LEWISTON, Maine — “The” Ryan Sanders was progressing normally through his eight-week training camp at Young’s MMA in Bangor before his Maine welterweight championship fight on Saturday night’s Fight Night IV mixed martial arts card at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee.
Then his scheduled opponent, Ultimate Fighting Championship veteran Ricardo Funch, was injured in a motorcycle accident a week ago, leaving Sanders in limbo.
Fortunately for Sanders and Fight Night IV promoters, Gil de Freitas was in a similar quandary after his Aug. 25 fight against Gemiyale Adkins in Atlantic City, N.J., was canceled at the last minute because of a malfunction involving the cage at that venue.
A few phone calls ensued, and now Sanders and de Freitas will square off at Fight Night IV with the New England Fights’ 170-pound division title belt as the prize.
“It was kind of a minor setback,” said Sanders of the change in opponents. “You have a game plan for a certain guy and mentally you’re getting ready for that, but you’ve just got to roll with the punches.”
The Sanders-de Freitas bout will be one of two championship bouts headlining a giant 28-bout card set to begin at 7 p.m.
“When we make the statement that we want to give people value for their dollar, it’s not just lip service,” said Matt Peterson, New England Fights co-owner and matchmaker. “We want people to feel they’re getting great value for their dollar.”
The other NEF title bout will feature two former Maine high school wrestling champions, Jesse Peterson (6-2) of Rumford and Cody Lightfoot (6-3) of South Berwick, vying for the promotion’s middleweight (185-pound) crown.
Also scheduled among eight pro fights on the card are two semifinals for the NEF lightweight (155-pound) title, with Bruce Boyington (3-2) of Brewer and Young’s MMA facing Dez Green (3-0) of New York’s Team Bombsquad and Josh Parker (3-4) from Littlefield’s Gym in Oakland taking on Jamie Harrison (3-1) of First Coast Full Contact in Orange Park, Fla.
Green is Boyington’s third scheduled opponent for his semifinal after bouts with Tony Woodman of Sanford and Keenan Raymond of Cranston, R.I., fell through.
Twenty amateur bouts also are scheduled, which Peterson said reflects a growing interest in mixed martial arts in the region since the sport was legalized in Maine in 2009 and fight cards began being held in the Pine Tree State in 2011.
Ten fighters are slated to make their MMA debuts at Fight Night IV.
“We’re hearing from a lot of guys who have been to fights before as fans and now they want to test themselves in the cage,” said Peterson.
Sanders brings a 4-1 record into his fight, with all of his victories by submission. The Etna native and Brewer resident bounced back from a narrow decision loss at Fight Night II in Biddeford in April with a second-round stoppage of Ray Shawdee of Lowell, Mass., at Fight Night III in Lewiston on June 16.
De Freitas (13-5) has fought most of his bouts in his native Brazil, and brings a brown-belt background in Brazilian jujitsu to his Maine debut. He recently began training with Team Link in Ludlow, Mass.
“He’s going to be really tough,” said Sanders. “He definitely has a lot of experience, but the plan is still to go out, execute the game plan, have fun and come out with a ‘W.’”
Peterson said he was fortunate to come up with a quality opponent for Sanders on short notice.
“Even though a lot of people don’t know Gil, you can make the argument that in a lot of ways he’ll be even more of a challenge for Ryan because of his international experience and having fought so much in Brazil,” Peterson said.
Fight Night V to be in Lewiston
New England Fights will stage one more Fight Night card this year, this week announcing that Fight Night V will be held Saturday, Nov. 17, in Lewiston.
There was speculation that the next Fight Night card might be held in the Bangor area, but NEF co-owner and matchmaker Matt Peterson said that while he did explore that possibility, talks with officials from potential host sites in the area did not work out in time to schedule a card in Greater Bangor this year.
MMA’s popularity in the area is reflected by the fact that two gyms in the Bangor area are scheduled to send a combined 12 fighters to Fight Night IV.
Representing Team Irish MMA Fitness Academy of Brewer and Portland will be pro Jon Lemke and amateurs Noah Hall, Tommy Balzano, Will McCall, Kris Kramer, Andrew Hughes, Greg Morse and Kent Smallwood.
From Young’s MMA in Bangor will be pros Ryan Sanders and Bruce Boyington and amateurs Ray Wood and Damon Owens.
Bangor’s Kagan to make pro debut
Bangor native Emily Kagan will make her professional mixed martial arts debut Saturday night in Albuquerque, N.M.
Kagan, 31, will fight Lynae Lovato (0-1) of Albuquerque in one of five pro bouts scheduled for the 11-bout card at Tingley Coliseum.
Kagan, a 5-foot-3, 125-pound flyweight, has been fighting out of Jackson’s MMA gym in Albuquerque since early 2010 at the urging of Marcus Davis, her previous coach with the Team Irish MMA Fitness Academy in Brewer.
She took part in her first amateur bout on March 20, 2010, and scored a unanimous decision victory in Evansville, Ind. Kagan subsequently fought four times in Las Vegas before fighting her last two bouts as part of the Jackson’s MMA Series at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Albuquerque.
Kagan compiled a 5-2 amateur record.
Kagan earned her black belt in jujitsu in 2003, then spent three years in Israel where she continued to train before moving back to Bangor in 2006 and joining Team Irish.
While with Team Irish, she participated in a southern Maine grappling competition and placed third in a men’s bracket and later won the women’s absolute no-Gi division at the 2007 Freestyle Grappling Open in Portland.