BANGOR, Maine — It was a busy night for mixed martial arts in the area Friday, and perhaps an even busier evening for Ultimate Fighting Championship president and part-time Levant resident Dana White.
New England Fights brought its promotion to the Queen City for the first time in three years and was greeted by a boisterous, sold-out crowd of 1,200 in the grand ballroom of the Cross Insurance Center.
Many of those fans were on hand for the relatively rare chance to watch several local fighters compete on their home turf, and the locals did not disappoint — particularly those from Young’s MMA in Bangor who won all four of their matches..
The crowd also was stoked by the presence of White and former UFC combatants Matt Serra and Din Thomas for a taping of White’s internet reality hit “Dana White: Lookin’ for a Fight,” in which the trio travels to different parts of the country to watch local MMA promotions in search of UFC-level talent and to sample local culture.
Fans besieged the trio between each fight for autographs — often on posters urging “Dana White for President” — and selfies, and White and his friends were eager to oblige.
“I can’t say it enough how much I love this town and how much I love this area,” said White. “It means a lot to me, I’d take pictures here for a week. I love it.”
The eight-fight card provided plenty of entertainment, too, including a 4-for-4 night for Young’s MMA fighters Ryan Sanders, Aaron Lacey, Josh Harvey and C.J. Ewer.
“When we sat down today and went through the card, we looked at some of these fights and thought there were some mismatches,” White said. “Boy, were we wrong. What a card. This was as good of a card as we’ve ever been to.”
Brazilian bantamweight Ricardo Lucas Ramos won the main event, stopping Alfred Khashakyan of Glendale, California, in the second round by rear-naked choke.
Ramos (9-1) had suffered his first pro loss on a previous edition of “Lookin’ for a Fight” taped in Houston, Texas, but rebounded with a fairly dominant performance against 7-3 Khashakyan, a training partner of former UFC women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey.
Ramos used his wrestling strength to control the fight from the outset, scoring four first-period takedowns and continuing to control the action in the second round until securing the submission.
One of the top Maine fighters on the card, NEF lightweight champion Powell of South Berwick, shook off an apparent broken nose suffered early in the first round to improve his record to 8-1 with a first-round submission of Jon Lemke of Team Irish MMA Fitness Academy in Brewer.
Lacey brought White to his feet at the end of the second and third rounds as he came back to score a split decision over John Santos of Hooksett, New Hampshire, in a featherweight matchup.
Santos controlled the standup battle in the first round, but Lacey countered in the second round and then won a more tightly contested third round to win the bout 29-28 on two of the three judges’ scorecards. The third judge scored it 30-26 for Santos.
“I feel like that was the changing point for sure,” said Lacey of the second round. “I feel like he probably won that first round, he clipped me pretty good but I made some adjustments. I wasn’t going to lose in front of my home town.”
Lacey said he received some positive post-fight praise from the guest of honor.
“Dana was impressed with the fight. He said he liked it, and that’s always good news,” said Lacey, 2-0 as a pro. “I fought a tough, durable guy with a lot more experience, and he pointed that out. He was impressed with it, and that’s what matters.
“Getting a compliment from that guy means a lot,” he added.
Sanders followed with a hard-fought unanimous decision of Derrick Kennington of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Sanders used his quickness to fend off the larger Kennington, winning 30-27 on two scorecards and 29-28 on the third.
Harvey opened the night with a first-round stoppage of Zenon Herrera of Skowhegan.
Harvey, the former wrestling standout from Dexter Regional High School, relied mostly on his striking and kick game to wear down Herrera, a late replacement.
Harvey finally took Herrera to the mat against the cage wall and landed a succession of right hands to prompt referee John English to halt the fight at 3:47 of the opening round.
Ewer, a father of three who serves full time with the Air National Guard in Bangor, needed just 45 seconds to stop Ruben Redman of Houlton. Ewer used an early left and right to send Redman to the canvas, then kept after him with a succession of blows that drew applause from White, Serra and Thompson and improved his pro record to 2-0.
“You have to understand, for me coming from Maine seeing people from Maine performing at this level is so impressive to me and feels so good,” said White. “The other thing I love is that when you come to a local show like this the support these fighters get from their people is awesome. I love it.”
Other winners were heavyweight Derrick Brown of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, by second-round technical knockout over Brendan Battles of Eastham, Massachusetts, and welterweight David Mundell of Clearwater, Florida, by unanimous decision over Jarod Lawton of Farmingdale.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified who Josh Harvey was fighting against in the photo cutlines. Josh Harvey fought Zenon Herrera.