MMA boy

Missoula Sentinel student Conall Powers, 15, will make his MMA amateur debut on Saturday in Great Falls. Powers wrestled at 126 pounds for the Spartans this winter.

Contributed

Pound-for-pound, Conall Powers might be the toughest 15-year-old in Montana.

If not, he's certainly in the picture.

Next Saturday Powers will make his Mixed Martial Arts amateur debut in an Intense Cage Fighting (ICF) event at the Four Seasons Arena in Great Falls. He is scheduled to battle for three 5-minute rounds, without headgear, against a 23-year-old man.

Bad idea? To some maybe, but take a minute to learn his story. Consider his main objective and how much ahead of the curve he is in one respect:

"He wants to go to college," said Matthew Powers, his father and coach of the local Dogpound Fight Team. "He got this idea he could get his amateur fights out of the way before he turns 18. Then when he goes to college he can use fighting to pay for school if he doesn't get a scholarship for wrestling.

"For 15, I think that's pretty well thought out."

Conall wrestled varsity for Sentinel this past winter. At least he did before breaking his ribs in his first tournament, then wrestling three more times while ignoring the pain.

He has been around wrestling and fighting most of his life. At age 8 he won the Fusion Fight League Youth MMA belt.

"I love the adrenaline you get when you're out there," said the 130-pound bantamweight. "And just being able to, I mean, you get a rush and there's nothing else like it.

"It's a positive in my life. I'm a 15-year-old kid coming out to fight this 23-year-old man and I know people will think that I'm crazy. But I know what I'm doing and I'm not too worried about it. I'm mostly excited." 

Some of you reading this will wonder why this sort of thing -- a juvenile fighting an adult -- is even legal. As a father, I could never see myself allowing my son to fight an adult at age 15.

But I absolutely love Conall's attitude he can fend for himself at a time when so many others in their late teens figure loans are their ticket to higher learning.

"What most people misunderstand is that the athletes that fight, to them fighting really is a sport," Matthew Powers said. "It's no more violent than a guy running down the field and tackling a guy with a football. That to me would be the worse day ever to have a 300-pound man just 86 me.

"But you give me the option to stand in front of a 300-pound man and throw hands with him, to me that's something I want to try. There's more college graduates in pro MMA than in any other sport. Because of how motivated Conall is with this, it motivates him in other aspects for sure."

Matthew Powers says he has never pushed his son to fight. He supports him with all his heart whether he fights or fishes or whatever.

Win or lose Saturday, this sports writer has his fingers crossed that Conall, a well-spoken teenager and good student, will avoid injury.

"Obviously as a father, that's my son at the end of the day," offered Matthew Conall. "But as a coach, I know he's a rare athlete.

"I think certain people are wired certain ways. He's just one of those people that are wired for this. It's the last best sport, and it boils down to who has the best heart, not who has the best punch."

Good luck, Conall. Here's hoping you made the right decision.

Bill Speltz can be reached at 523-5255 or bill.speltz@missoulian.com

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