From Winning Wars to Modeling: Shannon Ihrke Takes Off Her Marine Corps Blues and Picks Up a Ring Card
"She's a good girl, loves her mama. Loves Jesus, and America too. She's a good girl, crazy 'bout Elvis, loves horses and her boyfriend too."
She may be too young to be crazy about Elvis, and she certainly does not have a boyfriend, but rocker Tom Petty was right with nearly everything else with Shannon Ihrke, a model and ring girl for Pro Elite MMA who is turning heads in every direction.
As Shannon readied for an afternoon of riding horses with her mother she was able to take some time to talk with US Combat Sports about her past, her future, and how she transitioned from the Marine Corps to modeling. So now you know why the lyrics from "Free Fallin'" fit perfectly.
The 23-year-old Minnesotan blonde beauty was honorably discharged from the U.S. Marine Corps in January after serving four years for her country, all because the Air Force didn't want her. Your loss Air Force.
Shannon was attending St. Cloud University for a year and a half before she spoke with her financial advisor about her worries of having an insurmountable amount of debt from student loans. So...like any good counselor would advise a young lady, she gave her two options.
"You can either become a single-mom and have your school paid for, or you can join the military," the advisor said. So Shannon marched down to the joint military recruiting office and tried speaking with an Air Force recruiter.
"He kind of just shunned me off. He told me it would take weeks before he could even talk to me." But as she was on her way out, Ihrke was approached by another man in uniform, a Marine.
"Can I buy you lunch?" he asked. His intentions were not exactly clear. Did he want a date or did he want to put her in the Corps? But the two went to lunch anyways and the recruiter told her that the Marine Corps would be too hard for her and that she would not make it. Looks like we know what his intentions were now, don't we?
But Ihrke said, "look, I can do anything you can do and I want to do it now." One week later Shannon was on a bus to beautiful Parris Island, South Carolina, home of the Marine Corps Recruit Depot.
She spent three glorious months there before proceeding to Camp Johnson, North Carolina where she would go to a military occupational school to become an administrative clerk.
She was then stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, South Carolina and meritoriously promoted to Corporal way ahead of her peers. She then transferred to the 4th Maintenance Battalion, 4th Marine Logistics Group at Rock Island, Illinois and that is where she found her calling.
She was once again promoted ahead of her fellow Marines to the rank of Sergeant. She found that her schedule would allow for a lot more free time.
"I started going to school online," Ihrke told US Combat Sports. "And then I still found that I had even more free time. When you take any Marine from 100 miles per hour, down to zero, you get bored."
Her friends began telling her she should try modeling. Not thinking there was any hope for her there or that the Marine Corps would not back her in any way, she pushed it off.
More and more people began to put the bug in her ear and she started off modeling at a fashion show.
Her modeling career lit like wildfire.
Within one year she would be featured in Maxim Magazine's "Hometown Hottie Contest" where she would earn a spot in the nation's top 10 finalists, as well as landing features in Fight and ShowOff Magazines.
It was at this point that she decided she had to tell the Marine Corps what was going on. She said surprisingly her command fully backed her as long as she did not do any questionable photos that would hold her or the Corps in a bad light.
She had been shot by more photographers than she could recall and knew it was time for a change in occupation. She is now on the inactive reserve roster for the Marine Corps and focuses her attention on modeling in the swimsuit and fitness realms.
She had never watched any mixed martial arts so when she was approached about becoming a ring girl she was lost in the dark.
"All I knew about MMA was that every guy in the Marine Corps wanted to be a UFC fighter."
She started attending more and more local shows and watching the larger organizations on television, and now she is hooked.
On MMA and Fitness
Now that the UFC and the Marine Corps have formed a promotional partnership more and more military service members have been crossing over into the sport of mixed martial arts. Shannon said that the two professions are very comparable.
"MMA fighters hurt people, Marines kill people."
When I asked her about female mixed martial artists Shannon was quick to talk about her obsession with Rose Namajunas, a female fighter out of UFC heavyweight fighter Pat Barry's camp.
"She's phenomenal. I saw her practically break this chick's nose and that was it. I'm obsessed with her," she said."But if you are asking me if I'll ever be a fighter, the answer is hell no."
To keep in shape Shannon said she does a lot of cardio work to include running and Zumba. "My parents are extremely fit too. I don't focus on lifting much at all," she said.
In her spare time she enjoys riding horses, playing soccer, riding her 4-wheeler and dirtbike, and sitting by a bonfire while drinking some beers. She wants to continue her education in marketing and said her dream job would to be recognized by the UFC and invited to become a ring girl for the organization.
Shannon told me that twins do run in her family so she is in no rush to have any children any time soon. In fact, she is single and asked me "If GSP (Georges St. Pierre) doesn't have a girlfriend can you help put in a good word."
Yeah, like I know GSP.
So, I told her to do make a YouTube video proposal like some Marines did last year when they asked celebrities Mila Kunis, Justin Timberlake and Betty White to the Marine Corps Ball.
"He's too nice a guy. He probably would respectfully decline because it's not his thing," she said.
Hey GSP, if you are reading this...ask this beautiful woman on a date and thank me later.
Jones or Evans?
One last question for you Shannon. Who wins this weekend's fight between UFC light heavyweight champion Jon "Bones" Jones and "Suga" Rashad Evans?
"You know I'm a HUGE Evans fan. He's such an awesome dude. I root for him but Jones is the favorite," she said.
"But...you know Jones is that bully that someone just need to (expletive) knock out. He's like Superman. He's invincible. But I'm rooting for Evans."
Photos courtesy Keeling, J. Steele Photography, deByrd Photography, FIGHT! Magazine, ProElite and Greg Honda, Maxim, and Markese Photography