By: Kalle Oakes
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Lewiston, Maine (February 7, 2017) – On paper, it’s a mismatch. OK, while we’re being brutally honest, maybe it’s even a little crazy.
Mike “The Mustache” Hansen of Rumford stands a typical 5-foot-10. He has spent most of his competitive and everyday life since his junior year at Mountain Valley High School at a window between 200 and 215 pounds.
When he hits the double-digit threshold of fights as a professional mixed martial artist on Saturday, February 11, Hansen (5-4) will take on a relative giant making his pro debut.
Ras Hylton stands 6-foot-6, probably even in bare feet. He entered the cage for the last of his three amateur fights, a second-round stoppage of Kevin Smith, at 248 pounds.
Hansen, 31, says “NEF 27: Resurgence” at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston is simply another day at the office for a fighter who’s a light heavyweight in body but a heavyweight in spirit.
“People don’t realize my background in high school. My sophomore year I weighed 185 pounds. I never went below that,” Hansen said. “When I turned 17, I went above 200 pounds and stayed there. After that I wrestled exclusively at 275. Guys that are 6-4 or taller, guys who weigh 270, I’ve been playing with them for about 16 years.”
Grit, determination and technique have served Hansen beautifully since his days at that level, when he was a state champion.
In addition to a stint in the U.S. Army, Hansen spent the early years of his adult life dabbling in what was the relatively new discipline of MMA.
Not only were the opponents bigger than Hansen, they were chosen essentially at random. He rarely ventured into the cage with the benefit of a scouting report.
“There would be a place set up in a bar, it would be $25 at the door, and you wouldn’t know who you were going to fight until you got there. But I needed the experience,” Hansen said. “I had a lot of unsanctioned fights, and that makes for a lot of unsanctioned experience. Now I know the rules and mechanisms are set up to give me the best chance not to get injured. I feel like I’ve already experienced the worst that can happen to me.”
Hansen’s propensity for fighting anyone, anytime, anywhere has followed him to the more structured environment of NEF.
He was still admittedly getting back into fighting shape when he accepted the challenge against veteran super heavyweight Artie Mullen (265 pounds) on Feb. 7, 2015. Hansen took the battle to the canvas quickly and outdueled Mullen in 57 seconds.
Brendan Battles checked in at nearly 260 pounds when he dealt Hansen a first-round TKO. Even at his more natural 205-pound limit, Hansen hasn’t shied away from the best or the biggest. He owns victories over past NEF fighter of the year Crowsneck Boutin and the 6-foot-3 Matt Andrikut.
Hansen said that the ingredients to that success are no secret: Stay aggressive, push the issue early and stick to the game plan. Win or lose, he has never sat on the stool in the corner during a pro fight. Each has ended in the first round.
“I’m a first-round fighter. If this one gets to the second round, it’s because I changed my game plan for some reason,” Hansen said. “If you look at my Artie Mullen and Jesse Baughman (Hansen won by triangle choke in 4:21) fights, you could say, ‘Act 1, Scene 1,’ and it played out exactly the way I choreographed it. I was that meticulous.”
That’s the voice of experience, another element that is squarely in Hansen’s corner heading into the Hylton showdown.
The 28-year-old Hylton’s three amateur scraps – he also knocked out Zak Bergeron in the first round and Hansen’s teammate at Berserkers MMA, Matt Glover, in the second stanza – have required him to fight for a total of 9 minutes, 41 seconds.
“He’s a black belt in taekwondo, so he’s no joke. He’s had three fights. I know he wanted to go pro and find better competition,” Hansen said. “I welcome it, just like when I fought Brendan Battles. They’re both really talented, really skilled guys, but you can’t get that experience from three or four amateur fights.
”I think my number one advantage is my experience, if you add up all my time spent in the cage. You can’t get that from training. You just have to do it.”
Hansen points out that stamina is a question for bigger fighters, especially those making the transition from amateur to pro.
Rounds increase in length from three to five minutes. Fighters often believe that their training camp has prepared them for the change, until they hit the proverbial, invisible wall.
“In an amateur fight you go hard for three minutes, take a one-minute break, feel pretty good, go three more minutes and you’re just about done,” Hansen said. “In a pro fight, you go into that first round and three-and-a-half minutes in, you’re saying, ‘I’m good, let’s go.’ Then it gets to four minutes and you’re like, ‘Holy crap, I’m tired now.’”
Although he suspects that most observers expect Hylton to win on the merits of his size advantage and impressive amateur winning streak, Hansen said that being underestimated is as customary to him as being undersized.
“I’ve had people tell my striking coach, J.B. (Jason Eric Bell), before a fight that they felt sorry for me that their guy had such an advantage. They’ve told my wrestling coach, Gary Dolloff, the same thing,” Hansen said. “Then we get in there and it’s a different story.”
The opening bell for “NEF 27: Resurgence” on February 11 is set for 7 p.m. Tickets start at $25 and are available at www.TheColisee.com or by calling the Colisee box office at 207.783.2009, extension 525.