LEWISTON, Maine — Injuries can have a destabilizing effect on a mixed martial arts show.
The Maine-based New England Fights promotion is experiencing that reality with its Sept. 6 show at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee, as both fighters in its scheduled main event have had to back out due to recent training injuries.
Eastbrook native Tim Sylvia, a former two-time Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight champion, and fellow UFC veteran Christian Morecraft were slated to battle at NEF XIV for the Maine state superheavyweight title, but Sylvia suffered a knee injury while Morecraft is dealing with back issues.
“I got the call every promotion dreads from Christian’s camp,” said NEF co-owner and matchmaker Matt Peterson in a press release. “When I got in touch with Tim’s camp regarding the injury and to discuss replacement opponents, I was informed that Tim had a knee injury and was getting it checked out. A short time later, they got back to me to notify me Tim was out as well.”
The card’s original co-feature, which marks the return of Bucksport’s Ray “All Business” Wood (4-0) from a year-long hiatus due to a torn anterior cruciate ligament to defend his Maine state featherweight title against Brazilian Gabriel Baino, has been elevated to main-event status.
That will be one of three NEF championship bouts still scheduled, as Paul Gorman will defend his state bantamweight crown against Tim Goodwin while Bruce Boyington and Jesse Erickson will battle for the vacant lightweight title.
The 38-year-old Sylvia is 31-10 overall in his MMA career but 0-4 with one no contest since his last victory, a 12-second knockout of Randy Smith in his NEF debut on June 16, 2012.
He recently had been vocal in lobbying UFC president Dana White for an opportunity to return to that organization — which he reportedly left in 2008 with a fight left on his contract to sign with a rival promotion — but White expressed no interest in such a reunification.
The 6-foot-8-inch, 265-pound Sylvia’s latest physical setback has the 1992 Ellsworth High School graduate now pondering retirement.
“This is only the second time I have had to pull out of a fight from an injury,” said Sylvia, who will still attend NEF XIV and conduct an hourlong meet-and-greet session prior to the fights. “I really wanted to fight in front of my home crowd. I am not getting any younger and the chances of me fighting again in Maine are pretty slim.
“I think my body is trying to tell me something — maybe it’s time to call it quits. I don’t know, we will see how fast I can get back in the gym and see how the knee holds up.”
Morecraft’s injury will force him out of training for three weeks, which would have left him with just one week of training before the scheduled fight date.
“He knows this is a pivotal fight in both of their careers,” said Joe Cavallaro, Morecraft’s manager. “He wants to be 100 percent when he fights Tim. He owes that to himself and to Tim. Christian still very much wants to do this fight for NEF at a later date.”