From an early age, Carlos Fodor knew he wanted to be a soldier.
“I grew up watching a lot of movies like Missing in Action and Rambo,” Caros remembers with a smile.
“When I was 12, I decided that I would go into the Marines. Once I hit high school, I recruited like five friends to enlist with me. I got my mom to sign the waiver to let me join when I was 17 and right after graduation, I enlisted.”
Fodor imagined a long and productive career for himself that would, one day, doubtlessly include combat. He didn’t expect for war to come so soon, however.
Fodor was still 17 and in boot camp on September 11, 2001, but there would be no slow track.
He was soon activated and deployed to the Middle East.
“I wanted to go to the military and get the whole experience,” he remembers.
“Eventually at some point in my career I imagined I’d see combat but I definitely didn’t expect it that soon. No one did. My mom signed the waiver on the agreement with me that I’d become a reservist first, get my college degree and then go active duty and start my career.”
Fodor soon found himself in Kuwait and, by the time the United States was set to invade Iraq in 2003, he joined many other young men and women on the frontlines there.
“They moved us up to the border [of Iraq] on March 17 and we were invading on March 19,” he details.
Over the course of what would be six years in the Marines, Caros realized that war was a lot different than what he’d been led to believe by the movies he watched growing up. Fodor wanted to be a good guy, a hero who fought for what is right.
War, he learned, complicates matters.
“Movies are a lot different than reality,” he says.
“For one, there’s a lot of action in the movies with everybody doing something all the time. In reality, there’s a lot of down time. More than that, though, you see that other things are different, you start to think. Bombings are not as accurate as you think they will be. You don’t realize that there are a lot of civilian casualties. You see the effect you have on a country and the trash you leave behind. You see how people are treated.
“I didn’t even know why we were in Iraq. I didn’t follow the news leading up to the invasion so I didn’t know why we were there. I knew it had nothing to do with 9/11, but when they said we were going over there we went along with it. When you’re in it, you see the impact of war on people. You see a country destroyed and ripped apart. Civilian casualties opened my eyes to the reality.
“You also realize that there are a lot of games played. A lot of people who were more stupid than you are in charge of your life and decide where you go and what you do. They have control over you and have you going into [expletive] situations. Of course, some people are great and I still love them. The actual experience just opened my eyes a lot more to it."
Fodor realized that he could not make a career out of military service. The realization that his life-long dream was dead was a tough one for the young man to come to terms with.
“A career in the military is for some people and the military is a great thing. I was a punk when I went in and it really changed me,” Fodor says.
“But the people you sometimes have to listen to while in it and the realization that we are not always getting the bad guys changed things for me.”
The transition back to civilian life after all he had seen and done was not an easy one for Fodor, either. Once back home, a bitter and confused Fodor dove into alcohol, became violent and suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms.
“I was drinking a lot, I started to get into a lot of fist fights,” he says of his early days back stateside.
“I think it was a combination of where I was at in my life coming straight back from there. I had mixed feelings. I was really upset at things over there, the things I saw. Then I would see other people living their normal lives. You get angry that you had to go through that.
“I did have nightmares, like a lot of military vets. You start drinking to help yourself sleep and then I started drinking way too much. When you’re drunk you tend to be violent. My friends and me would go out and fight almost every weekend. I shouldn’t be here now. It only lasted a couple years but the things I did, I shouldn’t be here. I’m glad I made it through.”
Finding and training in MMA helped Caros make it through that dark time.
Caros says that he and his friends first walked into a fight gym for all the wrong reasons. They thought they could make the street fights they were instigating go much more smoothly if they learned how to actually fight.
After actually experiencing what MMA had to offer, the training became something much different for Fodor. Ultimately, it would replace the dream career that he had lost in the military.
“We were having these knock-down, drag-out, long street brawls and so we thought that if we learned to fight we could just knock these guys out and walk away,” Fodor laughs.
Fodor and his friends took their bad intentions and happened to wander into one of the world’s elite fight gyms, AMC Pankration, in the Seattle area.
“I thought I was the [expletive] when I walked in there,” Fodor chuckles.
“Then you go in there you get humbled. I got my ass kicked but also found that all these guys, these pros like Ivan Salaverry and Josh Barnett who could easily destroy me, were so nice. They are just great leaders and great examples of people to emulate. Being around them for a while changed me. I had one street fight within six months of starting at AMC and since then I haven’t had another one.”
Fodor had many more fights since then, of course. They just came in rings and cages as a part of sanctioned sport competition. Fodor took the brotherhood, discipline and skills offered at AMC Pankration and ran with it - to the tune of an impressive 8-3 professional record and appearances in the world’s top fight organizations like Strikeforce and the UFC.
The lightweight is once again taking his warrior spirit abroad, fighting for top Asian MMA promotion OneFC. Fodor won his OneFC debut in September.
The fighter gives the new promotion high marks so far. “They really take care of their fighters,” he says.
“They are so nice, organized, respectful. My coach Matt Hume runs a lot of it as well so that helps because he was a fighter and he knows how to treat fighters.”
At just 29 years old, Fodor has fought more than his more than his share of battles. He’s never had a problem jumping into a fight, but now he appears on his way to winning the war within as he fights only the fights he deems worthy and tries to live a healthy life.
In addition to Rambo films, Fodor says he grew up watching Rocky flicks.
Pro fighting isn’t exactly like what it appears to be in the movies, either, but so far it’s doing the trick for Caros.
“I loved Rocky,” he says.
“Watching those movies as a kid, I always knew that fighting is something I’d do at least once. I’m so glad to be able to make a career out of it now.”
Caros lost a decision Friday to Vuyisile Colossa on the "OneFC: Moment of Truth" card in the Philippines.