BANGOR, Maine — Tim Boetsch has done some fishing and renewed old acquaintances during his most recent homecoming to Maine, but the trip mostly has been about finding his inner “Barbarian,” the aggression and nastiness that lifted the Lincolnville native toward the top of the Ultimate Fighting Championship middleweight division just over two years ago.
After several weeks of training with former UFC contender Marcus Davis in Brewer, Boetsch believes he has rediscovered those qualities inherent in his mixed martial arts nickname.
He’ll find out for sure Saturday night, when he faces Brad Tavares on the main card of the UFC’s first foray into Maine — Fight Night 47 at the Cross Insurance Center.
The preliminary card begins at 8 p.m., followed by a six-fight main card at 10 headlined by a light heavyweight clash between eighth-ranked Ryan Bader and No. 10 Ovince Saint Preux.
“If you look back on my career, all the fights I’ve been successful in are the ones where I’m in the guy’s face, pushing hard and looking to finish the fight,” said the 33-year-old Boetsch, a four-time wrestling state champion at Camden-Rockport High School during the mid- and late 1990s, who now lives in Sunbury, Pennsylvania.
“That’s the mindset for this fight — get in his face and make sure we’re looking to take him out the whole time. I’m not interested in a decision win. I don’t even want to think about that. I’m thinking about ending the fight.”
Boetsch, 17-7 overall and 8-6 in UFC fights, may need a win over Tavares to maintain his status in MMA’s top promotion after dropping three of his last four fights — a trend that led him to seek out Davis’ assistance.
“I want him to be the primal Tim Boetsch that first got into the UFC,” Davis said. “He’s a better technical fighter than he was then, but what he needs to do first is be the savage. Then, when it’s time, to use technique. But I don’t want him to go in there with the mindset that he’s going to be a technical fighter.”
Boetsch is coming off a first-round loss to Luke Rockhold at UFC 172 on April 26, and the sense of urgency to get back on the winning track has provided him plenty of motivation.
“I feel like fighting is where I’m supposed to be, and that means getting a win on Saturday night,” Boetsch, who is ranked 14th among UFC middleweights, said. “I want to keep my career going and get back to the top of the game. I was there once before, and it felt good to be there. I want to get back there again.”
Tavares, a 26-year-old native Hawaiian now fighting out of Las Vegas, is 12-3 overall, 7-2 in the UFC. But he is coming off a unanimous-decision loss to Yoel Romero on April 19, which ended his five-fight winning streak.
“Brad’s a tough guy. He’s going to come to fight,” Boetsch said. “He’s always in shape, he’s a highly skilled kick-boxer and I know it’s not going to be an easy night for either of us. But he’s the guy who’s standing in my way, keeping me from my goals, so I’ve got to go through him and that’s what I plan on doing.”
Tavares, who was ranked among the top 15 middleweights until his loss to Romero, knows Boetsch will be spurred not only by favorable crowd support but by the need to reverse his recent struggles.
“He’s lost three of his last four, so his back is against the wall,” said Tavares, who participated in Season 11 of The Ultimate Fighter television series. “He really needs a win here, so I think he’ll try to come out and eke out a decision, press me against the cage and hold me there or lay on me. But if he wants to come out and make it a fun, exciting fight I’m happy to oblige.”
Davis, for one, believes Boetsch is ready for that challenge.
“I can honestly tell you,” he said, “that the difference from when I saw first him over a month ago to what I saw [Wednesday] night, he is peaking right at the right time.”