BANGOR, Maine — Bruce Boyington has an opportunity unique within combat sports Saturday night — to win a second championship belt in less than five months.
The mixed martial arts competitor out of Young’s MMA known as “Pretty Boy” will take on Jesse “The Viking” Erickson of Auburn for the vacant New England Fights Maine lightweight title as one of three championship bouts that headline “NEF XIV” at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston.
The show includes 27 fights — 10 professional and 17 amateur — and as a result NEF officials this week advanced the starting time for the first bout one hour to 6 p.m.
Other title bouts have Boyington’s teammate, Ray “All Business” Wood, returning from a nearly 14-month hiatus due to a knee injury. He defends his NEF featherweight crown against Brazilian Gabriel Baino, while NEF bantamweight champion Paul Gorman of Portland defends his belt against Tim “The Terror” Goodwin.
Another top bout on the card has another Young’s MMA fighter, “The” Ryan Sanders, squaring off against Bellator MMA veteran Ryan Quinn.
Boyington, an Old Town High School graduate who now lives in Brewer, is eager to add the NEF crown to the Massachusetts-based Cage FX lightweight championship belt he won April 12.
“That in itself carries a certain meaning to me and I’m sure anyone else who does this, because it’s not an opportunity many people get, to do back-to-back title fights,” said Boyington this week before a training session at Young’s new location in the former Bangor YMCA building on Hammond Street.
“That definitely is a big part of my motivation right now. I’m very, very excited for this.”
Boyington won the Cage FX title despite fighting with a broken right hand, a setback that curtailed his training for this bout only briefly.
On the second day after undergoing surgery to repair his injury, Boyington went out for a 6-mile run with his hand in a sling.
“I had just got done winning a title so I was pretty excited and gung ho,” he said. “I had it in the cast and I just took off running. A couple of days later I had it against my chest and was rolling around doing jiu-jitsu. I began wondering if my hand had healed correctly because of doing all that, so I slowed things down after that.”
Erickson is 3-2 after a 36-second submission victory over John Daniels at NEF XIII, a win that earned the Auburn native the Origin “Submission of the Night” bonus.
“Erickson is considered to most people a jiu-jitsu guy because his main school is a jiu-jitsu based school,” said Boyington. “But with that said he’s a fighter who’s had some experience in there and done well. I see a well-rounded guy. I don’t see him as a particular type of fighter, but I do expect that once I start throwing (strikes) that he’s going to resort to his jiu-jitsu.
“I think he’s a tough guy, he’s going to be hard to handle physically and he controls his opponents real well so I’m paying close attention to that.”
But while Boyington has a detailed scouting report on his opponent, most of his training camp has been devoted to self-improvement.
“I’ve made it a point to not focus on him like I have past opponents,” he said. “I’m really focused on what I do well and I want to implement it on Saturday.”
The NEF lightweight title has remained vacant since June 2013. Dez “The Predator” Green had won the belt by defeating UFC veteran Henry Martinez at NEF VII, but weeks later he signed with national promotion Bellator MMA.
Green went on to fight five times for Bellator — reaching the finals of its Season 10 featherweight tournament — before being one of 13 fighters released by the promotion Aug. 25 in the aftermath of a management shakeup.
Boyington enters his NEF title bout with a 6-7 record but three wins in his last four fights.
“I feel like it’s been a steady progression for me since I came over to Young’s MMA,” he said. “Everybody thinks I’ve always been able to strike and the jiu-jitsu’s gotten a lot better but the reality is my striking’s got a lot better, my jiu-jitsu has, my wrestling, everything has,because it’s what we do here.
“We don’t focus on one thing and because we’ve got such high-level competition among each other and we’ve got coaches who immerse themselves in this you can’t not get better at everything.”