BREWER, Maine — Jon Lemke admittedly was going through a trying time in his life when he discovered mixed martial arts.
“I was looking for an outlet, and before then it had always been competition,” said Lemke, a former high school football player in his native Wisconsin who went on to compete on the U.S. Marine Corps boxing team in 2000 and 2001 while serving a four-year stint in the military.
“I found that I really missed it.”
That was three years ago, and now after going undefeated in five amateur bouts the Brewer resident finds himself ready to make his professional MMA debut Saturday night. He faces Boston’s Nate Oses in a lightweight (155-pound) bout during Fight Night IV at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston.
“It’s been great,” said the 33-year-old Lemke, a custodian at the University of Maine who trains out of Marcus Davis’ Team Irish MMA Fitness Academy in Brewer. “For me it’s been a childhood and lifelong dream to be a professional athlete, and to be part of a great team and to learn from the best is a blessing.
The Lemke-Oses bout is one of 28 fights scheduled for New England Fights’ fourth in-state promotion this year.
The first of 20 amateur bouts is scheduled to start at 7 p.m., with eight pro fights rounding out the card.
Two main events will crown NEF Maine professional champions in the middleweight and welterweight divisions, with Mainers Jesse Peterson and Cody Lightfoot battling for the middleweight (185-pound) crown and “The” Ryan Sanders of Young’s MMA in Bangor and Brazilian Gil de Freitas vying for the welterweight (170-pound) title.
Lemke initially was poised to join the pro ranks not long after taking up the sport until a knee injury derailed those plans.
He subsequently found success in the amateur ranks, eventually winning the Cage Fighting Xtreme lightweight championship this past St. Patrick’s Day in Plymouth, Mass., with a second-round technical knockout of Cody Espaniola.
That performance in his most recent fight not only elevated Lemke to the No. 2 ranking among amateur lightweights according to NortheastMMA.net, but spurred him to pursue his professional dream.
“It just seemed like the right time to do it,” said the 5-foot-8 Lemke. “I was ready to capitalize on the momentum from that fight and take the next step.”
Scouting reports on fighters making their pro debuts typically aren’t too detailed, but Lemke does have some information on Oses, who is ranked fifth among Northeast amateur lightweights and likewise will be competing as a pro for the first time.
“From what I see he’s a real tough kid,” said Lemke. “He was 4-2 as an amateur, and he took his fights deep which means he’s in great shape. I just want to make the most of my opportunity.”
Lemke, who fought just once in Maine during his amateur career, is looking forward to competing closer to home at Fight Night IV.
“It will be great to have friends and family coming down and sharing with them the passion and love I have for the sport and to let them see it firsthand,” he said.
Sylvia bout ends in ‘no contest’
A controversial ending marked the return of Eastbrook native and two-time former UFC heavyweight champion Tim “The Maine-iac” Sylvia to the MMA cage last weekend.
Sylvia took on Andrei “The Pit Bull” Arlovski of Belarus during the Pride of a Nation card staged by the One Fighting Championship promotion in Manila, Philippines, on Friday night but the fight was declared a no contest late in the second round.
According to reports from the scene, Sylvia was the early aggressor but Arlovski used a three-punch combination to knock the Ellsworth High School graduate down during the second round.
Arlovski followed up with two soccer-style kicks, one to Sylvia’s upper body and the second to the head, but referee Yuji Shimada had not declared an “open attack” situation that under OFC rules would have deemed it safe for a fighter to soccer-kick his grounded opponent.
The kicks were ruled fouls, and when Sylvia was unable to continue after being allowed a five-minute recovery period, the bout was stopped and declared a no contest.
The OFC has since changed its rule to make soccer kicks legal at all times, which falls in line with regulations currently used by the Pride FC promotion.
Sylvia is now 31-7-1, while Arlovski is 17-9-1.
This was Sylvia’s first bout since his 12-second stoppage of Randy “The Wolf” Smith at Fight Night III held in Lewiston on June 16.
It also marked the fourth time Sylvia and Arlovski had fought, the previous three times in the top-tier Ultimate Fighting Championship, or UFC. Sylvia won two of the first three bouts, one by first-round knockout and the second by unanimous decision.
Talk after their Manila matchup suggested the two will fight again either later this year or early next year.