Rising MMA star killed in weekend crash on I-94 bridge linking Fargo-Moorhead
Before her death, 21-year-old Shalie Lipp was scheduled for an amateur fight on May 20 at Kent Freeman Arena in Detroit Lakes
MOORHEAD — A standout Minnesota high school athlete and rising star in mixed martial arts was killed in a two-vehicle crash on the Interstate 94 bridge that links Moorhead and Fargo.
Fargo native Shalie Lipp, 21, raised in Breckenridge and Perham and most recently living in Fargo, died as a result of the crash in the eastbound lanes of the interstate, reported at about 11:30 a.m. on Sunday, May 7.
Lipp and her primary MMA coach, Joseph Vital Trottier, 35, of West Fargo, were in her 2015 Chevrolet Malibu with Trottier at the wheel when the crash happened.
Her mother, Jen Bucholz of Perham, said Lipp was headed to a Moorhead home where she works as a nanny for a young girl.
"I think as the time passes, it's gonna get harder for me. I think, right now, I'm still kind of in the denial stage," Bucholz told The Forum.
The Minnesota State Patrol has not explained the circumstances surrounding the crash but said Lipp was the only person involved who was not restrained by a seat belt.
On the interstate, the Chevrolet made contact with a 2017 Jeep Cherokee, the patrol said. All other occupants of the two vehicles were wearing seat belts and were not injured.
Bucholz said she was relieved when law enforcement told her Lipp died instantly and did not suffer.
Lipp trained at the Academy of Combat Arts in Fargo and was scheduled for an amateur fight on Saturday, May 20, on the "No Mercy 11" MMA card at Kent Freeman Arena in Detroit Lakes.
Academy owner Dylan Spicer said many women train at the gym, but Lipp was the first to be "all in" on MMA fighting and Muay Thai, sometimes referred to as Thai boxing.
"She was really dialed in. She was training all the time," he said.
Spicer said Lipp had the potential to compete in the Ultimate Fighting Championship or another premier organization.
Fighting teammate Taylor Michels, 30, has known Lipp for several years, and the two had just returned Wednesday, May 3, from a monthlong training trip in Thailand.
There, Thai coaches were impressed with Lipp's talent and intense work ethic.
"As soon as Shalie starts cracking the pads, you’d have five or six coaches stop what they're doing and start filming her," Michels said. "This girl was absolutely destined to be great."
She had a magnetic personality, he said, adding she was easy to get along with and was "such a good friend."
Family friend Chad Desjarlais and fellow MMA fighter Dan Kiser said Shalie would have gone far with her skill level.
"(Y)ou knew when you seen her jump in there she was just going to go for it, she did not back down, she did not shy away," Kiser said. "She was in the gym 24/7. She had combative sports in her brain 23 hours a day."
"When Shalie walks into a room, there's this confidence about her she's going to win," Desjarlais said. "She had so much potential left and I think she was going to be a great, great fighter."
In high school in Breckenridge, Lipp competed in gymnastics and track and field, excelling particularly in pole vaulting.
Bucholz said when her daughter's pole vault coach quit during her sophomore year, she asked to transfer to Perham for even higher quality coaching.
Bucholz encouraged her to go to Frazee, where she'd be the best pole vaulter in the region and easily qualify for state, but her daughter wanted to take the more difficult route.
"She said, 'I want to go to Perham. I want to be pushed as hard as I can. I want to prove it,'" Bucholz said.
Lipp earned a full-ride scholarship to pole vault at Delaware State University, but COVID-19 hit, and the school ended up not being a good fit.
She returned to Fargo to pole vault for North Dakota State University but would have to sit out a year due to the transfer.
Feeling antsy, Lipp walked into the Academy for Combat Arts one day and was soon showing off kickboxing moves, saying she was going to learn to fight.
She left NDSU to concentrate on her training.
"She was at the gym 10 hours a day, seven days a week. It was just insane," Bucholz said.
The amateur fight that was to feature Lipp later this month in Detroit Lakes will go on.
Spicer said there are a dozen or more other fighters on the card, including several of Lipp's teammates.
"That'll be quite challenging on more than one level," he said, adding the promoter is planning to honor Lipp in some way that evening.
Lipp was the daughter of area sportscaster Rollie Lipp and Bucholz, a North Dakota State College of Science Hall of Fame high jumper.
A benefit fund has been set up for the family at United Community Bank's Perham, Frazee and Dent locations. Donations can be made in Shalie Bucholz Lipp's name.
Memorial services for Lipp are pending.
The crash Sunday backed up traffic for two hours, forcing eastbound traffic to be diverted off the freeway to Fargo’s South University Drive.
Occupants of the Jeep involved in the crash, all of whom were uninjured, were driver Michael John Duea, 63, of Savage, Minnesota; and passengers Kymberli Ann Duea, 58, of Savage; and Steven Vincent Duea, 66, of Otsego, Minnesota.