LEWISTON, Maine — The fans were still filing out of the Androscoggin Bank Colisee after Thursday night’s Bellator 93 card when plans for the next mixed martial arts card at the historic arena were announced.
Former UFC competitor Marcus “The Irish Hand Grenade” Davis of Bangor — fresh off an appearance at the Bellator event — will headline a card hosted by the Maine-based New England Fights promotion on Saturday, May 18.
Davis, the one-time boxer who is 21-9 in MMA competition, will take on Darrius Heyliger, a top welterweight prospect from the Team Bombsquad camp in upstate New York.
“It’s a real honor to have Marcus Davis competing for us,” said NEF co-owner and promoter Nick DiSalvo. “He’s one of the true trailblazers in the sport. He put Maine MMA on the map.”
The May 18 card also will feature two NEF Maine state championship bouts, with Dexter native Travis “The Showstopper” Bartlett facing Randy “The Wolf” Smith for the heavyweight belt and Jamie Harrison squaring off against Henry Martinez for the lightweight crown.
The 39-year-old Davis will be competing in his home state for the third time overall and the second time in less than two months af ter his Bellator debut fight against Waachiim Spiritwolf was ruled a no contest when an accidental knee near the groin during the first round of the bout left the Californian unable to continue.
“To be honest with you, I hate dogging people, especially after a fight,” said the charismatic Davis. “The old Marcus Davis, who was mean and nasty and in the pursuit, the one that went to the Maine Youth Center, would have but now I’m not that guy. I’m father Marcus, father of four, [a] church-going guy.
“I don’t want to be the bad guy but I will tell you this: It is legal to hit him on the belt line and I hit him right on the line. There was no cup, I felt nothing but belly. I know there’s a delayed reaction when you get hit in the [groin], but he looked for a way out because he realized there was no way he was going to put his hands on me.”
Spiritwolf was not available for comment after the fight.
The NEF VII fight will be Davis’ second of three bouts within a four-month span, as he also is slated to fight as part of a Team USA vs. Team UK (United Kingdom) promotion in late June.
“Everyone knows that I haven’t been healthy since 2008 and that’s the truth,” Davis said. “All the doctors I’ve ever seen will tell you that, but my doctor right now will tell you that I’ve never been as healthy as I am right now since I’ve been with him.
“I am through the roof, I’m reinvigorated, I’m reinvented, I’m Marcus 3.0. I’m ready to keep going and I’m hoping everybody in Maine will come and support me.”
The 5-foot-9-inch, 170-pound Davis will have an interesting physical matchup at NEF VII against the 6-foot-2 Heyliger.
The 24-year-old Heyliger (5-1) has fought twice before on NEF cards in Maine, defeating Jarrod Lawton last April in Biddeford and then topping Josh Bellows in September in Lewiston.
“Darrius is one of those out-of-town guys that we get a ton of requests from fans to see again and again,” said NEF co-owner and matchmaker Matt Peterson. “His fight with Jarrod Lawton last spring was one of the most brutal encounters we’ve ever had in the NEF cage. This fight with Marcus Davis promises much of the same.”
Davis expects a vastly different strategic challenge from the lanky Heyliger than he received from the stocky Spiritwolf.
“In less than two months I’ll be back in here against a kid who’s going to be game, who’s going to be hungry, and it’s going to be a whole different stylistic fight,” said Davis. “Now I’m going to fight someone who’s much taller than I am, and he’s a good wrestler and a good kickboxer, too. He’s going to come to fight, and he’s the age of my oldest child — I have a 22-year-old daughter.”
Harrison (4-1) earned his berth in the NEF VII co-main event for the lightweight title with four straight wins for the promotion during 2012. Known for what has become known as the “lobster punch,” the Maine native will be challenged by Martinez (9-5), a seven-year MMA veteran from Albuquerque, N.M., who will be seeking to bounce back after his recent release from the UFC.
Bartlett (8-3) has spent the last few years in Las Vegas where he has been a sought-after sparring partner for the likes of UFC standouts Wanderlei “The Axe Murderer” Silva and Frank Mir.
He’ll be making his home-state debut for the NEF heavyweight crown against Smith, a Cortland, N.Y., product whose 14-13-1 record includes a first-round loss to Maine native Tim Sylvia during an NEF card in Lewiston last June.