BANGOR, Maine — The Queen City got its first taste of mixed martial arts Friday night, but it’s unlikely to be the last.
“We will definitely be back,” said Matt Peterson, co-owner and matchmaker for New England Fights, the Maine-based MMA promotional company that staged the “Nations Collide: Canadian Invasion” show at Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion in conjunction with Waterfront Concerts.
A crowd of more than 3,000 turned out for the outdoor show, which included five professional bouts and nine amateur contests that in many cases featured fighters from two local gyms, Team Irish MMA Fitness Academy of Brewer and Young’s MMA of Bangor.
“Bangor is certainly a fight town, you have two of the biggest and I would say best gyms in the state right here,” said Peterson. “And at the end of the day, it’s about the quality of the fights, especially when you have a lot of new fans like we did here. But the guys who went out there really stepped up.”
The MMA cage was set up immediately in front of the stage Waterfront Concerts has used in recent years to bring some of the world’s largest musical acts to Bangor, and Peterson said that organization also played a key promotional role in attracting fight fans to the venue for the first time.
“Anytime you stage something for the first time, not everything goes the way you want,” said Waterfront Concerts president Alex Gray. “But in light of any obstacles we had to face I thought it went as well as we could have expected.
“It sold well enough for us to want to do it again.”
NEF officials, who had staged six of their previous seven shows at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston, had to cope with weather forecasts that for much of the week suggested a 30 percent chance of rain on fight night.
But instead the bouts were held under a clear, star-lit sky with temperatures dropping into the mid-60s by the time Bucksport’s Ray “All Business” Wood capped off the evening by defeating Canadian Lenny Wheeler to win the inaugural NEF Maine featherweight championship.
“It was a brand new market, a brand new venue, and we rolled the dice with the weather,” said Peterson. “That all tempered our expectations, but the way the night turned out just blew our minds.”
In the aftermath of the fights, NEF and Waterfront Concerts officials have discussed how to fine-tune a potential second Bangor MMA show.
One area of improvement might involve improving fan sight lines, particularly for when the fighters are doing battle on the mat.
Gray suggested possibly employing IMAX video screens similar to those used by Waterfront Concerts during some of its larger concerts as a means of making the fights easier to see from more distant seats.
“When we sat down and talked after the fights, we immediately thought of 50 things we could do to make it better the next time,” Peterson said.
“But this was a great beginning for MMA in Bangor. The way the city of Bangor embraced us and with Waterfront Concerts bringing so much in terms of what they do, I was proud to look out over the crowd and see the ocean of fans who made the choice to spend their hard-earned dollars to spend a beautiful summer night outside watching cage fighting.”