CEDAR RAPIDS — “It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed.”
Teddy Roosevelt’s words from a century ago are tattooed on the left shoulder blade of professional MMA fighter Steve Carl. It might be his mantra, because success has come lately but it wasn’t always that way.
Carl, a graduate of Belle Plaine High School, who fights out of Hard Drive MMA in Cedar Rapids, has been getting a lot of national attention in the MMA world.
“At first when I got into this sport, I had a wrestling background, which was OK,” he said. “But I was pretty passive and timid growing up. The Army kind of led me to this. I got into MMA just for self-defense purposes and to feel more confident, I never even dreamed I’d be where I’m at right now, or let alone even thought I was going to fight for a living.”
Carl fights as a welterweight (170 pounds). He has traveled to Bulgaria and Russia for fights. Most recently, he fought on the Nov. 3 debut card of the World Series of Fighting in Las Vegas, where he dismantled two-time Olympic wrestler Ramico Blackmon in 2:11 of the first round.
He’s 19-3 as a pro and has won his last five fights, all in the first round. His last loss was to Douglas Lima in September 2011.
“I didn’t dial up my training as some people say they do after losses,” he said. “I dialed it down. I honed in and just started believing in myself. I read too much stuff online before about how I was a big underdog, and I was just trying to fight him, not trying to beat him or finish him. That’s exactly why I lost. Now I just go in calm, and don’t care what anyone says behind a keyboard.”
The win in the WSOF has definitely put “Scar,” as his teammates call him, on the radar of the UFC, the top MMA organization.
“I had talked to the UFC, but they were uncertain whether they could find me a fight because of certain fighters either being injured or already scheduled,” he said. “So all I could be guaranteed, really, was being a last-second replacement. Going with the WSOF was just a way to keep fighting regularly. There’s still bills that need to be paid, and waiting around doesn’t do it for most fighters. I’m fine with that for right now.”
Carl, 27, is taking success in stride and continues to coach beginner and advanced classes at Hard Drive. He’s scheduled to fight again in January.
“I can’t do this forever,” he said. “But as long as I’m here, I’m going to enjoy it and try and make my teammates better.”