BANGOR, Maine — Young’s MMA teammates Ray “All Business” Wood and Bruce “Pretty Boy” Boyington will compete in separate comeback bouts as part of New England Fights’ next mixed martial arts promotion scheduled for Sept. 6 at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston.
And not only will both fighters be returning to the cage from injury, championship belts will be at stake in both matches.
The undefeated Wood (4-0) will fight for the first time in 14 months, when he defends his NEF MMA Maine featherweight (145-pound) championship against Brazilian Gabriel Baino, promotion officials announced Friday.
Wood suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during the immediate aftermath of his winning the NEF MMA title with a first-round stoppage of Canadian Lenny “The Show Stealer” Wheeler at Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion in Bangor last July 12.
The Bucksport native learned of the injury while training for a scheduled title defense last fall and instead underwent surgery on Oct. 2.
“It was devastating for all of us to see Ray get injured when he did,” said NEF MMA promoter and co-owner Nick DiSalvo. “He was really on the fast track to get to the next level. Who knows where he’d be right now had he not torn the ACL. We have no doubt he’ll get back there though.”
Wood spent last winter rehabilitating the knee and coaching the Brewer High School and Hampden Academy wrestling teams.
“It’s been a long road back, seven to eight months of full rehabbing since my surgery,” said Wood while attending the most recent NEF MMA card, NEF XIII, earlier this month. “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.”
Wood’s return to the cage may represent his toughest test to date.
Baino (6-1) trains with the highly regarded Massachusetts-based Team Link with such teammates as UFC veterans Gabriel “Napao” Gonzaga and Ricardo Funch as well as NEF MMA Maine welterweight champion Gil de Freitas, who recently defeated Wood’s teammate “The” Ryan Sanders at NEF XIII.
Five of Baino’s six professional victories have come by stoppages, and his lone defeat was a unanimous decision to 14-2 Calvin Kattar, ranked second among pro featherweights in New England behind Rob Font, who recently signed with the UFC.
Wood is still ranked seventh regionally despite his lengthy absence from the cage.
“I’ve never felt stronger, faster or even more determined to pursue a dream and make my mark on the sport of MMA,” said Wood. “I’m ready to get back in that cage and defend my Maine state featherweight title against a tough opponent. My fans can expect nothing more than an exciting performance. I have one of the best camps behind me and all the tools at my disposal to be the greatest and most feared fighter in the Northeast.”
Boyington, who won the Massachusetts-based Cage FX lightweight title in April despite fighting with a broken right hand, will seek to secure a second championship belt at NEF XIV when he competes for the vacant NEF MMA Maine lightweight (155-pound) crown against Jesse “The Viking” Erickson.
A Taekwondo specialist, Boyington (6-7) has won three of his last four fights and recently signed a long-term contract with NEF MMA.
“I have found the love and passion for the sport again, and I couldn’t be more excited to get in the cage and dance,” said the Brewer resident. “We have revamped our camps, our gym and the people we are working with, and I’m confident I have the right team and the right skills to find success once again.
“Ultimately, I’m just very, very excited just to walk into the cage and do what I love.”
Erickson is 3-2 after a 36-second victory by rear-naked choke submission over John Daniels at NEF XIII, a win that earned the Auburn native the Origin “Submission of the Night” bonus.
“Neither one of us have ever had a boring fight, and we both want that belt,” said Erickson. “I fully expect this to be a war.”
The Maine lightweight title has remained vacant since June 2013. Dez “The Predator” Green had won the belt with a dominant performance over UFC veteran Henry Martinez at NEF VII, but weeks later he signed with national promotion Bellator MMA. NEF MMA tried several times in vain to fill that championship void, but each time fell victim to a fighter pull-out or a challenger failing to make weight — until now.
“Jesse and Bruce are two of our most dependable fighters,” said DiSalvo. “They are the heart and soul of this promotion. They come to fight every single time.”
The opening bell for NEF XIV is scheduled for 7 p.m., with the card headlined by a battle for the NEF MMA Maine super heavyweight title between Eastbrook native and two-time former UFC heavyweight champion Tim “The Maine-iac” Sylvia (31-9) and fellow UFC veteran Christian Morecraft (8-3).