C.J. Ewer walked out of the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor on Saturday night as the New England Fights’ MMA professional middleweight champion, capping off a training camp that had its roots overseas.
Ewer, a 37-year-old Hampden resident who last fought in August 2016, captured the vacant title by submitting Rumford’s Mike Hansen with a triangle choke 1:43 into the first round of their scheduled five-round battle in front of a sellout crowd of 1,200 in the arena’s grand ballroom.
While Ewer (3-0) didn’t learn of the fight until after coming back from a three-month deployment with the U.S. Air Force security forces in the Middle East earlier this year, preparation for the title opportunity began long before he resumed workouts at Young’s MMA in Bangor.
“I got notification of this fight as soon as I got back in April, so the camp was longer than normal, but the entire time I was gone I worked out probably three hours a day overseas. I don’t have the support of Young’s MMA there, but there were jiu-jitsu classes over there, and there were boxing classes over there, so I’d been working out pretty much for eight months straight, and this was the first time I was able to show the results of that.”
Once Ewer returned to Maine, the father of four daughters between 11 months and 9 years old had to balance training camp with family life.
“There were several days when I would drag the kids to the gym and they would watch me work out for two hours, and then we’d go home for lunch, and then I’d go back to the gym and work out again,” he said. “On a lot of days, my wife would come home from work and I’d high-five her at 5 o’clock and head back out the door, so I’ve got to give kudos to the family for being as supportive as they were.”
Another family member of importance during Ewer’s training camp was his older brother Roger, who made a successful amateur debut on Saturday’s card.
A 44-year-old father of five sons between 7 and 17 years old, Roger Ewer used a succession of left-hand strikes to win defeat Lewiston’s Dustin Freeman by technical knockout at 2:31 of the second round.
“He and I have been training together pretty much exclusively for probably the last three months,” said C.J., who already had his hands wrapped in preparation for his own fight and was unable to see his brother’s bout in person but did watch it from backstage via FaceTime. “I’m proud of him. He did well, and I know he trained harder than any heavyweight in New England. I can guarantee that.”
Ryan Sanders (15-8) scored his fifth consecutive victory in the other pro contest on the show, submitting Jay Ellis of Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, at 2:34 of the first round of their welterweight clash.
Sanders, the NEF lightweight champion, spent the entire fight on his back after Ellis scored a takedown in the opening seconds, but finally the Young’s MMA veteran — known for his ability to attack from bottom position — moved into position to apply a triangle choke that produced a sudden tapout by Ellis.
Bangor’s Fred Lear was crowned the NEF amateur bantamweight champion after stopping Walt Shea of Jefferson 13 seconds into the second round.
Lear nearly ended the fight late in the first round after pinning Shea along the cage wall and landing a succession of strikes, then raced across the cage at the outset of the second round and landed a flying kick that sent Shea to the mat. Lear followed up by overwhelming Shea with a succession of strikes to end the contest.
“I knew my time to act was right then, and I needed to seize the opportunity that presented itself,” Lear said. “I landed a kick that put him down, then I tried to secure the top position as soon as possible and finish the fight.”
Another anticipated amateur bout matched former University of Maine football player Carlton Charles of Windham against former Husson University and European professional basketball player Josh Jones, who had stopped his first two foes in a combined 24 seconds.
This time it was Charles with the quick stoppage, emerging from an initial flurry with Jones pinned against the fence and landed two rights and a left to the head that buckled his opponent’s knees and prompted referee John English to award Charles the victory by technical knockout at 23 seconds of the first round.
“I knew he was going to come out and throw heavy because that’s what he did his last two fights, so I figured if I could get away from that I’d be OK because I had some good power and a little quickness,” said Charles, fresh from winning an amateur boxing match in Skowhegan last weekend. “I rocked him with an uppercut and the ref saw his legs go and that was it.”
In other amateur results, Jessica Borga scored a first-round TKO over Angela Young of Brewer, Nate Boucher improved to 2-0 with a first-round submission of Jeremiah Barkac, Zach Faulkner of Titan Athletics in Brewer debuted with a second-round submission of Lisbon’s David Hart, and Jesse Hutchinson stopped Anthony LaPointe at 2:43 of the first round of their welterweight clash.
One local fighter unable to compete Saturday was undefeated Young’s MMA featherweight Aaron Lacey of Brewer.
His scheduled opponent, Bryan Goldsby, was knocked out during a boxing match in Raleigh, North Carolina, last weekend and issued a 90-day medical suspension,
Goldsby still came to Bangor and made weight for his MMA clash against Lacey, only to have NEF officials become alerted to the suspension late Friday and call the bout off, according to NEF co-owner and matchmaker Matt Peterson.
“It’s really frustrating, and the biggest part for me is that I was looking to put on a show for my hometown crowd,” said Lacey, who has had his last three fights cancelled. “There are rules and regulations for a reason. It’s a sport and we don’t want people getting hurt and he didn’t follow the rules and regulations and it’s out of my hands.”