As mixed martial arts continues to grow, the number of top-level fighters holding full-time jobs while competing shrinks.
One fighter, however, who is bucking the trend and continues to hold on to his employment away from the cage is Paulo Thiago, and his job is a doozy.
The 29-year-old Thiago, who faces Mike Swick in one of the featured bouts of Saturday's UFC 109, is a member of BOPE, an elite special forces unit based in his hometown of Brasilia, Brazil. In his role, Thiago takes part in hostage rescues, bomb diffusions, gun seizures and drug busts, among other dangerous tasks.
It's no stretch to say that given his unique combination of martial arts skill and weapons training, he might just be one of the most dangerous, combat-ready men walking the earth.
Of course, for fun, he fights in a cage, and sports a lofty 12-1 record, holding UFC victories over Josh Koscheck and Jacob Volkmann. His bout against Swick will be his fourth in a 12-month span. (He also got his lone loss, a decision to Jon Fitch, during that stretch.)
Not surprisingly, Thiago says his training helps him in his fighting career, as it allows him to retain poise in adverse situations.
"To experience situations of great danger, I think this hardens a man's spirit," he says during "Countdown to UFC 109," a segment of which is below. "He gains more tranquility in situations that normally a person would lose control."
Thiago isn't the first major MMA fighter to hold such a position. UFC heavyweight Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic once worked for Croatia's elite anti-terrorism unit, earning him his nickname.