Promoters, fans excited about MMA’s debut in Maine

Posted April 29, 2011, at 4:29 p.m.
Last modified April 29, 2011, at 8:32 p.m.

The sponsorships and advertising spots have all been bought up, the fight card is full, and the seats are nearly sold out for Maine’s first mixed-martial arts pro fighting event.

The Maine Event at Portland’s Stevens Avenue Armory Saturday features 16 fights — eight amateur followed by eight pro — with different regulations for each division and fighters from Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut and New York.

“It’s a huge card, and the balance on the card is totally even when it comes to Maine and out-of-state fighters, as well as pro and amateur,” said Jim Parent, admissions director for the Team Irish MMA Fitness Academy in Brewer, one of the event’s two main sponsors along with Cage Fighting Xtreme (CFX) of Massachusetts. “People are going to be talking about this show at the water cooler for the next week.

“This has been something people have been champing at the bit for for years here in Maine.”

Ticket sales back Parent up as more than three-quarters of the 2,000 available tickets have already been sold.

“It’s been absolutely crazy. I wouldn’t be surprised if we sell out early Saturday,” said Parent. “We have six VIP tables for 10 people at $1,500 apiece and we’ve sold all six. And we actually had to turn some fighters away who were qualified, but we just couldn’t keep adding to the card.”

Doors open at 5:30 p.m. with the first fight slated to start around 6:30 p.m.

The opening bell can’t ring soon enough for fighters like Jon Lemke of Bangor.

The 32-year-old Wisconsin transplant and University of Maine parks and recreation and tourism major has been MMA training for 18 months.

He had hardly any fighting training aside from some Marine Corps boxing before he decided to participate in a Monday night grappling program at Calvary Chapel Christian Academy in Orrington.

“I’m absolutely looking forward to it. We’ve known about this since February and we’ve all been working really hard,” said Lemke, who is 1-0 in his amateur career after winning on a decision as well as winning fight-of-the-night honors in Massachusetts last November.

Lemke, Colby Brown (3-3 MMA record), Andrew Hughes and Stephen Desjardins will represent Team Irish at The Maine Event.

“I just happened to go over to Team Irish one night and I never stopped going. I go five or six days a week now,” said Lemke. “When I first went to Calvary, I didn’t really have this in mind, but now the ultimate dream for me is to make a living doing this and better my life.”

The Maine Event is the realization of a longtime goal that former UFC veteran fighter Marcus Davis of Bangor has had for almost two decades.

“I set goals and stuff. I just wanted to be a professional fighter,” said Davis, who won his first MMA fight since being released by the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) . “Now I’m in video games, toys have been made of me, a book (is) coming out, I’ve been in magazines and on trading cards… This is all stuff I never planned on happening, but one I did was to promote a fight and now that’s finally happening.”

The event has been almost a year in the making, with the biggest hurdle being the creation of Maine’s Mixed-Martial Arts Authority to oversee events like this one.

“We wanted to do this back in October, but we’ve had to wait on the commission,” said Davis.

The Maine Legislature legalized the sport two years ago after Rumford Rep. Matthew Peterson sponsored a bill to legalize MMA in Maine as a way to spur economic development and boost tourism.

The event features separate rules for the two divisions: Amateurs will fight in three, three-minute rounds using six-ounce gloves. They must wear shin guards and may not strike the head with knees or elbows. Pros will fight three, five-minute rounds with four-ounce gloves, no shin guards, and no restrictions on knee or elbow strikes.

“This should be a great event for fans because they’ll get a chance to see two types of fights with different rules,” said Parent. “And these guys know they’re not just representing their clubs, but also the sport. They understand the goal is not only to win, but to put on a great show.”

Tickets are $45, $65, $85 and $105.

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