Lewiston, Maine (January 10, 2018) – Growing up in the same blue-collar community and advancing through the same, storied sports program does not necessarily make two men best friends.
Former Mountain Valley High School teammates, and future New England Fights mixed martial arts opponents, Ryan Burgess and Nate Boucher are evidence of the old maxim, “familiarity breeds contempt.”
Burgess, 24, and Boucher, 21, will battle in an amateur flyweight bout at “NEF 32: Super Saturday” on Saturday, February 3. The fight at Androscoggin Bank Colisee will determine the number one contender in the 125-pound division, and earn the winner a title shot against champion Justin Witham.
It will have been almost a year since Burgess, a three-time Maine high school wrestling champion and past NEF titleholder, walked into the cage. He called NEF co-owner and matchmaker Matt Peterson and specifically requested the Boucher fight.
Why? On one hand, it was a business decision after Boucher’s close, split-decision loss to Witham in a November title bout.
“I’ve been out for a year. I was hoping to jump right back into a title fight,” Burgess explained. “After Nate’s fight with Witham, I knew he would want the immediate rematch. Once it became obvious that wasn’t going to happen until April, I asked if we could do this fight in February, and Nate took it.”
Burgess (2-2) subsequently launched one or two social media grenades that appeared to indicate some level of animosity toward his fellow Falcon. It is likely less personal than tactical; Burgess sensed an opportunity to exploit what he sees as one of the chinks in Boucher’s armor.
“Nate, ever since he was a kid, has a piss-poor attitude when he loses. I hope to humble him a little bit and make sure he doesn’t have to worry about this fight getting in the hands of the judges,” Burgess said. “Nate probably could have been a two- or-three-time state champion if he had given himself the opportunity to do that. If he still has the same attitude he had back then, it’s going to end the same way.”
Burgess is one of only four three-time state champions in MVHS history. Coincidentally, Boucher’s brother, Ethan, also accomplished the feat.
Boucher, who has already taken out four-time Maine high school mat champion, and two-time New England finalist, Jeremiah Barkac of Dexter during his time in the NEF hexagon, looks and sounds like a different character than the one who struggled away from the mat as a teenager.
After winning his first two fights with ease, Boucher (2-1) was not the only one in the building who felt he had done enough to earn the belt in Portland.
“I thought I controlled the first two rounds of the fight. All three, really. The first two I pretty much had (Witham) choked out,” Boucher said. “It ended up being a learning experience for me that you can’t leave the fight to the judges. The great thing about the amateur ranks is, while of course I care about my record, at the end of the day it’s part of the learning process to make you a better professional.”
In response to Burgess’ volleys on Facebook, Boucher questioned the former champion’s behavior after winning the NEF strap two fights into his career.
“I’m not much for the trash talk. I just enjoy the sport. I like to fight and then just go home. He does it a little to build his ego I think,” Boucher said. “He dropped the belt because he was having trouble making weight, which is pretty disrespectful, in my opinion. He was out for a while, so now I’m ahead of him, and he knows he has to go through me.”
Burgess said he used that layoff to complete his college education and develop his credentials as a physical therapist assistant, indicating that the medical profession is more likely to be his long-term career than MMA.
While he continued his training schedule at Rumford Community Center with Berserkers MMA, Burgess said it was less intense and structured prior to his losses against Witham and Dustin Veinott. Burgess previously defeated both rivals.
“Physically I still should have beaten them, but mentally I wasn’t as prepared as I should have been. Now I’m much more focused,” Burgess said. “At the time I was finishing school, working part-time 20 to 30 hours a week and going to school for probably another 40. I lost two fights where I was under weight. I was gaining weight while the other guys were cutting weight. I’d go in there at the limit and they would put on 10 to 15 pounds between the weigh-in and the fight.”
Boucher admittedly never reached his potential as a high school wrestler. He has followed a different path than Burgess, enrolling at Central Maine Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu – where he still trains today – at age 13.
“I have some of the toughest and best training partners in the state,” Boucher said. “My jiu-jitsu has come a long way, almost the point where it has passed my wrestling a little bit. Of course, wrestling is what I always go back to when I need it. My striking is night-and-day. It was awful for my first fight.”
He added that his greatest success in MMA has come at the expense of former wrestlers.
Burgess is counting on Boucher to underestimate the rest of his repertoire. As someone who took up wrestling on the middle school junior varsity team in seventh grade, he said that his history as a quick study has carried over into realm of jiu-jitsu and boxing.
“I think he’s going to be surprised. He thinks he knows what I bring to the table,” Burgess said. “All he knows about me is my wrestling, but I have a lot more than that to fall back on. I already know what he brings to the table. And he’s not going to learn in two months what I’ve learned in two years.”
The opening bell on February 3 is set for 7 p.m. Tickets are available at www.TheColisee.com.
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.