It didn’t take long for Shana Dobson to go from the amateur ranks to fighting at the biggest level. Then, after just over a year at the professional level, she found herself across the cage from someone who had been at it for nearly a decade and a half. Her bout with Roxanne Modafferi was technically an exhibition, as it was on the Ultimate Fighter, but she would make her UFC debut shortly thereafter, beating Ariel Beck by TKO less than 20 months after her pro debut.
While everything moved quickly for Dobson once she turned pro, it took her a lot longer to find the sport. She was well into her 20’s when she dove into the cage, but much like her pro career, it didn’t take long for her to realize it was a fit.
“I had played soccer all through my life and I was kind of just looking for a different sport. I feel like me and MMA were soul mates. We were just going about life and then we were meant to meet,” Dobson said. “And I guess we were meant to meet when I was 27 years old because I was looking for a sport to participate in kind of casually.”
The instantaneous love for the sport stemmed from the differences it had with soccer. She had grown used to the demands of her first sport, but the new one tested much more than her physical attributes — it tested every part of her being.
“I started off with a small gym in Texas and then from there I saw it as a challenge, and I love a challenge in any way shape or form,” she said. “When I saw that it was something I had to grow with and that challenged me physically and mentally, and it utilizes every part of your body and every part of your mind and your spirit and your soul — that just made me fall in love with it.”
Even though she fell quickly and hard for MMA, Dobson didn’t immediately have plans to fight on even an amateur level. Instead it was her first coach who encouraged and pushed her to. When he did, it helped her realize even more that this was the right change for her in every facet.
“I think I had been training for six months. My coach at the time was like ‘I signed you up for a fight out in Oklahoma,’” Dobson recalled. “I didn’t go out and seek it myself. It was kind of like ‘I’m going to push you because I’m not sure if you’ll go out there and do it yourself’. So I took that fight and as soon as I stepped in the cage and that switch turned on, I felt like that was where I should have been my whole life.”
Despite the ups and downs, that feeling hasn’t gone away. Her career in MMA, which has seen her fight for the UFC 4 times (5 times if you count The Ultimate Fighter), is exactly where she was meant to be.
“I’m all about energy. I feel like I follow the positive energy and I follow my instincts. I think my instincts and the way I move, it’s gotten me where I’ve gone and I’m excited to see where it takes me,” she said. “Every time I’ve stepped in there, I feel so at home.”
You can see Dobson head back to her home this weekend as part of the UFC Fight Night: Munhoz vs Edgar main card on ESPN+. Dobson faces Kazakhstan’s Mariya Agapova.