Rashad Harper
Rashad Harper at the New Breed Ultimate Challenge in November. CONTRIBUTED

Bikes, cars, dumbbells, kettlebells: Rashad Harper had it all, but has slowly been purging his training equipment on various yard sale pages on Facebook. The 29-year-old has decided to take his mixed martial arts training to the next level — professional.

“When chefs want to get better, they go to Paris, so I am heading to Asia to train with the best,” he said while packing his bags and mentally preparing to isolate himself to train for the next three months to a year. He leaves Key West today for Thailand. “I’ve come to a standstill here and I need to challenge myself.”

Harper, the 170-pound welterweight, has been training in jujitsu with the Police Athletic League’s Rich Thomas and at Big Pine Key’s Fight Sports gym. He’s also traveled to strict and traditional mixed martial arts schools and dojos in the States with teachers like Wing Chun, who taught him Chinese boxing, and San Gilgorovic, whose training he says was a huge part of his last victory.

He has been in Key West since 1997 after moving to the Keys with his military family. “Although I have lived in many places, Key West is home,” he said. The pro-rated fighter will be missed by his many devoted morning beach workout friends.

Kristen Logan, a teacher at Gerald Adams Elementary School, trained with Harper for a half marathon and a triathlon. “Rashad is a force to be reckoned with. His lively spirit is contagious,” she said, finishing the 13.1 miles in two hours. “He has a drive that is infectious, and just being around him for a short time inspires you to be a better version of yourself. He has always set his sights high and I have no doubt he will do amazingly well in his next adventure.”

His twin brother Dante is also a personal trainer in town and will help locals reach their goals in Rashad’s absence. Rashad will also continue training his clients online via his website rhmotivate.com. His Facebook page “RH Fitness” is also filled with motivational quotes and his online workouts.

“I love pushing my clients, but now it’s time to push myself,” Rashad said. “They have been so supportive of this decision and I will miss them.”

“One thing us Harpers understand is the real fight is not only in the ring, but every day. While he pursues his goals, I want him to remember he’s already a champion in my eyes.” — Dante Harper, Rashad’s brother.

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