LEWISTON, Maine — Ray “All Business” Wood is back in business.
The Bucksport High School graduate, undefeated in his first four professional mixed martial arts bouts, is on the comeback trail. He suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee while winning the New England Fights Maine featherweight championship last July.
“I’m training full time now,” said Wood on Saturday night during an appearance at the NEF XIII show at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee. “I’m back at it and hoping to book a fight in August or September. I feel great with it, and mentally I feel better than ever.”
Wood, who trains out of Young’s MMA in Bangor, likely will make his formal return to the cage in a title defense at NEF XIV on Sept. 9 in Lewiston, though no opponent has been named yet.
“It’s been a long road back, seven to eight months of full rehabbing since my surgery,” he said. “I’m still doing some rehab now, but I’m seeing the light at the end of the tunnel so I’m ready to get back at it, pick up right where I left off and jump right back to the top of the mountain and defend my title.”
A standout wrestler during his years at Bucksport High School, Wood made his MMA debut in May 2011 and went 4-1 as an amateur before turning pro with a technical knockout of John “First Class” Raio at NEF V in November 2012.
Wood won the NEF Maine featherweight (145-pound) title last July 12 at Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion in Bangor with a 61-second stoppage of Canadian Lenny Wheeler via guillotine choke.
He is believed to have injured his knee during the immediate aftermath of that fight but had remained active in the gym preparing for a scheduled Sept. 21 NEF title defense. But pain lingered in his knee more than a month after the title bout, leading to tests that determined the ACL injury and led to his surgery on Oct. 2.
Wood spent the winter rehabilitating his injury as well as coaching the Brewer and Hampden Academy wrestling teams.
“It’s gone by really fast,” said Wood of the rehabilitation process. “I expected it to be a lifetime, but it’s flown by.”
Wood is ranked seventh among professional featherweights in the Northeast, according to Mass MMA, but that ranking may be affected by his absence from the fight scene for nearly a year.
“He is in my eyes the top 145-pound fighter in the Northeast right now,” said NEF co-owner and matchmaker Matt Peterson.
Sylvia set for Maine MMA return
Wood’s planned return to the cage is expected to be one of four championship fights at NEF XIV, which was rescheduled from Aug. 9 to Sept 6 in Lewiston to accommodate the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s planned Aug. 16 show at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor.
Veteran Paul Gorman is slated to defend his NEF Maine bantamweight crown after his planned title bout at NEF XIII didn’t take place when two prospective opponents backed out.
Bruce “Pretty Boy” Boyington, who is recovering from a broken right hand suffered when he defeated Ruslan Khubejashvili by unanimous decision for the Cage FX lightweight championship in Dorchester, Massachusetts, on April 12, will seek to add a second title belt to his wardrobe when he fights for the NEF Maine lightweight title.
But the biggest title fight of the night — literally — will be the battle for the newly created NEF Maine super-heavyweight crown between former two-time UFC heavyweight champion and Eastbrook native Tim “The Maine-iac” Sylvia and fellow UFC veteran Christian Morecraft of Plymouth, Massachusetts.
The fight will be the second appearance on an NEF card by the 6-foot-8-inch, 265-pound Sylvia, who now lives in Bettendorf, Iowa. He scored his most recent victory on June 16, 2012, when he punched out Randy Smith in just 12 seconds at NEF III in Lewiston.
The 38-year-old Sylvia has gone 0-3 with one no contest since that win, his most recent loss coming by unanimous decision to Ruslan Magomedov in Moscow last Oct. 26.
“Tim wants to come home and claim his home-state title, and we’re happy to provide him with that opportunity,” Peterson said.
The 27-year-old Morecraft (8-3) won his first six professional bouts by first-round stoppages before making his UFC debut in August 2010.
The 6-6, 270-pound Morecraft went 1-3 in the UFC, with his last fight for that organization a loss by unanimous decision to Pat Berry in January 2012.
“Christian is a young, hungry, beast of a man who has that top-level experience,” said Peterson. “His only losses have come in the UFC, he’s beaten everybody he’s fought on the regional level.
“It’s going to be an incredible fight between two big-time UFC veterans.”
Green falls in Bellator tourney final
Former NEF Maine lightweight champion Desmond “The Predator” Green fell short in his bid to win the Bellator Season 10 featherweight tournament last Friday night.
The Rochester, New York, native was submitted via rear naked choke by Daniel Welchel of Germany in the tournament’s championship final held at Orillia, Ontario, and nationally broadcast on Spike TV.
Green (11-3) defeated UFC veteran Henry Martinez in May 2013 to capture the Maine lightweight championship but vacated the belt when he signed with Bellator MMA.
He lost his first Bellator bout but rebounded with a second-round stoppage of Angelo Sanchez before entering the featherweight tournament where he defeated Michael “The Marine” Richman and Will Martinez to reach the final.
With the win, Welchel (34-8) earned the final installment of the tournament’s $100,000 grand prize and is guaranteed a shot at the Bellator featherweight championship.