LEWISTON, Maine — A little more than two weeks remain until New England Fights hosts its largest-ever card of mixed martial arts bouts at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee.
Thirty-four bouts currently are scheduled for the May 18 NEF 7 program, nine pro fights and 25 amateur contests.
One change near the top of the card involves the first-ever Maine heavyweight title bout, which now matches Dexter native Travis “The Showstopper” Bartlett against Tyler King, the top-ranked heavyweight in the region according to NortheastMMA.net.
Bartlett (8-3) originally was slated to face Randy “The Wolf” Smith (14-13-1), but a training camp injury forced Smith to bow out of the fight.
“Our hats are off to Tyler King for taking such a huge fight on such short notice,” said NEF co-owner and promoter Nick DiSalvo. “His camp was quick to accept just moments after we were informed of Randy Smith’s injury.”
King, the son of former New England Patriots linebacker Steve King, played defensive end for the University of Connecticut football team and was the Huskies’ defensive MVP in 2004. He then moved on to the NFL where his stops included San Diego, St. Louis and Jacksonville.
King has compiled a 6-1 record in his two years of professional MMA, with four of his victories coming in the first round. His lone loss came in mid-2011 via decision to Smith.
“I couldn’t be more excited to be fighting Travis,” said King. “The fact it is for the first-ever Maine heavyweight belt just makes it that much sweeter. You aren’t going to find a tougher guy than Travis on the MMA scene in Maine. I’m going to have to bring it harder than I ever have before.”
Bartlett, a 1993 graduate of Dexter Regional High School now based in Las Vegas, took up mixed martial arts in 2007 after compiling a 77-19 record as an amateur boxer.
Bartlett rose quickly through the Northeast mixed martial arts ranks, eventually winning a light heavyweight (205-pound) championship through the Untamed Full Force regional circuit.
After making one successful title defense, Bartlett moved to Las Vegas where he won his first three fights before injuring his shoulder while dropping a unanimous decision to Robert Scott as part of the MMA Xplosion card on July 31, 2010.
Bartlett returned to the cage after a two-year absence last November in a nationally televised World Series of Fighting bout against Tyrone Spong, which he lost via a first-round stoppage.
“This is just a really good heavyweight fight that we’ve waited a year now to put on,” said NEF co-owner and matchmaker Matt Peterson of the Bartlett-King matchup. “And it’s for the heavyweight title, making the fight all the more prominent.”
The May 18 card will be headlined by a welterweight bout between Bangor’s Marcus “The Irish Hand Grenade” Davis (21-9) and promising New Yorker Darrius Heyliger (4-1). Davis recently signed a long-term contract with Bellator MMA, and after fighting Heyliger he will turn his focus toward competing in that promotion’s Season 9 lightweight tournament this fall.
The NEF 7 co-main event will match UFC veteran Henry Martinez (9-5) against Dez Green (8-1) for the Maine lightweight title.
Among other scheduled pro fights, undefeated Bucksport native Ray “All Business” Wood (2-0) of Young’s MMA in Bangor will take on Ahsan Abdullah (3-2) of Cortland, N.Y. in a featherweight (145-pound) bout.
This will mark their second meeting in 15 months. Wood won an amateur bout between the two with a first-round technical knockout via punches on NEF’s inaugural card in February 2012.