“All Busy” might be a better description for Ray “All Business” Wood’s life during the last year.

The 28-year-old Bucksport High School graduate experienced fatherhood for the time in August, welcoming son Liem into the world.

“He’s growing like a weed,” said the new father. “He’s 10 months old now and he’s running around like crazy and climbing everything. He’s going to be a handful.”

Wood also has continued his mixed martial arts career with two recent fights for the top-level Bellator MMA promotion.

And he has supported the career of his wife Tiana, an assistant track and field coach at West Texas A&M University who late last month helped the Buffaloes win the NCAA Division II championship in that sport.

Time for a vacation, right?

Indeed, but it will be a working vacation of the combat variety for Wood on Saturday night when he returns to Maine to battle Brazilian veteran Alexandre “Popo” Bezerra at New England Fights’ NEF 29 MMA-boxing show at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston.

“I’ve spent time at some of the big shows but this gives me a chance to get back to my roots and to where my success began,” said Wood, the former NEF featherweight champion. “It will be good to get back in front of the Maine fans at the venue where it all began and hopefully it will kick-start a win streak again after two straight losses.”

Wood (8-3) is coming off back-to-back defeats in Bellator bouts to A.J. McKee and Adam Piccolotti, both of whom are still unbeaten.

Those losses have left Wood’s immediate future with Bellator uncertain, but a win in his bout against the 29-year-old Bezerra — who was 7-2 in Bellator bouts between 2011 and 2013 — would go a long way toward advancing either fighter back toward national prominence.

“I haven’t really tried to talk with (Bellator) much,” said Wood, who is 1-2 in Bellator bouts. “But if I come back with a couple more wins, get back in that win column, I’ll be back with the bigger shows and the main-card fights.”

The fight against Bezerra was supposed to be the first of two bouts for Wood in less than two months, but a scheduled Aug. 5 matchup with 11-1 Sam Toomer of El Dorado, California, for the California-based Global Knock-out promotion was cancelled after Toomer suffered a leg injury.

Wood, who hasn’t fought since losing by unanimous decision to McKee at Bellator 166 last December, still plans to resume a busier schedule.

“I’m still looking to stay pretty active, maybe fight again in mid-August or late August,” he said.

The test Wood faces Saturday night is formidable, as Bezerra’s record already includes three bouts against highly regarded fighters familiar to those who follow the Maine MMA scene.

Bezerra is coming off a loss last September to unbeaten Andre Harrison, who went on to defeat Wood’s former Young’s MMA teammate Bruce Boyington at their World Series of Fighting bout in Madison Square Garden in New York City on New Year’s Eve.

The Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt also split two 2014 fights with 14-2-1 Levan Makashvili, a UFC veteran who defeated current NEF lightweight champion Ryan Sanders of Young’s MMA by unanimous decision on June 10, 2016.

“I don’t have an easy task ahead of me for this fight, nor would I want one,” said Wood. “He’s dangerous on his feet, he’s dangerous on the ground, and he’s a good wrestler so he’s all-around a dangerous fighter.

“I just have to go in there and be the more intelligent fighter, really stick to my strengths and not do anything stupid.”

Bezerra, now based in Philadelphia, trains with Anthony “Cheesesteak” Morrison, who dethroned Wood as NEF featherweight champion by fifth-round stoppage at NEF 16 in Lewiston on Feb. 7, 2015, just before Wood moved from Maine to Gaffney, South Carolina, and then to Texas.

Wood insists any scouting report Morrison might provide Bezerra will be obsolete, for just as his family life has matured so has his MMA philosophy.

“I didn’t really have a particular style before, but now I think I’ve settled down and found my niche as a fighter,” he said. “I’m learning to be a lot more patient and trusting in my skills. I’m a lot more talented, I think, than I let myself realize, sometimes I go in there and second-guess myself and I’ve learned I can’t do that. I have all the talent in the world and I just need to go out there and let it show.

“You’ll definitely see a different fighter.”

Ernie Clark

Ernie Clark is a veteran sportswriter who has worked with the Bangor Daily News for more than a decade. A four-time Maine Sportswriter of the Year as selected by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters...