At work, Nicole Upshaw’s job is to protect and serve. The rookie on the Chandler Police Department is paying her dues.
“Work starts at 8:30 at night and I work all the way until 6:30 in the morning,” says Upshaw. “Overnight graveyards.”
But the Chandler native has another side to her and another career.
“MMA is just a test of willpower,” says Upshaw. “The person who wants to win more will find a way to win. And the person who has some quit in them will quit. That’s how it goes.”
Upshaw fought her first professional fight in November of 2015, defeating Bryanna Fissori.
The last year has been her first with the Chandler Police Department, including a 10-month probationary period. She works hard, trains hard, and does it mostly with a smile on her face.
“I’m very smiley, very laid back,” says Upshaw. “I’m like that in the cage too. It’s not good to be too uptight and tense. I really do love the sport. I smile about it. But everyone’s got that competitive moment when they snap and it's game on.”
Upshaw started training in martial arts when she was 5. She’s a second-degree black belt in karate. Her biggest influence is from another martial artist and Chandler police officer, her father Comm. Ed Upshaw.
“Chip off the old block,” says Comm. Upshaw. “When you see your daughter get kicked in the head, it’s not easy to watch. Those are fights she won. You can tell when things get her upset and angry. That’s probably not a good thing to do to Nicole in the ring because she becomes very focused and she can just about take out every woman she fights.”
Upshaw jokes that she originally wanted to be the yellow Power Ranger but there were no openings. It’s fitting that she followed in her father’s footsteps.
“I grew up idolizing him, wanting to be like him,” says Upshaw. “I’m walking in his footsteps. It’s so much fun.”
Ed Upshaw has been to every fight that Nicole has had in Arizona. She hopes to fight again in the next few months. Until then she’ll try to balance the two careers, with a smile.
“I love being a strong, fierce woman, whether wearing my badge or my gloves.”
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