MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. – The night air vibrated with energy as Sgt. Misha Nassiri and her opponent entered the ring. They stared each other down while the referee addressed the basic rules of the match. The ring’s entrance was locked, the ref shouted “fight,” and violent roars shot from the audience as the fighters closed in on each other with violent swiftness. The opponents tapped gloves and the mayhem commenced.
Nassiri, an ammunition technician with Headquarter Battalion, 1st Marine Division, and a native of San Diego, wasted no time and began assaulting her opponent with a dizzying flurry of well-placed punches and kicks. Only seconds later it was over.
Nassiri entered the professional MMA world with a technical knockout and a revitalized level of confidence during a mixed martial arts competition in Valley Center, Calif., Jan. 18, 2014.
“The pace of the match took me by surprise,” said Nassiri, “Coming into the fight I was really nervous, but the second I got inside the ring all of my stress and worries disappeared. I was in kill mode.”
Nassiri trained in martial arts nearly her entire life, starting with karate at age 3. She spent the majority of her childhood and teenage years living in the Netherlands and moved back to the United States when she was 16. The move forced Nassiri to acclimate to American culture, but her interest in combat sports followed her to America.
“Living in the Netherlands made me open to a lot of experiences,” said Nassiri. “It made me more willing to try new things. In a way, my experiences there motivated me to get into MMA. It was new, and gave my martial arts training an exciting new focus.”
Nassiri joined the Marine Corps Sept. 7, 2010, eager to serve her country. She quickly discovered that the dedication, discipline and hard work necessary to be a professional fighter mirrored many standards of the Marines.
As an ammunition technician, Nassiri is responsible for handling, transporting and storing ammunition and other hazardous materials. Her job requires her to work well under pressure with precision and accuracy, traits that translate well in her MMA career. The Marine Corps lifestyle constantly reinforces the importance of hard work and Nassiri brings the same mentality to the ring.
“There are certain expectations that come with being a Marine,” said 1st Lt. David Foran, a logistics officer with Headquarters Battalion, 1st Marine Division, and a native of Dauphin, PA. “A Marine has to be strong willed and have a good work ethic to be successful in the Marine Corps. Nassiri exemplifies what it means to be a Marine.”
With the added responsibility of the Marine Corps, Nassiri constantly attempts to find the proper balance between her job and MMA training. Little sleep, shorter lunches and minimal free time is the price that Nassiri pays to become a better fighter.
“Balancing the Marine Corps and my MMA isn’t easy,” said Nassiri. “I try to use every second of every day to do something productive. If I’m not working, I’m training. It’s tiresome, but at the end of the day the aches and pains are all worth it when I see improvement and get closer to my goals.”
Nassiri’s training translates into more than just better performance in the ring, it has become inspiration for others to set goals in their own lives.
“She is hardworking, dedicated and disciplined,” said Foran. “She leads from the front and has a fast paced and aggressive leadership style. She provides her Marines with a good example and I think a lot of that stems from her MMA training.”
Nassiri’s lifestyle is anything but normal. Fighting is not just recreation for her, it’s become a second profession and part of her identity. Whether she is in the ring or out, Nassiri finds new ways to challenge herself and inspire others.