“The” Ryan Sanders’ pursuit of a mixed martial arts championship will come full circle Saturday night.
Sanders, who lives in Brewer and fights out of Young’s MMA in Bangor, will challenge Brazilian native Gil de Freitas for the New England Fights Maine welterweight title in the main event of the 15-bout NEF XIII card at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston.
The first match is scheduled for 7 p.m.
De Freitas, fighting out of Team Link in Ludlow, Massachusetts, defeated Sanders by a five-round unanimous decision when the two first battled for the belt in Lewiston on Sept. 8, 2012. De Freitas had been a late replacement for Sanders’ original opponent, UFC veteran Ricardo Funch, who pulled out just before the match after being injured in a motorcycle accident.
The first Sanders-de Freitas bout exposed hard feelings between the Bangor area’s two mixed martial arts gyms, Young’s MMA and the Team Irish MMA Fitness Academy, after Team Irish owner Marcus Davis — who once had trained Sanders — worked in de Freitas’ corner.
The loss to de Freitas by Sanders was followed by two more defeats, one was a last-second loss to Augusta’s Jared Lawton and the second was a first-round knockout by British kickboxing specialist Michael Page on the Bellator MMA card held in Lewiston in March 2013.
Sanders got back on the winning track with a second-round submission of Rashaun Spencer last Sept. 21 to earn a highly anticipated matchup against Davis at NEF XII on Feb. 12 in Lewiston.
Sanders defeated the former UFC contender by technical knockout when the cageside physician stopped the fight after the first round because of an eye injury suffered by Davis.
That victory improved Sanders’ professional record to 6-4 and put him in position for the rematch against de Freitas.
De Freitas, the top-ranked 170-pound fighter in New England, according to Mass-MMA.com, is 15-5 and has fought just once in the last 19 months since defeating Sanders, scoring a first-round technical knockout by punches over Chuck O’Neil in Rhode Island last Aug. 9.
Sanders, ranked fourth among professional welterweights in the region, weighed in for the fight Friday afternoon at 169.7 pounds compared to 168.6 for de Freitas.
Four other pro fights and 10 amateur bouts also are scheduled to be contested at NEF XIII.
The pro card includes two lightweight (155-pound) fights, one matching Team Irish’s Jon Lemke (3-1) against Devin Powell (2-1), and the other pitts Jesse Erickson (2-2) against John Daniels (2-2). John “First Class” Raio (2-4) of Topsham will seek his third straight victory in a featherweight (145-pound) clash against Amos Collins (1-4), while Rodrigo de Faria will face Jay Jay Torres in a battle of fighters making their pro debuts at a catchweight of 140 pounds.
Among the amateur fights scheduled is a clash between two of New England’s top featherweights when fourth-ranked Aaron Lacey (3-1) of Young’s MMA faces No. 9 Dom Cofone of Windham.
Also scheduled to appear is New England’s top-ranked middleweight, Ashland native Buck “Knuckles” Pineau (7-2), in a battle against Zach Elkins (11-5).
Jeremy Tyler (3-1) of Winterport, ranked No. 3 in the 155-pound class, will take on Steve Bang (2-1), while Tyler’s brother Jarrod Tyler (1-1) will fight Jason LaChance, also at 155 pounds.
Former Maine lightweight champion Desmond “The Predator” Green was scheduled to face Germany’s Daniel Weichel (33-8) in the final round of the Bellator MMA Season 10 featherweight tournament Friday night.
The bout, to be held in Rama, Ontario, Canada, was scheduled to be broadcast live on Spike TV, with the winner to receive the final installment of the tournament’s $100,000 grand prize and a future shot at the Bellator featherweight championship.
“We’re so proud of Dez,” said NEF MMA co-owner and promoter Nick DiSalvo. “We knew he had that star quality the first time he stepped in the NEF cage as an amateur. It’s hard to believe that was only two years ago. He made it so far in such a short time.”
Green, a Rochester, New York, native who wrestled at the University of Buffalo before making his mixed martial arts debut in late 2011, defeated Nate Charles in an amateur bout on the inaugural New England Fights card in February 2012, then scored professional victories under the NEF banner over Bruce Boyington and Brandon Fleming.
Green defeated UFC veteran Henry Martinez at NEF VII in May 2013 to capture the Maine lightweight championship but vacated the belt when he signed with Bellator MMA.
Green lost his first Bellator bout but rebounded with a second-round stoppage of Angelo Sanchez before entering the Season 10 featherweight tournament where he has defeated Michael “The Marine” Richman and Will Martinez to earn his spot in the final.
“Dez is the blueprint of what we strive for all NEF athletes to become,” said NEF MMA co-owner and matchmaker Matt Peterson. “We want to properly promote fighters, get them the right fights to develop themselves and launch them to Bellator or the UFC. That is the goal here. There are several fighters on the NEF roster right now who are just a win or two away from becoming the next Dez Green.”