Vail fighter Carmen Sawtelle to make amateur debut May 4 at LFA 39
EAGLE COUNTY — Born in Vail, Carmen “Sage” Sawtelle left town to pursue a career in mixed martial arts.
And in a classic twist of fate, she’s headed right back to Vail for her amateur debut.
“It’s so ironic. I leave everything to move to Denver, and right when my coach says, ‘I think you’re ready,’ Vail gets a fight,” Sawtelle said with a laugh.
In March, Vail’s special events commission agreed to provide $17,500 to partially fund a mixed martial arts event promoted by the Legacy Fighting Alliance. LFA took the gamble and set up LFA 39 for Friday, May 4, at Dobson Ice Arena. The event starts at 6 p.m.
Sawtelle sees it as the perfect event to make her amateur debut.
“I never thought I’d be heading right back to Vail for my first fight,” she said.
Sawtelle credits her dance background with much of her success in mixed martial arts. The class of 2012 graduate was on the dance team during her four years at Battle Mountain High School, and even considered majoring in dance at Colorado Mesa University.
Sawtelle didn’t discover fighting until her 20s, when she was introduced to jiu-jitsu at Hybrid Nation MMA in Avon.
She took to the sport right away, her dance background providing her a solid foundation.
“The competitiveness just came naturally, living in Vail,” she said. “Growing up, I didn’t have a single friend that wasn’t in one sport. You have to be active if you want to find something to do, that’s just the way it is.”
After winning multiple jiu-jitsu tournaments at Hybrid Nation, Sawtelle was invited to train at Factory X gym in Englewood.
“I tried it for a week and I loved it,” Sawtelle said. “I dropped everything and moved to Denver.”
There was just one problem.
“I didn’t have any money,” she said.
Seeing her talent, Colorado Meat Co. came through with some help.
“They gave me a big supply of the best meat,” she said. “Organic, locally produced, top dollar stuff. It was exactly what I needed to help with my diet.”
Colorado Meat Co. was also able to provide some help in getting her face in front of fans.
“We did a photo shoot in their meat locker, ‘Rocky’ style,” Sawtelle said.
Sawtelle’s photogenic nature, in addition to the fact she’s an Eagle County local, makes her an ideal candidate to bring fans to Dobson Arena for the Legacy Fighting Alliance’s first venture into Vail. She’s hoping it goes well.
“Legacy Fighting Alliance is really popular — a lot of fighters from Legacy go straight to the UFC,” Sawtelle said. “They usually don’t promote amateur fights, but they wanted me on the card to get some locals to come to the event.”
Sawtelle will be fighting Jesonna Ollis, and said she’s excited to get a chance to “touch souls” with Ollis in Vail.
“You lock yourself in a cage with one other person and a ref, and at the end, it’s a bonding experience,” she said. “They say fighters touch souls when they’re in the cage.”
Sawtelle and Ollis will square off in three rounds of 3 minutes each.
The main event will also feature a fighter from the Factory X gym where Sawtelle trains: Ian “The Hurricane” Heinisch.
Heinisch will take on Gabriel “Zangief” Checco and the winner will be crowned interim middleweight champion. The entire fight will be televised live and nationwide on AXS TV at 9 p.m. Eastern, 6 p.m. Pacific.
“I am excited to bring LFA to beautiful Vail, Colorado,” Legacy Fighting Alliance CEO Ed Soares said in a press release. “Ian Heinisch and Gabriel Checco are the top two contenders for the middleweight title and they both have title fight experience. They are also coming off big finishes. We expect this to be a fantastic title fight at LFA 39.”
When asked if he is receiving any insider information on the terrain, Aleksander Aamodt Kilde — the boyfriend of Edwards’ own Mikaela Shiffrin — chuckled and replied, “You probably think so, but I actually I don’t.”