LEWISTON, Maine — Travis Bartlett’s pursuit of a career in the mixed martial arts world took him to Las Vegas 2½ years ago.
But a shoulder injury suffered during his last fight put a sudden halt to “The Showstopper’s” plans.
Yet Bartlett hasn’t strayed far from the sport. In addition to his full-time job running above-ground machinery at a mineral extraction site in the Las Vegas area, he has been a sparring partner for some of the top fighters in the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
He has worked with veteran middleweight Wanderlei “The Axe Murderer” Silva and more recently helped Frank Mir, who last weekend lost to Junior dos Santos at UFC 146 in his bid to win that organization’s heavyweight title for the third time.
“I’ve worked with [Mir] for his last three fights and I learned a lot training with him,” said Bartlett, a 1993 graduate of Dexter Regional High School whose father worked at the former Eastland Woolen Mill in Corinna. “It’s been a great place to be.”
Bartlett’s training is more self-centered these days, as he is set to fight professionally for the first time since 2010 on June 16 when he takes on former NFL player Tyler King in a heavyweight matchup as part of the Fight Night III card at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston.
“I knew [New England Fights co-owner] Matt Peterson and had heard about what they were doing and I’ve always wanted to fight in Maine,” Bartlett said. “I’m someone who wants to see MMA be successful in Maine so it seemed like the right thing to do.”
Bartlett took up mixed martial arts while still in Maine in 2007 at the urging of former boxing comrade and current MMA practitioner Marcus Davis, several years after compiling a 77-19 record as an amateur boxer before leaving the sport when he became a father.
“I had taken some time off from boxing and just never got back into it the way I needed to do it,” said Bartlett. “Before that boxing had been my life.”
He won his mixed martial arts debut in 2008 at Mansfield, Mass.
“I was going to work the corner for one of Marcus’ fighters, but he hurt his ankle and the fight was offered to me,” Bartlett said. “I won by knockout in 57 seconds and I thought to myself, ‘I might like this.’”
Bartlett rose quickly through the Northeast mixed martial arts ranks, eventually winning a light heavyweight (205-pound) championship through the Untamed Full Force regional circuit.
After making one successful title defense, Bartlett moved to Las Vegas where he won his first three fights before injuring his shoulder while dropping a unanimous decision to Robert Scott in Las Vegas as part of the MMA Xplosion card on July 31, 2010.
Bartlett (8-2) knows that training for his first fight since then is much different than helping Silva or Mir prepare to enter the cage.
“I’ve been training, but I haven’t been training for a fight for a while,” said the 6-foot-1 Bartlett, who will be making his heavyweight debut against King. “I talked about it with Frank and some other people, and we thought why not give it one more shot because I was already taking the punches every day anyway.
“But I definitely have to step it up. With Frank you work with him on specific things, so if he’s training for five rounds I’m probably in there for one or two rounds. This time I’m back to being out there on my own, and I’m looking forward to it.”
King, a North Attleboro, Mass., native, played defensive end for the University of Connecticut football team and was the Huskies’ defensive MVP in 2004 before moving on to the NFL where his stops included San Diego and Jacksonville.
“When this fight was proposed to me, I jumped at the opportunity,” said King. “Travis is a well-respected fighter who never has a boring fight. His last fight was an absolute war and knowing what I bring to the table, I expect nothing less than a fight-of-the-year candidate for this bout.”
King has a 3-1 professional MMA record, with all of his wins ending in the first round.
“I know he was in the NFL for five years and he’s 6-5, 230 pounds,” said Bartlett. “I guarantee this guy within the first 30 seconds will try to take me down. I know he has a jiu-jitsu background, and from football he has some tackling skills.”
Bartlett hopes this fight with King will reinvigorate his own career, and that he’ll be able to schedule subsequent bouts every six to eight weeks.
“My phone has been blowing up since I started talking about how I had taken this fight,” said Bartlett.
Bartlett will be part of a card headlined by the return of Eastbrook native and two-time former UFC heavyweight champion Tim “The Maine-iac” Sylvia (30-7) to Maine to take on Randy “The Wolf” Smith (14-10-1).
For information on the June 16 Fight Night III card, access www.mma-fightnight.com.
Boetsch-Bisping rescheduled for UFC 149
The battle of middleweight contenders Tim Boetsch and Michael Bisping originally scheduled for UFC 148 in Las Vegas on July 7 has been pushed back two weeks to UFC 149, slated for July 21 at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary, Alberta.
Boetsch, a Lincolnville native and 1999 graduate of Camden-Rockport High School in Rockport, is the UFC’s sixth-ranked middleweight (185 pounds) according to Sherdog.com, while Bisping, a 33-year-old fighter from Liverpool, England, is ranked fourth.
Boetsch, 15-4 overall, is 3-0 since moving down from light heavyweight to the middleweight division last year, including a come-from-behind victory over seventh-ranked Yushin Okami at UFC 144 in Japan last February.
Bisping (22-4) is coming off a loss to Chael Sonnen at the UFC on Fox 2 card in late January that ended his four-fight winning streak.
One reason for moving the Boetsch-Bisping fight is to accommodate the rematch between middleweight champion Anderson Silva and No. 1-contender Sonnen, originally slated to be held in Brazil but now rescheduled for the UFC 148 card in Las Vegas.
The Boetsch-Bisping bout is being portrayed as a possible championship elimination bout, with the winner moving closer to a title match against the Silva-Sonnen winner.