Shamar Bailey was minutes away from possibly never competing on The Ultimate Fighter.
Just a week before he was scheduled to leave to begin filming for season 13 of TUF, Bailey, a firefighter in Indianapolis, Indiana, went on a call for a raging fire in the city he calls home.
What happened next is a daily occurrence in the life of a firefighter.
“We get as close to the fire as possible to keep it from spreading throughout the structure,” Bailey said. “(When you do that) it’s like you’re in a sauna, and you’ve got the sauna suit on, and it’s burning your skin. That’s how it feels in there and you know the fire’s a lot hotter than what it actually feels like.
“The chief ordered us to get out of there after fighting it for about 40 minutes. The second after I got out of there, I turned my back and that place collapsed. I was that close to being inside a collapsed building vs. being on The Ultimate Fighter. Those are the kind of things that you deal with on a daily basis and then you put it out of your mind.”
Bailey headed to Indiana after graduating from Maranatha Baptist Bible College in Wisconsin, where he eventually found his way to Chris Lytle and the Integrated Fighting Systems camp.
Lytle, also a firefighter in Indianapolis, eventually pushed Bailey into his current life of fighting both out-of-control blazes and other men inside the Octagon.
“He (Lytle) is one of the biggest reasons I started fighting,” Bailey said. “The very first time I walked into an MMA gym in Indianapolis, my introduction to the sport was Chris. I rolled with him, sparred with him, and I ended up being one of his workout partners before I even decided to fight. And he was one of the main guys that convinced me to fight because of how I would do with him in the practice room.
“From there, he also convinced me to try out for the Indianapolis Fire Department, who he works for as well. Since 2006, we’ve been training and working together, and it’s been a great relationship.”
Bailey (12-3) takes on Evan Dunham (11-2) this Saturday night at UFC Fight Night: Shields vs. Ellenberger.
Dunham will enter the cage hungry, as he is looking to avoid losing a third straight fight.
“I had hinted that I wanted tough fights and that I wanted to test myself,” Bailey said. “I wanted to fight somebody that I didn’t have to chase around the cage, and when I go to the ground they’re not just gonna hold on to me for dear life. So I was very excited, and I believe that this is a message to me that I need to show what I’m capable of and there’s no room to under perform here.
“If both styles match up well, then you can make the most of that match-up, and that’s why I’m excited about this fight with Evan Dunham. I think it’s a match-up where there’s either gonna be a quick finish or it’s gonna be an exciting fight.”