Lewiston, Maine (June 13, 2016) – Combat sports gave Mike Bezanson (1-0) direction. They also helped him cultivate the relationship with his father that he always coveted but could never seem to grasp.
Now, on the eve of Father’s Day, less than a week past the four-year anniversary of his dad’s untimely death, Bezanson is poised to take another step in the career that was their shared dream.
Bezanson, 21, of Lancaster, N.H., returns to the New England Fights hexagon to take on Shawn Bang (1-1) of Auburn, Maine, in a welterweight bout at “NEF 24: Promised Land.” Their amateur bout is one of the many attractions on theSaturday, June 18 card at Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston.
“I think this fight is going to be good for me, because I’ll be able to show my skills against an opponent with more in-cage experience than I have,” Bezanson said. “Also, the fact that June 18 is the day before Father’s Day makes this a sentimental and emotional fight for me.”
The encore comes almost a year to the day after Bezanson stopped Jeff Dustin (0-1) by technical knockout via strikes in his mixed martial arts debut on June 13, 2015. Bang has split his first two verdicts in the NEF cage.
Bezanson’s showboating, stick-and-move style drew mixed reviews from the large crowd that witnessed his rookie effort. Some booed the relative lack of action, perhaps suspecting that Bezanson was toying with an overmatched opponent.
It was all part of his plan to relish the moment and take advantage of the opportunity.
“Truthfully we had a game plan to get experience,” Bezanson said. “If I have any thoughts of going pro, I need to get as much experience as I can. If you go in there and knock a guy out in 10 seconds, don’t get me wrong, you got a knockout and that’s great, but you’re not learning what it takes to get comfortable on the other side of that 10 seconds. You don’t know how much energy you’re going to need.”
Bezanson never lacked energy, or personality, from childhood. He describes himself as a young man who never got into any serious trouble, and never experimented with drugs or other disorderly conduct, but one who freely challenged authority.
He gravitated to the boxing ring as a freshman in high school. It gave him direction. It also provided a foundation for the on-again, off-again relationship with his father, Jamie.
“Before I took up boxing, my dad wasn’t really involved much in my life. He would come and go, you know, for personal reasons,” Bezanson said. “When I started boxing, we got really close. Boxing and racing were his things. He would tell anybody and everybody that I was boxing and how proud he was, and that meant a lot to me.”
Jamie Bezanson never had the chance to watch his son develop as a fighter. On June 15, 2012, during annual “Bike Week” in Laconia, his motorcycle crossed the center line and struck another vehicle.
The elder Bezanson succumbed to his injuries. He was 37.
“I lost it for a while. I stopped boxing. Mentally, I was just in a very emotional place,” Bezanson said. “Then right next to my house, Kaze Dojo opened up. I said, ‘That’s something I could do.’”
Bezanson began training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu with Greg Williams. He proved himself a natural talent, winning the gold medal in his debut at the Vermont Open.
Then came the natural progression to MMA, where his stand-up skills proved too difficult for Dustin to defend. Bezanson commanded the cage with the poise and surgical precision of a veteran.
“I’m a pretty confident guy all around. I really wasn’t that nervous. I figure why be scared if you’re prepared and you’ve put in all that training?” he said. “Ninety percent of fights are lost before you even get into the cage. If you let the emotions get to you, you’re not going to perform to the best of your ability.”
Bezanson suffered a catastrophic knee injury in training shortly thereafter. He has spent most of the past year recovering from surgery to repair a torn ACL and meniscus.
Once he returned to the gym, Bezanson spent much of his time focused on his evolving ground game. It should be tested royally by Bang, a former high school wrestler from a renowned regional fighting family.
“Striking is definitely one of my strengths. I’m a lanky dude, and I try to use that to my full advantage,” Bezanson said. “But I’ve worked really hard on my ground game in training. I didn’t really get a chance to show it in my first fight, but I know I will this time.”
Bezanson sees his second foray into the cage as the true beginning of what he hopes will be a prolific career.
In addition to the many fans who will make the four-hour round trip from the North Country to watch him, Bezanson knows he will have one special set of eyes in his corner.
“Boxing taught me a lot of discipline. MMA is the same thing. People can use it however they want, but that’s what it does for me,” he said. “It’s something I like to do and something that I know makes my father proud all at the same time.”
The opening bell on June 18 is set for 7 p.m. The current docket includes five pro boxing fights, three pro MMA bouts and eight amateur MMA skirmishes. Tickets for “NEF 24: Promised Land” start at $25 and are available atwww.TheColisee.com or by calling the Colisee box office at 207.783.2009, extension 525.
For more information on the events and fight card updates, please visit the promotion’s website at www.NewEnglandFights.com. In addition, you can watch NEF videos at www.youtube.com/NEFMMA, follow them on Twitter @nefights and join the official Facebook group “New England Fights.”
About New England Fights
New England Fights (“NEF”) is a fight events promotions company. NEF’s mission is to create the highest quality events for Maine’s fighters and fans alike. NEF’s executive team has extensive experience in combat sports management, events production, media relations, marketing, legal and advertising.