After an absence of nearly three years, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) will return to Boston on Aug. 17.
UFC president Dana White recently announced via Twitter plans for his organization to stage just its second card at the TD Garden in conjunction with the debut of the Fox Sports 1 cable television channel, formerly the Speed Channel.
This will mark the UFC’s first event in Boston since UFC 118 on Aug. 28, 2010. That card included an appearance by Bangor’s Marcus Davis, former three-time UFC heavyweight champion Randy Couture’s submission victory over former boxer James Toney, and Frankie Edgar defending his UFC light heavyweight title by defeating B.J. Penn.
Specifics about the Aug. 17 fight card and ticket information have not yet been released.
Raio adds new NEF duties
John “First Class’’ Raio of Topsham, one of the most popular fighters to compete for the Maine-based New England Fights mixed martial arts promotion, has joined the organization’s staff as manager of athlete development.
In his new capacity, Raio will mentor other NEF athletes on how to maintain a healthy lifestyle while training, build their brand, procure sponsors, and being effective MMA representatives and spokespersons. Raio also will be involved in other activities for the organization including community relations, event marketing and social media.
“John’s success in the cage, disciplined lifestyle, remarkable ability to multitask and wild popularity makes him highly qualified for this position,” said NEF co-owner and promoter Nick DiSalvo.
Raio plans to continue to be active in the cage, though he will not be on NEF’s next scheduled card on May 18 at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston.
“It has been an awesome experience fighting for NEF during six of my seven mixed martial arts contests,” said Raio. “I am excited to continue working with the No. 1 MMA promotion in New England both inside and outside the cage.”
Raio grew up in Gardiner and won a high school wrestling state championship at 125 pounds for Gardiner High School in 1995. He went on to wrestle at Plymouth State University and the University of Southern Maine.
Raio, married and the father of two children, began training in mixed martial arts shortly after Maine legalized the sport in 2009. He won his first four amateur bouts and earned a top-10 ranking in the Northeast in his weight class before turning professional last November.
Most recently, Raio made his debut for Bellator MMA where he suffered a third-round loss to top prospect Vince Murdock in Lewiston on March 21.
Erickson, Parker sign with NEF
NEF veterans Jesse “The Viking” Erickson of Auburn and Josh Parker of Oakland have signed multifight promotional contracts with the organization, deals that begin when they battle each other on the NEF VII card scheduled for May 18 in Lewiston.
Erickson is 0-1 as a pro after compiling a 4-2 amateur record, while Parker has a 4-5 pro record.
“Signing two tough, hard-working, disciplined professionals like Jesse Erickson and Josh Parker to long-term contracts is the real joy of this job,” said NEF co-owner and matchmaker Matt Peterson of Rumford. “Both guys have always fought valiantly for us. It will be a privilege to work with them on the next stages of their careers.”
Erickson joins fellow NEF fighter Ray “All Business” Wood as a former top-ranked amateur and recently turned professional to sign with the promotion. The Central Maine Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu product recently made his professional debut on Bellator MMA’s March 21 card in Lewiston where he lost a hard-fought battle against undefeated Team Irish Fitness Academy standout Jon Lemke of Brewer.
“I feel honored with the opportunity to sign with NEF,” said Erickson. “I’ve fought for every one of their shows, and I have grown as a fighter on their stage. I look forward to the next level of competition the professional level brings.”
Parker has competed in four of NEF’s last six events, highlighted by a come-from-behind second-round submission victory over former South Carolina champion Amos Collins in his most recent bout.
NEF offers application for fans
New England Fights now has its own app, available for free on the iTunes App Store for the iPhone, iPad, iTouch, and in Google Play for Android mobile platform users.
The app provides fans with many of the same features available at newenglandfights.com in a streamlined format. Fans can access the official NEF Facebook page and Twitter account, watch official NEF fight videos, listen to NEF podcasts, submit photos and interact with other NEF followers through the Fan Wall while also being the first to receive notices about event discounts and other offers.
“For fans of NEF, like many people, mobile devices are increasingly becoming the primary way they access the Internet,” said NEF co-owner and promoter Nick DiSalvo. “We aim to offer information in the most convenient way to our fighters and fans alike.”