Flyweight Shana Dobson has a passion for teaching and working with kids, but with ‘Danger’ being her middle name (or well, nickname anyway), in the cage is where she wants to be.
Shana Dobson returns to the octagon this Saturday at UFC Glendale (UFC On FOX 29), making her sophomore appearance in the big show. She’ll be taking on Lauren Mueller, who won her way into the UFC as part of Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series. The fight represents a chance for Dobson to build off her debut win in the promotion, back at the Ultimate Fighter 26 Finale in December.
Dobson, a veteran of TUF 26, spoke to Cageside Press just after the chaos unleashed by Conor McGregor in Brooklyn last week. So we couldn’t help but ask for her take on the situation. Calling it crazy, Dobson said “I can see both sides of the story.” Putting herself in the shoes of the fighters on the bus, she suggested that “being on the bus, having absolutely nothing to do with it, you’re cutting weight, you’re trying to get focused, and you’ve got that crap going on — I can understand [being frustrated with] that.”
“That’s possibly Conor’s second biggest payday from a fight, second to the Mayweather fight. I’m sure they’re seeing dollar signs from that whole fiasco.” – Shana Dobson on McGregor vs. Khabib
Then on the other side of things, “that was pretty gangster, what he did. That was some G stuff right there. A lot of people think that these kind of feuds exist just in the UFC. And when it gets down to real life, real stuff, that’s just how it goes down.” The end result is that “personally, I’m excited to see Khabib and Conor fight, and that hasn’t even been put in the works yet,” she told us. “So that’s possibly Conor’s second biggest payday from a fight, second to the Mayweather fight. I’m sure they’re seeing dollar signs from that whole fiasco.”
She’s likely not wrong. Combat sports has always had a forgive and forget mentality. And Dobson, who looks to martial arts for its spiritual side, is willing to forgive a necessary evil or two. She’s not worried about the sport being tarnished from these sorts of antics. “Any professional sport, especially in this day and age,” she explained, “it goes beyond respecting the craft. There’s the excitement, there’s the drama to it, there’s the celebrity kind of aspect to it. That’s to be expected, that’s in any professional sport.”
Dobson suggested that as long as the athletes practicing martial arts retained their respect for the craft itself — not just in the physical sense but spiritual as well — it would be just fine. In the meantime, “in order to sell tickets, we’ve got to have that entertainment aspect. It’s inevitable. As grimy as it might seem, it’s something that has to be done.”
So what does the spiritual side of martial arts mean to her? “When I started practicing martial arts,” she told us, “it definitely engulfed me, and became a lifestyle.” That lifestyle included family, “the people that you train with.” Then there’s using your mind to push your body beyond its limits. “When I’m in the cage, and I’m fighting I feel like I’m dancing,” Dobson said. “I feel like I’m reacting — it’s instinctual, it’s a craft. It’s beyond just swinging punches and throwing kicks and this and that, it’s an art form.”
That art form, she pointed out, is all about the human body. “There’s no tool when it comes to mixed martial arts. There’s no bat, there’s no ball, it’s just you. You put all those hours of training into your body to be able to do these things.”
For Dobson, her training included a stint on The Ultimate Fighter, in season twenty-six, the show’s most recent. It’s the season that introduced the women’s 125lb class to fans. And like many other fighters on that particular season, Dobson spoke highly of the experience. “I loved it” she told Cageside Press. “Being locked away for six weeks and disconnected from the world sucks,” she admitted, “but I would never trade that experience for anything. While we were in the house we were like ‘I can’t wait to go home, I can’t wait to see my family’ but when we left, we were all hugging each other, I was like ‘Hey I miss you, remember this?'”
She misses the grocery fairy too. If you’re wondering what magical creature that might be, well, “we called it the grocery fairy because, we made a list, and whatever we wanted, like anything we wanted, it would show up that night or the next day. So we were spoiled.” Kudos to which ever UFC employee was constantly running to the grocery store, however.
And while the show didn’t go as hoped for Dobson, it still paved the way for the teacher/fighter to make it to the UFC. “When I got into the house, I never thought that I would be first match-up, I never had imagined that,” she recalled. “Then that whole grind kicked into me, I was like ‘screw it’ – I’m here, I have to, I don’t care if I’m matched up against the number one seed because we’re all supposed to be the number one seed, we’re all supposed to be the best.”
“I got in there and I tagged her and I hurt her,” she told us of her fight with Roxanne Modafferi on the show. “I’ve got to sharpen that, I’ve got to sharpen my ground work and sharpen my wrestling and my jits, which I’ve been doing, and which I’m going to continue to do. So when I’m matched up with high level experienced fighters like that, I’m ready to go anywhere, and they’re forced to stand with me. Which is not what they want to do.”
Since the show ended, Dobson has trained with Montana Stewart (now De La Rosa), and kept in touch with several of the girls in the house. “We’re a group of fighters, there’s already tensions running high, so I’m glad we came together the way we did,” she said of the experience.
“I’m not a brawler, I’m a technical striker with knockout power. I’ve evolved in every aspect of my game, and I can switch it up.”
Ultimately, at the TUF 26 finale, she was able to pick up her first win, a TKO of Ariel Beck. “That was like exhaling for me,” she said of her official UFC debut. “When I lost on the show to Roxanne, I knew that when the show aired, and I had to see it over and over again, and hear about it over and over again, it was like experiencing the loss all over again.”
The need to prove herself kept her going. “The fight [against Roxxy] didn’t go as long as I wanted, it obviously didn’t go the way I wanted, and I wanted to show why I deserved a spot on the show, why I deserved a spot on the UFC roster in the flyweight division. Going in there and getting that finish at the finale was like ‘Okay, this is what I wanted to show people.'”
The plan now is to “keep evolving, to keep growing, keep getting better, and maturing as a fighter. Maturing in every aspect of my game.” She’ll get her next chance this weekend, against Lauren Mueller (4-0). While there isn’t a lot of tape on ‘Princess Tiger’ out there, Shana Dobson told us that “I saw her fight on the contender series, she mixed it up pretty well. She pressures, she came forward pretty well.”
‘Danger’ is focused more on what she’s going to do, however. “I’m just going to be me, and just do what I do,” she said. “I’m not a brawler, I’m a technical striker with knockout power. I’ve evolved in every aspect of my game, and I can switch it up. I can switch up the speed, I can switch up the pace, I can switch up my stance, I can switch up anything that I need at any point in the fight. I just want to keep showing everybody that until I get to the belt.”
She also doesn’t see this being Mueller’s UFC debut as an advantage, necessarily. She’ll have nerves as well, “but as a fighter, you use them.” Or, as she put it later, “you just got into autopilot, you become an android, and just move.”
As far as a prediction, Dobson said that “if it goes all three rounds, I think I’m going to get a unanimous decision.” However, she’s planning to “get it done, so I can go and eat some greasy food.”
‘Danger’ doubles as a teacher, a profession she loves. Fighting, however, is her true calling. Fighting full time is “my goal ultimately — fighting is my career, it’s my life, it’s my dream. I would love to be able to fight full time.” If she does retire from teaching, however, Dobson would want to stay involved with kids, perhaps as a coach or youth advocate. “Something involving kids. I love working with kids.”
When it comes to her own development, meanwhile, “I just want to keep evolving, keep training, keep growing, my ground, my standup, my wrestling, making everything come together. I just want to keep fighting, and fight my way up to that strap.”
Shana Dobson takes on Lauren Mueller at UFC on FOX 29 this Saturday, April 14 at the Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona. The fight airs as part of the UFC Glendale Fight Pass prelims, airing exclusively on UFC Fight Pass starting at 3:30 PM ET.