Twin Ports fighter fighting to fight againTeslah Bastian says she doesn’t have a mean or vengeful bone in her body. Which can make it difficult to be a mixed martial arts fighter or to hold a grudge against the person she said dropped her on her head, ending or at least putting on hold the 19-year-old’s dreams of being a professional fighter.
By: By Brandon Stahl, Duluth News Tribune , Superior Telegram
Teslah Bastian says she doesn’t have a mean or vengeful bone in her body.
Which can make it difficult to be a mixed martial arts fighter or to hold a grudge against the person she said dropped her on her head, ending or at least putting on hold the 19-year-old’s dreams of being a professional fighter.
“I don’t want to ruin someone else’s life just because my life was slightly changed,” she said.
To say her life has slightly changed is an understatement. Bastian was helping with setup at an MMA event at the Stargate Nightclub in Superior on May 3 when she said her friend, Ryan VanPuymbrouck, a Duluth MMA fighter, was drunk, came up behind up her, picked her up by her knees, and accidentally dropped her on her head.
“I think he was trying to greet me,” she said. “It was just a freak accident that changes your life.”
VanPuymbrouck told the News Tribune that Bastian “jumped on me and we toppled over” before declining to comment any further.
Bastian said she was taken to St. Mary’s Medical Center in Duluth, where she was diagnosed with a spinal cord injury, nerve damage and possible brain damage from the incident. She says she’s now relearning to walk, and endures constant pain that keeps her awake until the early morning hours, when she passes out from exhaustion.
It was another setback for a Colorado native who said she’s already lived a tough life. She said her mom was an alcoholic and heroin addict who committed suicide when she was 15. She was adopted at age 6 by parents she said she
didn’t get along with, and bounced in and out of foster and group homes.
“I was headed down a bad path,” she said. “Drugs, alcohol, gang involvement. I was associated with gangs, I wasn’t in them. But I could see where it was getting worse.”
At 16, Bastian moved to Iron River to live with her grandmother, Evie Sorensen, who runs the Top O’ the Morn Resort and Campground. She said she started working at the resort, learning better values and getting her life on track, and she went to Northwestern High School in Maple.
She eventually got interested in ultimate fighting and started helping out at Twin Ports MMA after going there with her boyfriend at the time, said gym owner Nick Sutton.
At the end of last year, Sutton said he was asked to match a fight with a female from his gym. Bastian volunteered, even though she had no experience and had never been in an MMA cage.
“She was set up to lose,” Sutton said. “We found out later (her opponent, Carolynn Biskup) had a record of 4 and 0, was doing this for four years, and had her own gym in the Detroit area.”
There was no talking Bastian out of the fight. She spent five days a week, four hours a day in the gym training, Sutton said. The only thing that nearly stopped Bastian was an incident where, in a photo opportunity the day of the fight, Biskup dropped her keys and said “thank you” when Bastian picked them up for her.
“At that point I didn’t think I could hit her,” she said. “(In MMA) we look at each other with respect. And when you look at someone with respect, it’s hard to hit them.”
But she had no problems on Feb. 6, when Bastian dispatched Biskup in just over a minute, first by pummeling her with a series of punishing hammer punches as she sat on top of Biskup, then by forcing Biskup to submit using a choke hold.
After the fight, Bastian said she had sponsorship offers to travel to California to train professionally. Now, she said she’s hoping for financial help simply to return to physical therapy.
Her friends have said they will organize at Twin Ports MMA gym on Thursday to begin planning fundraisers for Bastian, which could include a concert and promotional fight. They’ve already set up a fund for donations through the Twin Ports MMA web site, www.twinportsmma.com.
Bastian credits those same friends for not leaving her side while she was in the hospital, and for providing her with a place to stay. Otherwise, she said, she’d be homeless.
And if she’s able to recover from her injuries, her ultimate goal is to return to the ring.
“People keep saying that’s a bad idea, but I haven’t been one to listen to things like that,” she said. “People say I’ll never be the same again and that makes me scared and I want to cry, but I can’t let that get to me. … What’s getting me through this is love and support from so many people.
“That in itself heals all minds. I’ll get better just because I’m being supported. If I have legs that won’t work, I’ll have friends who will make them work for me.”