Hammond-based MMA team making quite a name for itself
By Anthony D. Alonzo Post-Tribune correspondent March 12, 2014 11:26PM
Team Underground members (left to right) Dan McGing, Bob Ahlers, Elisieo Iglesias, Dean Neely, Erik Dalton and Michael Young display a team logo at their Highland training space on March 3. The MMA fighters have participated in several United Combat League events.
Updated: April 14, 2014 11:13AM
A buzz steadily has grown over the past two years as members of Team Underground MMA of Hammond have found themselves on the level with competitors from throughout Northwest Indiana and the Chicago area.
Defying the unknown or secretive connotations of their name, Team Underground, under the direction of founder and coach Tim Carlisle, of Highland, has left a mark on local mixed martial arts competition and built a modest following in the region.
Carlisle, who is a lead detention officer at the Lake County Juvenile Center in Crown Point, mentors several fighters employing his “private gym” and “just a training camp” paradigm in his garage in Highland.
“Here’s 10 chokes that work every time,” Carlisle said about throwing out ineffective fighting techniques. “I just take the moves the work the best and put it together. It’s like a science project to me — the science of fighting.”
In just two years, Carlisle has helped stock local MMA cards with fighters whom he said he “takes off the street” and converts into athletes who learn just the essentials of the sport — what they need to take down or submit their opponents.
Carlisle, 47, said his interest in MMA began to take shape when he was a teen and a participant in taekwondo tournaments. Years later, he taught kickboxing and other aspects of martial arts. But he had an itching to go no-gi — to take off his martial arts robe — and train with established MMA fighters, not watch from the bench.
His team is built around area fighters such as Josh Weddington. Though the Hammond fighter dropped his bout at the “Havoc in Hammond,” where Miguel Torres was the victorious headliner, he maintains a 4-2 record from dates with United Combat League.
“Josh Weddington called me and asked, ‘Tim, do you remember me?’ ” Carlisle said about the period when he had left another area martial arts school and was teaching on his own. “He goes, ‘Would you please train me, I want to do a cage fight.’ And that’s how it all began.”
In his garage, where space heaters hum to fight off the freezing temperature, Carlisle pointed out fighters such as Michael Young, who at 23 is an active member of the National Guard. Young aspires to become a pro this year.
“At first I said I don’t want to be a part of (MMA) because I’m a runner. I was coaching track,” Young said about a friend’s initial invitation to train with Underground. “They let me fight, though, and ever since them I’ve been addicted to it.”
Dean Neely, a 300-pounder, is buoyed by his win at Havoc in February. The tall fighter wears his weight well, with most people guessing he weighs in the mid-200s. He and teammate Dan McGing, of Hammond, were among a half-dozen Underground members who recently focused on fight situations working up a sweat and crashing the mats under Carlisle’s watchful eyes.
McGing, a relative newbie, also still feels the buzz from his win at Havoc. He was a rare highlight for Underground on a night when the team went 2-4. Despite that, the Hammond Civic Center rumbled with cheers every time a local MMA artist entered the cage.
Immediately after his fight, McGing sought out Dan Pennington, his uncle who was recovering from an aneurism, to share his victory joy.
“I saw nothing but fans, nothing but love and nothing but family,” McGing said at the Havoc. “Wherever my team wants to take me I’m down for fighting.”
As a whole, Team Underground is preparing for five MMA events that are slated for the Civic Center within the next year.