BANGOR, Maine — New England Fights will bring its mixed martial arts promotion to Bangor for the first time this summer as part of a “Summer Vacationland Fight Tour” announced Tuesday.
NEF will make its Queen City debut July 12 with an outdoor show at the Darling’s Waterfront Pavillion that is being billed as “Nations Collide: Canadian Invasion.”
NEF co-owner and matchmaker Matt Peterson plans to develop a card with a USA vs. Canada theme, with some of this region’s top fighters matched up against opponents from such Canadian MMA hotbeds as Montreal, home of current UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre.
It’s possible, Peterson said, that some fighters on the Bangor card will come out of St. Pierre’s Tri-Star Gymnasium.
“We’ve gotten so many phone calls from Canadian gyms asking about the chance to fight on our cards,” said Peterson.
The three-event NEF summer series continues with an Aug. 3 card at the Biddeford Arena and will be capped off by a Sept. 21 event at NEF’s primary home base, the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston.
“Since NEF first formed, we’ve remained dedicated to bringing our thrilling brand of MMA to every part of the state of Maine and beyond in order to give sports fans the opportunity to see an event live,” said NEF co-owner and promoter Nick DiSalvo.
NEF has hosted six MMA cards in Maine since February 2012, five in Lewiston that have drawn an average attendance of approximately 3,000 and a sixth in Biddeford that attracted a near-capacity crowd of 1,600.
In addition, NEF played a promotional role as the California-based Bellator MMA — the nation’s second-largest mixed martial arts organization behind the UFC — brought a nationally televised card to Lewiston last month that also was well attended.
NEF conducted a poll among ticket buyers for its card in Lewiston on May 18 with the outcome determining whether the next show would be in the Bangor area or in southern Maine.
“This all came together within the last week,” said Peterson. “The outpouring of support we received through the voting in that poll was incredible, and rather than try to pick one winner over the other we thought, ‘Let’s try to split the difference.’”
The foray north to Bangor is a first, but NEF officials are optimistic of a strong fan response, in part because fighters from two local gyms, Marcus Davis’ Team Irish Fitness Academy of Brewer and Young’s MMA of Bangor, have developed significant fan bases during previous NEF shows.
“We’re very, very happy with this,” said Chris Young, owner of Young’s MMA in Bangor. “It will be very nice to have this in our backyard where we just have to get up and go over to the waterfront instead of having to drive two hours to fight.
“We’ve worked pretty closely with Matt, so we kind of knew this was coming. There were just a lot of fine details to work out.”
NEF will work closely with Waterfront Concerts promoter Alex Gray and his staff on the Bangor show.
The two organizations already have a relationship, with the Production Services of Maine company owned by Gray doing much of the staging, lighting and other setup work for recent NEF shows at the Colisee.
“As their organization has grown they’ve reached the point where they needed a partner with our skill set,” said Gray, “and the marriage of these two organizations adds to the diversity that I’ve always hoped to have here with Waterfront Concerts.”
One concern about holding any event outdoors is the weather, particularly the possibility of summer rain.
“I have mixed feelings on that,” said Young. “My experience with it is it’s kind of like having an outdoor wedding. There’s so much training and preparation that goes into this for the fighters, and if you have one or two days of rain in a row I don’t know what they’ll do.
“But with the concerts they’ve had down on the waterfront, they’re definitely ahead of the curve with the production side of it so it should be a great show as long as the weather is good.”
Peterson said July 13 will serve as a rain date for the Bangor show.
“To me it’s worth the risk because we truly believe the fans will turn out accordingly,” he said. “There’s nothing more iconic than an outdoor show in the summer in Maine, and to be able to do it with a sport that’s as electrifying as mixed martial arts is just going to make it even more special.”
Tickets for the Bangor NEF card go on sale May 18 and range from $27.75 to $101.75.