When the place you call home shuts its doors and the coach and mentor that has helped you get your life back together decides to move on with his life, decisions need to be made.
In 2015, this was the position Raja Shippen, a Ruas Vale Tudo disciple, was in after former UFC middleweight Mark Munoz retired from the sport of mixed martial arts.
So he took a leap of faith and packed up his belongings to fly halfway across the globe to Australia.
After gym hopping for a while, he set roots down in Sydney and started to train with Australian Top Team. Throughout this whole process, a family opened their doors to the new arrival.
“I was fortunate enough to be taken in by the generous Girdham family, who helped me out so much when I moved to Australia,” he said about his transition to life Down Under. “I love this country. It is beautiful and the people are amazing. The fans and fighters there really took me in.”
During the last few years, he has become one of the best bantamweights in Australia by tallying up a record of 3-1, mostly under the Hex Fight Series. Shippen says he was lucky to get a chance to fight for the biggest show in the country.
Now, he has his eyes set on a new opponent at Battlefield Fighting Championship 1 on March 18, where will face young South Korean striker Jung-Hyun Ahn in a catchweight bout.
Ahn is an up-and-comer who has built his reputation under the TOP FC banner with his unrelentless durability. However, the 30 year-old American feels that he is up for the challenge.
“I have trained with some of the best from the boys at SBG Dublin to the killers at Australian Top Team as well as at Aspire Combat so I feel I will be ready wherever the fight goes. I have faith in myself and my skills,” says Shippen. “I like to put on a show for everyone so if the fans pay their hard-earned money to come watch an event they can enjoy, I will try to show them a good time by entertaining them.”
Currently, he is in Liverpool, England training with Aspire Combat Sports Academy sharpening his tools getting ready for his upcoming fight. He will return to Australia to finish his camp and then head out to South Korea.
“I am very grateful for all the people at Australian Top Team in Sydney and Aspire Combat in Liverpool for the physical and mental training with open arms,” Shippen stated.
Even though he represents both camps, he takes advantage of every opportunity to trek into new territories and experience as much as he can since he feels he can learn from anyone.
This positive mindset has been a valuable asset and he wants to spread the love to everyone that has supported him throughout his journey as a mixed martial artist.
“I want to thank my family in California, the Girdham family, Steve Martin, Legacy Builders and Ed Wittenburg from Lyf App for going above and beyond to make sure I can train and live,” Shippen appreciatively states.
With all the people in his life that has assisted him, he wants the audience to look beyond the tattoos and cage fighting image. He is trying to better his life through each fight and help out anyone if possible.
When he reminiscences about his youth and mourns all the friends he lost while making bad decisions, he believes it is his calling to guide troubled adolescence and let them know there is so much more out there. The gym saved his life so he attempts to persuade others to do the same.
“I try and do what Mark (Munoz) and others have done for me when I was a young, knucklehead fighter. I get them training and out of the streets or off drugs because the gym can save your life,” says Shippen.
In the end, the thoughtful veteran wants to start a program that helps troubled youth and people battling with addiction and depression. His goal is to mentor these people since he knows first hand what they are going through. To this day, he understands that he is far from perfect and battles his own demons so maybe if someone reads this it will save their life.
“I got to keep helping others like I was helped,” Shippen asserts about his ambitions outside of the cage.
Raja Shippen can be seen in Seoul, South Korea on 18 March at Olympic Hall for Battlefield Fighting Championship 1. He will attempt to take his winning streak to four after going undefeated in 2016 when he collides with Jung-Hyun Ahn as part of the main card.