A lifetime of competing has aligned Marina Shafir with exceptional training opportunities, and has readied her for a career in shutting down the naysayers.
Born in the small eastern European country Moldova, Shafir (Twitter: @MarinaShafir) moved with her family to Latham, N.Y., when she was 5 years old. Her father, a professional power lifter and Army Special Forces member at the time, let Shafir have her first experience in judo at the age of 6, which set her off on a successful quest in the discipline.
Shafir was competing in judo at 13 years old. After conquering the junior circuit by age 17, she started showcasing her skills on an international stage. As Shafir advanced in judo, her seamstress mother and mechanic father watched as travel expenses mounted. Along with an itinerary that included travel throughout the U.S. twice a month and outside the country about four times a year, Shafir was dealing with rehabbing a lower-back injury.
The odds stacked against her, Shafir made a decision that seems unthinkable in retrospect when considering where she is today.
“On top of me being almost crippled and my family struggling to keep my dream alive, I just quit,” Shafir told Jason Kelly and Joe Rizzo on MMA DieHards Radio on the MMA DieHards Radio Network. “I bartended for about three-and-half years, and I worked at Starbucks and I taught the little kids at the local jiu-jitsu club I started going to just to stay active.
“I did all these boot camps. I went to the gym, I did five (kilometer runs), but it just got so boring for me. I just wasn’t one of those gym rats. I tried to be, but I wasn’t. I started rolling more, and one thing led to another, then I got my first amateur fight and I realized I belong in that cage.
“Now we’re here.”
Where “we” are is close to Shafir making the switch from amateur mixed martial artist to professional.
Shafir’s amateur MMA record stands at 3-0, with all victories coming via armbar submissions. She views the transfer from amateur to pro as an elevation in professionalism – fighting as well as entertainment.
Her close association with UFC women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey gives onlookers the inclination that Shafir is ready to graduate to the next phase of MMA competition, but she has a different agenda.
“I think everyone that I train with is really shocked I’m still an amateur fighter,” Shafir said. “I understand why. I mean, after all, my best friend is a world champ. They’re like, ‘Why don’t you just go pro?’ I could if I wanted to, but I want to go through the ropes, and when I feel like I’ve gone through the ropes of the amateur circuit, then let’s sway into professional. It really boils down to me to make that call.”
Being chums with Rousey is beneficial in and out of the cage. A golden nugget of advice Shafir said Rousey provided her with is to always remain true to who she is. And as far as training perks, Shafir has had the privilege of working with some of the sport’s best athletes, and even got to experience “The Ultimate Fighter 18” alongside Rousey.
While Shafir looks up to Rousey more than anyone in MMA, there is one former UFC champion that she places second to none inside the cage. If things go as planned, Shafir may be training with this combatant soon and need a roll of toilet paper.
“I going to be training at Anderson Silva’s Muay Thai College,” Shafir said. “I think I might (expletive) my pants. I might do, like, a shart, like a (expletive)-fart.
“Anderson Silva is my absolute favorite fighter, I don’t care what anybody says about him, I don’t care what anybody thinks about his style, because he is the (expletive) man. All you mother(expletive) are drinking ‘Haterade,’ and wait until the rematch (against UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman at UFC 168). You see who your true fans are when you lose, and I’m a true (expletive) fan. He could lose five times in a row and I’d still be there and he’d still be the best fighter in the world.”
Silva’s school would prove essential if Shafir was to meet the fighter many MMA analysts have concluded would be her best friend Rousey’s toughest test.
Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos, The Invicta and former Strikeforce female featherweight champion, is considered to have the striking ability to stifle Rousey’s outstanding grappling talents. Due to each combatant competing in different weight classes, the bout has a small chance of ever materializing.
Shafir, however, intends on having a career in the 145-pound division, and says she is ready to face “Cyborg” now, despite the difference in experience. Whether she could or couldn’t defeat “Cyborg” is debatable, but her eagerness to succeed in MMA cannot be denied.
“I’m very excited for the future of my career, and I’m just really excited to get into it,” Shafir said. “I’m going to be proving a lot of people wrong.”