BREWER, Maine — NEF VII, the New England Fights mixed martial arts card set for May 18 at Lewiston’s Androscoggin Bank Colisee, will have a distinct Irish flavor.
Sixteen fighters from the Team Irish Fitness Academy, which has branches in Brewer and southern Maine, are set to compete on the card, which is slated to start at 4 p.m. to accommodate more than 30 scheduled professional and amateur bouts.
And that doesn’t count gym owner Marcus “The Irish Hand Grenade” Davis, who will headline the show in a welterweight bout against New Yorker Darrius Heyliger before turning his focus to his recently signed long-term deal with Bellator, the nation’s second-largest mixed martial arts franchise.
“I’m really excited to be able to be part of a show that is showcasing my team and feel very confident in all of the matchups that we are all facing,” said Davis.
The Team Irish contingent includes former UFC competitor Henry Martinez (9-5), who will square off against Dez Green (8-1) for the Maine state lightweight title; fellow pros Jon Lemke and Tommy Balzano; and top-ranked amateur welterweight prospects Andrew Tripp and Andrew Hughes.
But also getting a showcase at the Colisee will be several Team Irish students making their amateur debuts, newcomers to the cage such as brothers Jeremy and Jarrod Tyler of Winterport. Both are former standout athletes at Hampden Academy, with Jarrod, 30, earning all-state honors in football and Jeremy, 26, making his mark in football and track and field.
Both went on to play semipro football before opting to join the family businesses, but once mixed martial arts took its foothold in Maine their competitive juices were reinvigorated.
“I have always loved combat sports and I had always wanted to give it a shot,” said Jarrod. “About this time last year I was looking for something to help me through a rough time. It took all of one class at Team Irish to know I had found something I truly love and an amazing group of people to train with as well.”
Jeremy Tyler soon followed his brother to Team Irish, and it wasn’t long before they became training partners.
“Training together is always enjoyable because Jarrod is not only my brother, he is one of my greatest friends,” he said. “Jarrod and I have a great back and forth. We are able to critique each other’s techniques in a positive way and motivate each other to push harder in training. Most importantly, we have trust in one another. I couldn’t ask for anything better in a training partner.”
Jeremy Tyler is scheduled to face Tollison Lewis (2-5) from Balanced Ground MMA in a 165-pound bout at NEF VII, while Jarrod is set to face off with fellow newcomer Chris Ouellette (0-0) from Havoc MMA in a welterweight (170-pound) clash.
“The first few days the Tyler brothers came into Team Irish, I wasn’t around,” Davis said. “But I heard from other students that two new guys had joined the gym and were tough as nails. Both of them have huge potential in this sport. The funny thing is, like a lot of siblings stylistically they are polar opposites — even in their stances. One is conventional and the other a southpaw.”
Despite the fact that these will be their first sanctioned bouts, both Tylers are confident in their preparation thanks in part to the influence of their coach.
“Marcus Davis is a key element to my continued interest in MMA,” said Jeremy. “I look forward to training with Marcus because I know that when I leave his class, I leave an improved version of what I walked in as. Marcus works with the fighter he is training as an individual.
“Marcus also expresses the importance of family and a balanced lifestyle. Marcus has forever changed the way I train and enhanced my lifestyle and I can’t thank him enough for that.”
The Tyler brothers hope their NEF debuts are merely the first steps in a long, satisfying mixed martial arts journey.
“My goals in this sport are to become a common name heard amongst the great Maine fighters,” said Jarrod. “I want to become a professional fighter and someday fight and hold a championship belt. I set my goals high because I truly love this sport and believe I was meant to do this.”