BREWER, Maine — Much of Bruce Boyington’s fan base connects directly with him through Facebook, and the veteran mixed martial arts practitioner has noticed in recent years that some of that support has originated in Russia.
Soon he’ll be competing for those backers in person.
The 37-year-old Boyington will travel to Russia to fight in the main event of ACB 42, a show being staged by one of that country’s largest MMA promotions, Absolut Championship Berkut.
Boyington (14-8) will fight 28-year-old Musa Khamanaev (16-4) in Penza, Russia, a city of approximately 500,000 residents located in the country’s central European region some 390 miles south of Moscow.
“I don’t know what it is, but for the last few years I’ve been getting so many people from Russia who follow me on Instagram or Facebook,” said Boyington, who will be accompanied on the trip by manager John Stuart and fellow Young’s MMA fighter Josh Harvey, who will work his corner.
“I don’t know why that is, but they follow me, so maybe it’s not really a big surprise that they’ve asked me to come over to Russia and fight. It’s a good opportunity, I’m very excited.”
A Facebook contact after Boyington’s most recent fight, a split-decision victory over Saul Almeida on a World Series of Fighting card at the Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket, Connecticut, last month, led to what will be his first MMA bout outside of New England.
“Right after my last WSOF fight I got a couple of offers,” said Boyington. “One was a fight in Greece that appealed to me, but then a Russian guy contacted me through Facebook and asked me if I wanted to fight in Russia. They threw some numbers at me and they were some good numbers.
“I’d never fought for that kind of money anywhere, so I immediately got excited about it, but I was also tentative because I didn’t know how legitimate it was.”
Subsequent conversations confirmed the offer, and now Boyington is in full training camp mode for his overseas debut.
Both Boyington and Khamanaev will enter the Penza cage riding hot streaks.
Boyington, the former New England Fights and CFX MMA lightweight champion, has won his last five bouts and eight of his last nine — the only exception a loss to Jamie Harrison in April 2015 at Lewiston after Harrison failed to make weight and came in much heavier than the 155-pound limit.
Boyington’s recent run includes two victories for the national-level World Series of Fighting in the last nine months, with his debut for that organization a split-decision win over Rodrigo Almeida at Foxwoods last October.
“It’s been really crazy because let’s not forget and I’m not going to pretend that my age isn’t up there,” he said. “I’m 37, but I I feel a lot more healthy now and I’m taking it to guys. I feel like I’m still getting better and I don’t feel vulnerable in any fight.
“For me the age is not really a factor, but I know some people booking fights, maybe they’re thinking about it, but I don’t know.”
Khamanaev, whose early combat sports background was in freestyle wrestling, is coming off a third-round submission victory over Brazilian Leandro Rodrigues in Warsaw, Poland, on Feb. 16 — the eighth win in his last nine bouts.
The only blemish during that five-year span was a second-round submission loss to American Jason Knight last Sept. 19 at Titan FC 35 in Ridgefield, Washington, a show streamed on UFC Fight Pass.
Boyington said he has watched video of Khamanaev in action and has talked with fighters familiar with his next opponent.
“I know these Russian fighters are very strong and they come at you hard with a lot of heart,” said Boyington. “But I feel good about this guy because he seems one-dimensional and I think I know what he’s going to try to do. I’ve been training for a lifetime to try to defend that kind of stuff.”
Khamanaev won’t be Boyington’s first Russian opponent. He won a five-round unanimous decision over Ruslan Khubejashvili in Dorchester, Massachusetts, on April 12, 2014, to win the CFX lightweight crown.
“When I fought Ruslan for the CFX title I had a lot of success against him even though I had a broken hand in the first round,” said Boyington. “I think this could be a similar fight and I feel real good about it.
“Overall I think fight-wise I’m at the right stage. I may be getting older but I’m also getting closer to the top and a lot of opportunities keep coming my way. You can’t deny someone advancement when they keep on winning and that’s what I plan to do.”