When fighting, CSU student Ian Stonehouse’s hands are a blur. His face is set and calm despite the battle around him.
Each strike, quick and focused, packs the power to drop a man faster than the speed of the punch.
Around him, fighters are grunting and slipping in pools of sweat as bodies are slammed against the ground. It’s only five minutes into the daily practice for Stonehouse, a pro Mixed Martial Arts fighter.
“Every time I go out there, I don’t know what could happen,” says Stonehouse, who has been fighting professionally in the MMA since 2008. “I could get carried out on a stretcher.”
Before his days of intense combat, Stonehouse was a typical high school athlete who participated in competitive soccer and wrestling at Louis Palmer High School in Monument.
At Pikes Peak Community College, where he says he was deprived of competitive competition, Stonehouse “started getting antsy.”
And so, with friends, he began martial arts training, and in March of 2006 he took part in his first underground fight while still in Colorado Springs.
“It was the biggest rush,” Stonehouse says. “I just fell in love.”
From then on, he trained at various gyms in Colorado and soon moved to Fort Collins where he began training at the local Trybz Gym. After a successful 7-0 amateur career, he began fighting professionally.
“I had suffered enough injuries,” Stonehouse says. “I decided I could keep getting hurt and fighting for free or take what I love to do and get paid.”
In October of 2008, Stonehouse appeared on MTV’s “True Life” series for which they documented his transition from amateur to professional MMA fighting.
“It was a bizarre situation because I grew up in a small town,” Stonehouse says. “It’s hard to be yourself on camera.”
An animalistic fighter
“Ian’s an animal any way you cut it,” said Randy Brown, 54, Trybz owner. “He always wants to fight. You can’t teach that.”
Brown, one of Stonehouse’s trainers, describes him as a rare kind of boxer, one that takes instruction well and can be incredibly versatile.
“His punching power is amazing for someone his size,” said Sebastian Puente, 35, one of Stonehouse’s fellow fighters. “He is very fluid. You don’t find that a lot in the MMA.”
Puente said that before Stonehouse went pro, he would fight anyone. Now Stonehouse only chooses fights that will challenge him.
“He always wants to go three rounds,” Puente said. “He likes the feeling of a fight, not just a show.”
The fighters at Trybz have a unique bond. Even though they spend their time together learning how to beat each other into submission, the fighters together are like a family with respect for one another.
“Ian is like my brother,” Puente said. “I love working with him. His intensity and heart are greater than any other fighter.”
In training, Stonehouse says that conditioning is the key. Many fighters who have the stamina can outlast their opponent even if they are less talented.
“The main thing is we train their bodies never to fail,” Brown said. “We also train him for who he is going to fight next.”
Before a fight, Stonehouse does Zen breathing and tells himself he’s ready and can win the mental battle of believing in himself.
“It’s a surreal feeling knowing your’re going out to war with someone,” Stonehouse says.
Even though the fighters have incredible respect for each other, Stonehouse says that he has to reassure himself that he is doing his job. He is there to compete.
“They are standing in the way of your goals and dreams,” Stonehouse says. “The other fighters are trying to take that away.”
Even for a fighter of Stonehouse’s skill, there is always the ever-present danger of injury. Stonehouse has broken his hand four times, once while in the ring where he managed to win the fight.
“In a fight, it’s hard to feel pain,” Stonehouse says.
Although Stonehouse has the potential to go big, he has a backup career and is majoring in graphic design at CSU.
“I believe in myself and where I can go,” Stonehouse said. “But I need to be ready.”
Even though Stonehouses tries to be realistic and reasonable, those around him have the utmost faith in what he can do.
“He is a lot better than he thinks he is,” Puente said. “He could go as far as he wants.”
“I wouldn’t be surprised if he was in the (Ultimate Fighting Championship),” Brown said. “He loves it; he acts like he lives and breaths it.”
Staff writer Matt Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.