Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Thursday, March 31, 2011 | 2:05 a.m.
Fighting was a foreign concept to “The Ultimate Fighter” season 13 competitor Shamar Bailey six years ago.
Unlike many college wrestlers, Bailey never considered a career in mixed martial arts an option while becoming a standout wrestler at Division III Maranatha Baptist Bible College in Watertown, Wis.
“I was never really a big fan of the sport to be honest with you,” Bailey said earlier this year on the "TUF" set.
“During wrestling, I was more of a purist.”
Bailey’s debut on this season of "TUF," which features 14 welterweights, was a throwback to those days. In the first fight of the year on the show, the Indianapolis native turned a bout against German Nordin Asrih into a wrestling match and ground out a unanimous decision victory.
All three judges scored the two-round contest 20-18.
“The strategy was to put Nordin down and keep control of the fight the whole time,” said Junior Dos Santos, Bailey’s coach on the show, during the Spike telecast.
Bailey showcased his wrestling ability with a single-leg takedown early in the first round and by maintaining top position for most of the second round.
At Maranatha, he was a national qualifier and three-time all-conference selection. Bailey went on to train at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., after college but didn’t know what he would do after that.
“When I came back to Indianapolis, I was looking for a way to stay in shape,” Bailey said. “One thing led to another.”
Bailey reached out to UFC veterans Chris Lytle and Jake O’Brien, both of whom he knew from wrestling. They invited him to Integrated Fighting Academy and Bailey’s fighting career was born.
Bailey, who majored in church ministries, heard some backlash when he decided to commit himself to MMA.
“The school I graduated from is not too crazy about it,” Bailey said. “My dad is a pastor also and he wasn’t too crazy about it.”
But Bailey has shown he has the ability to make something out of fighting. He’s gone 10-3 as a professional and was Dos Santos’ first pick for his team of seven fighters that will go up against Brock Lesnar’s squad all season.
While Dos Santos gave a glowing review of Bailey’s performance on the show, not everyone was as impressed. UFC President Dana White wanted more action.
“Round one, Shamar Bailey lays on top of him for five minutes,” White said. “Round two, lays on top of him for five minutes. Not the most exciting fight you’ll ever see in Ultimate Fighter history.”
Bailey said he fully expected to win the competition and six-figure contract that comes with it earlier this year. At this point of the show, it’s all about advancing closer to that goal.
“I didn’t show the other team everything I have in my arsenal,” Bailey said. “I do whatever my coaches tell me at this point. I trust them.”
One casualty already
Undefeated prospect Myles Jury lasted less than a half of an episode on "TUF".
Jury tore his ACL in the first training session on the show, forcing White to send him home to recover. White, however, did promise the 22-year-old Jury another chance on the show, perhaps the next time it features his weight class.
Jury, who is 9-0 and fights out of San Diego, was the fifth pick on Lesnar’s team. Stepping in to take his place is 25-year old Chuck O’Neil, who fights out of Boston.
O’Neil has a professional record of 8-3 with a win on a Bellator Fighting Championships card.