expulso de su clase y resulta que mi ultimo semestre del colegio fue en Segovia, Espana, por La Universidad del Colegio Domingo de Soto.

Como se cambian las cosas.... tal vez, soy el unico quien haya aprendido algo despues de todo.

Saludos y gracias por tratar.

Michael's Latest Interactions

Michael Governale has left an In Memory comment for Profile.
Dec 29, 2018 at 4:33 PM

RIP John, you were always so funny, and your antics made the whole school laugh. 

I will always remember Principle Gibson chasing you down the hall as you were running for the door with a dime bag in your hand............

Sad to see you go so soon. My prayers for your family



Jun 03, 2015 at 12:26 AM
Posted: Dec 17, 2013 at 12:05 AM
Justin, showing his title medal, for Thailand's first-ever 155 lb MMA champion.

MMA is relatively new to Thailand- a Muay Thai country for centuries- and promoters are trying to establish the sport.

His professional opponent has been fighting Muay Thai since childhood and is a current, top-ten ranked Muay Thai fighter.

However this was an amateur MMA bout. The veteran could have captured an easy MMA title, and probably figured on doing so.

But as Justin told me before the fight, "he doesn't have my heart, so I think I'm good".

Never underestimate a marine.