For martial artists competing in MMA or kickboxing, it is very rare that a path to a successful career is an easy one.
This isn’t any different for (5-4 amateur) Melissa Shepard. In her case, the hardships are actually tenfold.
Shepard, 34, a native Missourian, trains out of The Fighters Gym in Naylor, Missouri and has been fighting since the age of 29 at bantamweight.
But Shepard’s opponents do not only come in the form of another martial artist locked in the same cage as her. Shepard has also been battling against diabetes.
“I've been a diabetic since I was 22 years old, so I've had that illness before I started fighting,” Shepard said.
She has not let diabetes slow her down. Shepard has fought nine times as an amateur – often against more experienced opponents – and has accumulated even more fights that are absent from her record due to them being unsanctioned.
However, it has nearly been a year since Shepard’s last fight, a third round TKO loss for Shamrock FC that earned her fight of the night honors.
Her time off had nothing to do with diabetes. It was much more serious than that.
This past year, Shepard received concerning test results at a doctor’s appointment. She was diagnosed with “female cancer.”
Following a Hysterectomy she was placed on prednisone steroids.
“…it's made a huge impact on my weight and my emotions. I haven't been able to train, I have a weak immune system now so I catch everything my kids may come in contact with,” Shepard said.
Still Shepard keeps on fighting.
Fighting in the sense of MMA but also against a deck stacked against her.
Working full time and taking care of four kids, Shepard has still found time to train, regain her health and get back to where she left off.
“When I do train at night at my gym with my coach, the girls come with me and my daughter Grace trains also,” Shepard said.
She continued by saying that she trains a majority of the time when her kids are at school and during the off season for their sports teams.
All of the hard work and perseverance has now paid off, as earlier this week Shepard announced via Facebook that she will be fighting for Prime FS, an affiliate of Fight Hard MMA, in July.