Vail native Carmen Sawtelle hopes to continue undefeated streak at LFA 65
VAIL — In December of 2016, Carmen Sawtelle never would have dreamed that she would be cage fighting in Dobson Ice Arena within a year and a half.
Now that she’s a returning champion with a record of 3-0, her life is completely different than she ever could have imagined, and she’s been able to take a moment to let it set in.
It all started in the Vail parking structure that December, when she heard and man and a woman screaming at each other.
“I run over, because he slaps her, like, backhands her,” Sawtelle said. “I push him, like, ‘What are you doing?’ He didn’t even know who pushed him; he just turned around and clocked me.”
She had a black eye for weeks.
“It could have ended up a lot worse, and it really made me think — maybe if I just learned a few self-defense things,” she said. “So that’s why I took my first class in jujitsu.”
Sawtelle took the first jujitsu class ever offered at Hybrid Nation MMA in Avon.
“And I was just hooked right after that,” she said.,“I mean I was, like, so hooked.”
Sawtelle was considering nursing school at the time, and quickly saw the overlap between what she had learned about anatomy in her medical studies and what she was learning about anatomy in her jujitsu training.
“It was so intriguing to me,” she said. “How you could use your body as a chess match with someone else, and manipulate the joints to where it only takes eight pounds of pressure to break a bone.”
Sawtelle took gold in her first jujitsu tournament — which is extremely uncommon in the sport — and realized she might have a talent for mixed martial arts. She started diverting all of her focus into the sport.
Growing up in Vail, Sawtelle knew there would not be as much opportunity for an aspiring MMA athlete as the greater Denver area, so she moved to the Front Range, where she started working out constantly with coaches and trainers.
Meanwhile, however, event planners in Vail were taking notice of MMA.
The Legacy Fighting Alliance and the Town of Vail may seem like unlikely partners in the event business.
But successful events in May are hard to come by, so the town decided to try something different in 2018, offering to provide $17,500 in funding to Legacy Fighting Alliance. The popular Colorado fighting promotion company went for it, bringing LFA 39 to town with a deep fight card.
Promoters also had a local card to play — Sawtelle was ready to make her amateur debut, right there in her home town.
The event drew a good crowd, by all accounts.
Now ready for a return, Sawtelle has been invited back — encouraged, rather — as she now boasts a record of 3-0. She’s also picked up another new nickname in addition to “Sage,” which she was going by last year.
Now, Sawtelle goes by Carmen “The Charm” Sage Sawtelle.
The Charm has been working on her striking, as that was an area that was overlooked in her fascination with jujitsu, and also working on her wrestling, which will get her to a place where her natural talent in jujitsu will be able to work to her advantage.
“The wrestling bridges the gap,” Sawtelle said. “In this sport, you have to be always adapting and working on your weaknesses, which is another reason why I like it so much.”
Sawtelle said she will be evenly matched with her opponent, Tayler Sprowl, when they step into the ring on Friday.
“I want to work my striking, work my wrestling, but the fight’s going to go where the fight’s going to go,” Sawtelle said. “Most of all, I just want to react properly. That’s my main goal.”
Along with Sawtelle, promoters also have a few other bouts to tout.
“Brandon Royval and Joby Sanchez are two of our biggest stars and top contenders in our flyweight division,” LFA CEO Ed Soares told promoters. “The winner will position himself nicely at the top of one of our most talented divisions. This will be a fantastic main event for our return trip to Vail on Cinco de Mayo weekend at LFA 65.”