BANGOR, Maine — Aaron “Relentless” Lacey has had a successful 2016.
The 25-year-old Brewer product won all four of his mixed-martial arts bouts after turning professional last spring, including a split-decision victory in front of UFC president Dana White at August’s “Dana White: Lookin’ for a Fight” show in Bangor.
Lacey also got engaged, with a planned 2018 wedding date.
“Three first-round finishes, a fight of the night in front of Dana White and I just got engaged a couple of weeks ago: I’d say 2016 was a good year for me,” said Lacey, who recently was named New England Fights’ Fighter of the Year.
Lacey went 6-1 as an amateur and won his first NEF title belt in 2015, before having difficulty finding future amateur opponents.
He made his professional debut with a first-round submission of Derek Shorey in April and since then has remained one of the state’s busier combatants.
Three more wins ensued, beginning with his Aug. 5 victory over John Santos before a sold-out crowd at the Cross Insurance Center’s main ballroom that included White, the Hermon High School graduate who had brought the taping of an episode of his Web-based reality show to the Queen City.
“Winning in front of Dana White at such a young stage of my career in my hometown, putting on a Fight of the Night, that did huge things for me as a fighter and for my career and as a person,” said Lacey, who trains at Young’s MMA.
First-round stoppages against Corey Trial and Taylor Trahan capped off Lacey’s undefeated year.
“Putting four wins in a row together is no small feat,” said NEF co-owner and matchmaker Matt Peterson, “but to do it in a seven-month stretch like he did is mind blowing.
“If he stays active and continues to find success in the cage, who knows where he will be in the next 12 months.”
While Lacey hopes one day to join such past and present teammates as Ray Wood (Bellator) and Bruce Boyington (World Series of Fighting) in MMA’s upper levels, he is content to continue developing his skills.
“I’d like the phone to ring tomorrow, but I have no problem being patient because anything that is worth having is worth waiting for and worth putting in the time to get,” he said. “I don’t want to rush anything because when I get to that next level I want to stick around. I feel like a lot of people rush getting there and when they get there they get kicked back down pretty hard.”
Lacey is booked for a Feb. 11, 2017, bout in Lewiston against Chris Jacobs, a former Florida amateur champion.
“I have two more fights left on my contract with NEF and I’m going to bang those out and test the waters to see where I’m at as far as that goes. But if I decide to stay with the NEF or if they’re the best offer around hopefully by the end of the year I can be main-eventing one of those cards,” Lacey said.
Peterson sees an NEF main event involving Lacey — and much more — within the fighter of the year’s potential.
“If Aaron remains as hungry and focused as he has been for the past five-plus years, he will go as far as he wants to in the sport,” said Peterson. “It’s obvious that he bleeds fighting, so if he keeps the pressure on, the sky’s the limit for this young man.”