RUMFORD, Maine — Building a successful regional mixed martial arts franchise has been just one of the goals espoused by officials of New England Fights since that organization hosted its first show in Lewiston barely 18 months ago.
Another goal has to been to help develop individual MMA practitioners capable of reaching more advanced levels of the sport, and now that is happening.
Dez “The Predator” Green, the reigning NEF Maine state lightweight (155-pound) champion, recently signed a contract with the nation’s second-largest promotion, Bellator MMA. He will compete in that organization’s fall featherweight (145-pound) tournament beginning with a nationally televised bout on Spike TV against Brazilian Fabricio de Assisa Costa da Silva set for Sept. 13, at Temecula, Calif.
The winner of that eight-man tournament will earn $100,000 and a title bout against the Bellator featherweight world champion, currently American Pat Curran.
The 23-year-old Green, formerly an all-American wrestler at the University of Buffalo, won the NEF crown in his last fight with a second-round technical knockout of former Ultimate Fighting Championship veteran Henry Martinez at NEF VII held May 18 at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston.
“We structure arrangements with the athletes that we work with based on their aspirations,” said NEF co-owner and matchmaker Matt Peterson. “Our deals are customized and when Dez Green told us that he wanted opportunities that would propel his career into the future that is what we worked on with him.
“The results speak for themselves,” Peterson said. “Dez is the one who executed, we simply put him in the position to be successful by getting him the right fights at the right time. We couldn’t be happier to see one of our champions going on to compete at the next level.”
Green, who trains with Team Bombsquad in upstate New York, won his NEF debut as an amateur on the promotion’s debut card in February 2012, and he went on to add three professional victories with the promotion during the ensuing months.
He’ll take a 9-1 professional record into his Bellator debut.
“I have to give a lot of thanks to New England Fights because I’ve advanced a lot in my career through them, especially in the biggest fight I’ve had thus far against Henry Martinez,” said Green. “I think that fight was the final push for me to get to the next level.”
Green’s departure should lead to a bout this fall to crown a new NEF lightweight champion.
“We will all be watching and cheering for Dez in the tournament this fall,” said NEF co-owner and promoter Nick DiSalvo, “[but] with Dez’s graduation to one of the top promotions in the world, the NEF Maine state MMA lightweight title is vacant and I know that the next wave of hungry fighters like Jon Lemke, recently signed John Ortolani, and Jamie Harrison will all be eyeing the belt for their chance to compete for NEF lightweight supremacy.”
Ex-wrestling champs to clash
Maine’s next mixed martial arts show is less than two weeks away when NEF lands at the Biddeford Arena for NEF IX on Saturday, Aug. 3.
The main event matches Buck “Knuckles” Pineau, an Ashland native now living in Portland, against Isaiah Queen of Dover, N.H., in a clash of two of the region’s top-ranked amateur middleweights (185 pounds), according to NortheastMMA.net.
Another bout of interest recently added to the card will match two former Maine high school wrestling state champions when Brandon Bushaw (6-2) clashes with Derek Shorey (2-7) in a featherweight (145-pound) amateur battle.
Bushaw, a Lincoln native, had a standout wrestling career at Westbrook High School during the late 1990s.
He won individual Class A state championships in 1998 and 1999 and had a combined record of 73-3 during those two seasons before going on to wrestle at Michigan State with teammates that included former UFC light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans.
Two shoulder injuries ended Bushaw’s college wrestling career but ultimately led him into MMA. He now trains out of Relson Gracie in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Bushaw — a 2011 inductee into the Maine Amateur Wrestling Alliance Hall of Fame — has competed for NEF twice before, scoring unanimous-decision victories over Nick Spencer last Nov. 17 and Cody Sargent on Feb. 2, both in Lewiston.
Shorey won the 1998 Class C state championship at 112 pounds while competing for Foxcroft Academy in Dover-Foxcroft, defeating his brother Dustin — then competing for Penobscot Valley of Howland — in the title match.
“Derek is better than his record indicates, plus Brandon is a natural bantamweight, so Derek will have a size and weight advantage in this scrap since it’s being contested at 145 pounds,” said Peterson. “Both fighters are former Maine state wrestling champions, so this matchup will be a great one to watch for fans of ground fighting.”