It’s not hard to imagine that his experiences back on the police force might have helped gird Shaun Asher for the adrenalized violence of cage fighting.
“Right before I graduated from the academy, we did a ride-around,” Asher recalled. “I saw this car we’d pulled over before. The driver started running red lights, but we caught up with them. They stopped and this guy got out and ran into the woods. He was fast, but I caught up with him, and we were scuffling around in the woods. He pulled a pin gun. That fires a .22 shell. A lot of people don’t know a .22 bullet can go through your vest. I always say he gave me the best fight I’ve ever had.”
Though it’s not hard to imagine, it’s still wrong.
“I think I keep those things separate," Asher told Bleacher Report in a recent interview. "I lost both of my grandparents when I was younger. That prepared me more than anything else for being in the cage. I was at my grandfather’s bed when he died. I watched him die. Nothing can hurt me like that hurt me.”
Asher (5-0-1), 33, a middleweight who makes his Bellator debut Friday at Bellator 78, has bounced around a little bit. He has worked as a police officer in two towns and in various blue-collar capacities. In fact, this is not even Asher's first foray into professional athletics.
For the time being, though, Asher does most of his work underground. And that’s the literal truth; to pay the bills, he currently lays utility pipe. But if his other job keeps going the way it's going, it may not be that way for long.
“When I got the phone call [from Bellator], I was at work,” Asher said. “I had never been so excited in my life. I looked over at my boss and told him I quit. I started crying, I was so excited.”
That joke might get serious if he wins Friday night. His opponent for that fight, Jason Butcher, is a jiu-jitsu player. Asher dabbles in less-subtle arts.
“I’m definitely a ground-and-pound guy,” he said. “I like to go get a takedown and take it from there.”
On YouTube, Asher’s takedowns and slams seem hard to resist. Interesting, then, that he cut his teeth not on a wrestling mat but a basketball court. Asher hooped for Indiana Tech and the University of Cincinnati Clermont, then spent two seasons playing professionally in Germany.
“Everybody thinks I wrestled in high school and college,” he said. “I’d go into the wrestling room and mess around with those guys, but I never wrestled a day in my life. Basketball was my first love.”
Thanks to an uncle, however, Asher was exposed to boxing from a young age. In 2009, he began training in MMA. At the same time, he pursued a career in law enforcement, serving as a police officer in Winchester and West Union, Ohio.
But then MMA took off. Not enough to entirely jettison a full-time job just yet, though. Taken together, the two vocations don't leave much time for anything else. So for now, Asher abides by the one-word worldview tattooed on his chest: sacrifice.
“People don’t always realize training is a full-time job,” Asher said. “You might be a natural as a wrestler. But you’ve got to train in everything else. And then you’ve got obligations like marketing yourself.
“I’ve probably seen my son like an hour here and an hour there in the last five weeks. But he’s six now, so he understands.”
As for the culminating point coming Friday night, Asher said he had not spent a great deal of time studying his opponent.
“I’ve seen him fight before, but I don’t watch a lot of tape," he said. "I’m going to do what I want to do. I want to fight my fight. From day one, that’s the only way I’ve ever known how to do it.”
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