STAFF WRITER JENNIFER FIERRO
Ishiah “The Hill Country Strangler” Carson is living up to his nickname in the mixed martial arts world.
The 24-year-old, a 2013 Marble Falls High School graduate, is training to fight in the amateur championship against 21-year-old Anthony Sutterfield. Both fighters are 2-0 in the featherweight division.
The bout is set for Saturday, October 5, at the Arkansas Convention Center in Texarkana.
Carson plans to turn pro; the outcome of this fight will give him a better timeline on when, said manager Chris Torres, a 2011 Marble Falls graduate.
Carson, ranked No. 86 out of 800 amateur fighters nationally and No. 3 in Arkansas, defeated Josh Isaacs in 57 seconds using a triangle choke in a fight July 20. His first win was in March when he knocked out Hunter Harmon at the 2:30 mark in the first round.
“It’s more about technique to fight at 145 pounds,” said the Marble Falls man. “You want to be athletic. Definitely, it helps, but you don’t have to be. You have to have a high fight IQ; be someone who doesn’t panic and be calm the whole time.”
That means being able to analyze the bout as it’s happening.
Carson aims to be meticulous in setting up traps and leading the opponent right where he wants him to go. He avoids being “the angry guy,” noting that fighter usually loses.
“It’s almost like playing a physical game of chess,” he said. “You have to be tough.”
Carson, a former Marble Falls football player, said he’s always been a big fan of MMA. After high school, he knew he wanted to be a professional athlete, and the sport seemed like the right fit. Growing up, he boxed, wrestled, practiced jiu-jitsu, and grappled.
He trains at Mad Dawg Fitness in Burnet under head coach Daniel Adams, who has been in the sport since 1993. A friend of Carson’s began training with Adams and was hooked on MMA soon after.
Adams didn’t immediately allow Carson to start booking bouts. He put the young man through strenuous workouts to test him physically, mentally, and emotionally to make sure he was ready for the grind.
“Anyone can show up (to the gym),” the fighter said, “but you have to prove to (Adams) you’re ready. You can get seriously hurt in this sport. You have to prove to him you’re ready to compete.”
For two years, Adams and Carson prepped, went over scenarios, conversed about the sport, and attacked workouts, some lasting up to three hours.
To support himself, Carson works two jobs: construction Monday-Thursday and waiting tables at River City Grille in Marble Falls on the weekend.
Carson looks up to Yoel Romero, a middleweight division fighter who signed with the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Romero captured a world gold medal and an Olympic silver medal as a freestyle wrestler before transitioning to MMA. Carson sees a lot of himself in Romero’s style of fighting.
“He’s very athletic and explosive,” Carson said. “We look calm and then explode when we need to.”
Check out Carson in action at fite.tv. A $14.99 fee to watch the match online is required.