The physical nature of mixed martial arts makes developing a fight card a work in progress right up until the participants enter the cage.
Through no fault of his own, Ray “All Business” Wood has learned that part of the business the hard way.
For the second time in as many bouts, the former standout athlete from Bucksport High School who now lives in Bangor will fight a replacement opponent from a heavier weight class when he competes Sept. 8 in Fight Night IV at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston.
Wood, 4-1 and ranked third in the Northeast among amateurs in the featherweight (145-pound) division by NortheastMMA.net, was scheduled to face top-ranked Sophanarith “Soap” Am (4-0) of Braintree, Mass.
But an injury has forced Am out of the eagerly anticipated matchup, according to New England Fights co-owner and matchmaker Matt Peterson.
“In all the fighters I’ve worked with in four years of matchmaking, I’ve never seen a competitor with tougher luck in getting the matchups he wants than Ray Wood,” said Peterson. “Since I began working with him earlier this year, Ray has consistently asked me to make him fights against top-ranked competition and time and time again his opponents keep falling out for various reasons. This latest fight with Soap is just the most recent example.”
Replacing Am as Wood’s opponent will be lightweight Jason “Skip” Libby (3-2) from Bill Jones’ The Shop training center in Somersworth, N.H.
Libby holds wins over two of Wood’s Young’s MMA stablemates in Drew Waltz and Zackary Adams, so Wood is eager to extract some revenge for the Bangor gym, though the Fight Night IV bout will require him to move up in weight to face Libby at 155 pounds.
“Libby versus Wood was not what we had originally hoped for, but in the end it’s all part of the fight game,” said Wood. “We will move up in weight to fight at 155 and maybe earn some redemption for Young’s MMA since as a team we’re 0-2 against Jason.”
At April’s Fight Night II in Biddeford, Wood also had to move up to face replacement opponent Shane Manley at a catch weight of 150 pounds and dropped a three-round decision for the only loss in his career to date.
“Now Ray must go up in weight once more to find a fight with a quality opponent, but he was willing to do it again — no questions asked,” said Peterson. “This kid is the real deal — a warrior through and through — and it’s a pleasure to be working with him and his team.”
Libby’s original Fight Night IV opponent also dropped off the card.
“Ray is a tough fighter just like I am,” said Libby. “He wants to fight the toughest guys in the Northeast, so naturally this will be a great fight for both of us. As always, I’m looking forward to having some fun in the cage.”
Boyington gets new opponent
Another change on the Fight Night IV card means a new opponent for Brewer pro Bruce Boyington.
The Young’s MMA fighter (3-2) originally was scheduled to fight Tony Woodman of Havoc MMA in Sanford as part of a four-man tournament to crown New England Fights’ first Maine 155-pound (lightweight) champion.
Boyington still will be part of that tournament, but with Woodman dropping out he now will face Keenan Raymond of Team Rockstar in Cranston, R.I., who will be making his pro debut after winning both of his amateur bouts.
The Boyington-Woodman winner will take on the winner of the other Fight Night IV lightweight semifinal between Jamie Harrison of First Coast Full Contact in Orange Park, Fla., and Josh Parker of Littlefield’s Gym in Oakland for the title on a subsequent NEF card.
Military appreciation day set
New England Fights has declared Thursday as its Military Appreciation Day, when the promotion will make available to military personnel hundreds of free tickets to its Sept. 8 Fight Night IV MMA card.
“[NEF co-owner] Nick [DiSalvo] and I have wanted to do this for a while now, but we just couldn’t get it set up in time before our previous events,” said Peterson. “This is to show our appreciation to the brave men and women that protect our freedoms each and every day.”
On Thursday, U.S. military personnel from the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard and National Guard may claim one free ticket from the box office at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston. Military members must appear personally at the Colisee box office between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. that day and present a valid military identification to receive their ticket. The offer is limited to one ticket per identification. The ticket value is $25.
“I think it is very applaudable to see they [NEF] are extending opportunities to the people most deserving in our country, the military personnel,” said Boyington, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1998 to 2002. “I have not fought for a better promotion. From the night of the fights to the time outside the cage, NEF is constantly working and if any of you have been to a Fight Night, you’re able to see the end result of men working for a passion rather than for a profit. It is my pleasure as a fighter and a veteran to be a part of this journey.”
Fight Night IV will be headlined by a fight between Jesse Peterson (6-2) and Cody Lightfoot (6-3) for the NEF Maine MMA middleweight title, as well as a bout for the NEF Maine MMA welterweight crown between “The” Ryan Sanders (4-1) and UFC veteran Ricardo Funch (8-4).