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January 23, 2014


[NEF Press Release]

Lewiston, Maine (January 21, 2014) – The rivalry between "THE" Ryan Sanders (5-4) and Marcus "The Irish Hand Grenade" Davis (22-10) is no secret to fans of New England Fights Mixed Martial Arts (NEF MMA).  Neither is the cross-town rivalry in Bangor between Davis's Team Irish gym and Young's MMA of which Sanders is a member.  Maine fans have begged NEF MMA to make the fight happen for two years, and it will finally take place on February 8 at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston.  Call it "Teacher vs. Student." Call it "The Young Lion vs. The Living Legend." Call it "The Battle for Bangor." Call it what you want, but fight fans are simply calling this bout "a dream come true."  Recently, Ryan Sanders gave a very candid interview on the NEF Podcast, focusing on the upcoming fight as well as reflecting on his time as a member of Davis' Team Irish.

"I came up through Marcus," said Sanders.  "I started training with him.  I think my first amateur fight with him was in '08.  I started training with him shortly before that.  I started going in just once a week.  I was this poser - people that would show up like once a week, and to tell everyone that I was training in the UFC.  I started to get more serious after that.  My first amateur fight came in 2008.  I ended up having five fights, five amateur fights, under him.  He was a good guy.  He was a great guy... but he can kind-of be a dick sometimes, but he was still a great guy."

There are very different sides to the story of what happened next.  Davis' side tells of Sanders being thrown out of Team Irish.  Sanders' side tells of a voluntary decision being made to leave Team Irish and join Chris Young's gym, Young's MMA, on the other side of town.  One thing that both sides agree on is that there was, indeed, a parting of the ways.

"It came to a head when there were some rumors going on," continued Sanders.  "It wasn't so much Marcus.  A few people at Team Irish were spreading rumors about me, about this and that and what not.  I just thought it was kind-of childish.  I decided to take the higher road and just parted ways with him in late 2010 I believe it was.  When I turned pro in 2011 I was with Chris at Young's MMA.  I've had all my pro fights with Chris."

Sanders' exit from Team Irish did not end the rumors nor the controversy.  It was at that time, beginning in 2011, that the rumor mill began to turn full-force and the rivalries between Sanders and Davis, and Team Irish and Young's, took on a life of their own.

"I just heard stuff... that Marcus was calling my opponents, telling them what I was doing, how I used to train," said Sanders.  "Just things like that.  Childish things...  You see, at that time, Marcus was training a lot in Boston, getting ready for his UFC fight, so he wasn't around as much.  The guy he had in charge, he was just a big idiot, that's what it was, he was telling people that I was kicked off the team and this and that.  No one had told me.  So a teammate at the time had texted me and asked me, 'Hey, what's going on?  I heard you got kicked off the team.'  I just flat-out said, 'That's news to me, I had no idea.'  The next day I told Chris (Young) that I was leaving Team Irish and that I was joining his gym.  They were telling everyone else except for me that I was kicked off the team.  I felt like I was stabbed in the back, more or less."

A tense moment in the rivalry occurred in the cage at NEF IV in September 2012.  On that night, Sanders would face Brazil's Gil de Freitas (12-5) in a bout that would crown the first ever Maine State MMA Welterweight Champion.  To the surprise of many in attendance, Davis was in the corner of de Freitas for the fight.  It was a move that upset Sanders' fans at the Colisee, but which Davis contends was not a slight at his ex-student, rather a favor requested by de Freitas' coach Marco Alvan, a longtime acquaintance of Davis.  Sanders lost the bout, and with it his opportunity to be crowned champion, via unanimous decision after five grueling rounds.  Emotions boiled over during the post-fight confrontation in the cage between Sanders, his corners, and Davis.  Words were exchanged.  After Sanders and his entourage left the cage, the confrontation continued between Davis and Sanders' friends and family at cage-side.

"During the fight, Marcus was actually saying some rude things to me," recalled Sanders.  "And then after the fight, I just told him that I heard what he was saying.  I gave him my two cents.  And that's the little episode we had at the end of that fight...  I thought it was a little childish the way he was running his mouth during the fight...  He came to my corner to congratulate me.  He was telling my coach that I did a great job.  He was coming to shake my hand and stuff, and I said, "I heard what you fuckin' said during the fight tough guy!'  That's when he lost his cool."

While much has been written in the press about the fight, and fans have chimed in with predictions all over social media, Sanders refuses to let himself be overcome by the hype surrounding the bout on February 8.  He realizes that it is the biggest fight of his young career, and he knows that there is a lot at stake on both sides.

"I respect him as a fighter," said Sanders of Davis...  "I don't have any ill will towards him or anything like that...  This (fight) is a good opportunity for me.  I had to take it.  This is a nuclear bomb.  The second it posted on Facebook that it was confirmed, it just spread like wildfire.  It was crazy.  I mean, literally, the next day it was on the radio, it was on the local news, it was in the Bangor Daily.  This is a huge fight.  People are buying tickets.  People want to see this fight...  I know Marcus is training hard.  He's gonna come out and it's gonna be a war."

You can listen to the Ryan Sanders NEF Podcast interview in its entirety at

“NEF XII,” is scheduled to take place on Saturday, February 8, 2014 at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston, Maine with a bell time of 7:00 pm.  In the main event, Maine MMA legend Marcus “The Irish Hand Grenade” Davis (22-10) faces his former student “THE” Ryan Sanders (5-4) in a much-anticipated welterweight contest.  In addition, Maine State MMA Middleweight Champion Jesse Peterson (7-4) will return to action for the first time in nearly a year to defend his title against “Ruthless” Mike Zichelle (6-3).  Tickets for "NEF XII" start at just $25 and are on sale now at or by calling The Colisee box office at 207.783.2009 x 525. For more information on the event and fight card updates, please visit the promotion’s website at  In addition, you can watch NEF MMA videos at, follow them on Twitter @nefights and join the official Facebook group “New England Fights.”

About New England Fights

New England Fights Mixed Martial Arts (“NEF MMA”) is a Mixed Martial Arts promotions company. NEF MMA’s mission is to create the highest quality events for Maine’s fighters and fans alike. NEF MMA’s executive team has extensive experience in combat sports management, events production, media relations, marketing, legal and advertising.