LEWISTON, Maine — Maine’s mixed martial arts world has experienced an explosion this year on multiple fronts.
An estimated 10,000 fans have flocked to the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston to watch three cards hosted by the New England Fights promotion, and 1,600 filled the Biddeford Ice Arena for another NEF card.
“I couldn’t be happier with the response we’ve gotten in the state,” said NEF co-owner and promoter Nick DiSalvo. “I knew we’d do well in this market, but I could’ve never foreseen just how passionate the fans would be about the sport.”
The chance to compete within the state’s borders has led to a flood of Maine athletes turning to the sport, which in turn has spawned an uptick of activity at training centers large and small throughout the state.
“Maine is so heavy with mixed martial arts talent right now, it’s difficult to comprehend just how far the sport has come in the short time it’s been regulated here,” said NEF co-owner and matchmaker Matt Peterson.
In Greater Bangor alone, the Team Irish MMA Fitness Academy and Young’s MMA — which earlier this year moved from modest accommodations in Brewer to a much larger facility in Bangor — have benefitted from the growth of the sport in the region.
So, too, have smaller, more fledgling fitness academies like Innovative Athletics Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in Augusta, owned and operated by jiu-jitsu and MMA practitioner Jarod Lawton.
“We just opened four months ago, but we’re getting guys into the gym who want to fight,” said Lawton. “It’s a small part of our business but it’s growing, and it’s great exposure for the business.”
The 28-year-old Lawton will help round out the 2012 NEF schedule in Maine on Saturday when he battles “The” Ryan Sanders of Young’s MMA in one of five pro bouts set for the Fight Night V card to be held at the Colisee.
Twelve amateur fights commence the evening’s schedule at 5 p.m.
Lawton has competed in both jiu-jitsu and MMA events this year, most recently winning his brown belt division in the 2012 No-Gi Pan American Championships held in New York in early October.
Since then, he’s focused on preparing for his first mixed martial arts bout since the Fight Night II card at Biddeford in April when he was stopped on cuts in the third round of his bout with highly regarded Darrius Heyliger of Team Bombsquad from Ithaca, N.Y.
“The last three or four months have been real good preparation for me,” said Lawton, who will fight Sanders in the welterweight (170-pound) division. “I’ve worked on my wrestling, my striking and my conditioning trying to get myself in the best condition I can for this fight.”
Lawton (1-1) sees a lot of similarities in the cage between himself and the 4-2 Sanders.
“He’s a tricky fighter,” said Lawton. “He’s always in really good condition and he likes to use that to his advantage, but we feel like we have a pretty good game plan.”
Other scheduled pro fights include a battle for the inaugural NEF Maine State bantamweight (135-pound) championship between Portland’s Paul Gorman (9-9) and Adam Toussaint (5-4) of North Berwick; a double pro debut at 145 pounds between Ray “All Business” Wood of Young’s MMA and John “First Class” Raio of MMA Athletix in Brunswick; Bruce Boyington of Young’s MMA (3-4) against Massachusetts fighter John Ortolani (6-6) at 155 and undefeated Dez Green (5-0) of Team Bombsquad against Brandon Fleming (2-1) at a catch weight of 150 pounds.
Amateur bouts have John Parker (0-1) against Ken Foster (0-1) at 125 pounds; Derek Shorey (2-5) against Cody Sargent (0-1), Eric Austin (1-0) against Steve Sobel (1-0), Elias Leland (1-1) against Tommy Balzano (3-1) and Nick Spencer (2-1) against Brandon Bushaw (2-2), all at 135; Shawn Goodrich (0-0) against Edward Milville at 145; Jesse Erickson (2-1) against Drew Waltz (1-1), Rob Vanadastine (0-0) against Nate Charles (0-4) and Damon Owens (1-3) against Steven Bang (0-0), at 155; Tollison Lewison (2-2) against Tim Tucker (0-2) at 170; Crowsneck Boutin (0-2) against Tony Wells (0-1) at 195 and Brent “Frosty” Dillingham (3-0) against Ben Raven (0-0) at 205.
New England Fights already has scheduled its first card for 2013, Fight Night VI on Feb. 2 — the night before Super Bowl XLVII — at the Colisee.
“In 2013 we’ll continue to produce shows in Lewiston,” said DiSalvo, “as well as other parts of the state where we’re currently trying to work out deals with different venues.”
Peterson regains seat in Legislature
Peterson, who is also the matchmaker for New England Fights, was elected to his third term in the Maine House of Representatives on Nov. 6.
Peterson, a Democrat from Rumford, secured 73.44 percent of the general election vote to defeat Republican Thomas H. Skofield 2,900-1,049, according to results tabulated by the Bangor Daily News.
Peterson won the fifth-highest percentage of the vote among all the winners in the state’s 151 House races. Only Richard Farnsworth of District 117 in Portland (77.58 percent), Ken Fredette of District 25 in the Newport area (75.51), Peter Stuckey of District 114 in Portland (76.26) and Stacey Guerin of District 22 in the Kenduskeag area (73.79) earned a higher percentage of the vote in their districts than Peterson.
During his first term in the Legislature, Peterson was instrumental in getting mixed martial arts legalized in Maine.