BANGOR, Maine — When Marcus Davis helped spur the passage of legislation that legalized mixed martial arts in Maine in 2009, the former Ultimate Fighting Championship contender had no idea what the future would hold for the sport in the Pine Tree State.
Just five years later, the major leagues of MMA are making their way to the Queen City on Saturday night for UFC Fight Night 47 at the Cross Insurance Center. Preliminary bouts are set to begin at 8 p.m. on Fox Sports 2, with the main card at 10 p.m. on Fox Sports 1.
“First we had to get MMA here in the state, but to be able to have the UFC come here in such a short period of time is a huge deal,” said Davis, who is six months removed from his last fight but will be active on the card as the trainer for Lincolnville native Tim Boetsch.
“It’s not only big for putting the state of Maine on the MMA map, but it’s also big for businesses in the Bangor-Brewer area.”
Providing a boost to the local economy was part of UFC president Dana White’s motivation for bringing the world’s top MMA promotion to small-market Bangor, an area close to his heart as a 1987 Hermon High School graduate who maintains a home in Levant.
And with the presence of the Hollywood Casino Hotel and Raceway in the city and the opening across the street of the Cross Insurance Center last fall to facilitate the staging of a fight card, White was able to realize a personal dream of matching up the UFC with Bangor — though with ticket prices ranging from $50 to $150, the show is unlikely to sell out.
“This is one of those events where you come here and our ticket prices are not cheap, they’re expensive,” White said during a press conference after Friday’s weigh-ins. “I know that’s rough for this area, but this is what I wanted to do. I got it done, and we’re here and I love it. It is what it is, and I’m very excited.”
Boetsch is one of a handful of native Mainers who have made it to the UFC during their mixed martial arts career, but he will be the first to fight for that promotion in his home state.
“I’m happy for Tim,” said White. “A lot of guys want to fight in their hometown at least once while they’re fighting, and I’m sure he thought it would never happen. But we got it done and I’m happy for him.”
Boetsch, who will face Brad Tavares in a three-round middleweight bout, said fans who come to Fight Night 47 will be treated to an action-packed event.
“I know the Mainers that are there are going to love the show,” said Boetsch, an eight-year professional MMA veteran currently ranked 14th among UFC middleweights. “I’ll tell anybody that if they’ve never been to the UFC live, they need to get to a show because the energy in the building is just off the charts. It’s fun to watch on TV, but being there live there’s nothing like it.”
Saturday’s card is headlined by a light heavyweight battle between eighth-ranked Ryan “Darth” Bader and No. 10 Ovince Saint Preux.
And while the stakes are high for both fighters as they seek to climb the rankings, Bader said he also enjoys having the chance to introduce the UFC to a new locale.
“Markets that don’t have the UFC regularly are going to have an intense crowd from the first fight to the last fight because they never know when they’re going to get it again,” said Bader, a former All-American wrestler at Arizona State.
“I love fighting in front of new crowds. We brought the UFC to Australia and Japan where I fought on both cards and it was a cool experience because they don’t take it for granted like they do in (Las) Vegas (home of the UFC’s headquarters). It’s going to be a fun night.”
Several hundred fans turned out for Friday’s afternoon’s nationally televised fighter weigh-ins, but they saw no extracurricular activities similar to the brawl that took place earlier this month between light heavyweight champion Jon Jones and challenger Daniel Cormier during a press conference for the UFC 178 pay-per-view card.
Jones subsequently suffered a leg injury during training, forcing that bout to be delayed until UFC 182 on Jan. 3 in Las Vegas.
Both Fight Night 47 main-event combatants, Bader and Saint Preux, weighed in at the light heavyweight limit of 205 pounds, while co-main event fighters Gray Maynard and Ross Pearson each weighed in at 156 pounds, one pound over the lightweight limit.
Boetsch weighed in at 186 pounds for his middleweight clash with and Tavares weighed in at the middleweight limit of 185.
White named honorary Bangor citizen
Just before White held his press conference Friday, he received a proclamation by Bangor City Council chairman Ben Sprague declaring him an honorary citizen of the Queen City for life.
“We’re really so proud to have this event; it’s a great thing for our community,” said Sprague. “It’s a new sport in this area. People are learning about it, and I think you’re going to have a great event [Saturday] night.
“I hope you come back someday, but really for the economic impact and the social impact in making this the type of place where there’s things happening and the type of place [where] people want to live, it’s a great athletic event for us to be hosting here.”