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February 3, 2017

NEF 27: Lightweight Tournament for the Title!

NEF Deploys Four Man Tournament for Vacant Lightweight Title.

Travis Lizotte:

New England Fights kicks off its 2017 schedule Saturday February 11th at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston, Maine. Although a New Year typically means a new beginning, the NEF Promotion finds themselves in a very similar situation as they have dealt with before; in search of a new Lightweight Champion. In 2013 at NEF 7 Florida’s Des “The Predator” Green knocked out Henry Martinez for the promotion’s then vacant Lightweight title, but his reign was short lived when Des signed a contract with Bellator MMA and never returned to the promotion leaving the belt up for grabs once again. In 2014 Bruce Boyington defeated Jesse Erickson to earn himself the title of NEF Lightweight king. Boyington would defend his title against Jesse Erickson again just two months later, but in 2015 Boyington would step away from the title to chase a multi-fight deal with the World Series of Fighting. In 2016 NEF called once again on Jesse Erickson, this time to fight Devin Powell for their Lightweight strap, Powell would dispatch Erickson in the first round to become champion. Powell, like Boyington, then received a call from the World Series of Fighting and debuted with the organization earning a decision win over Tommy Marcellino, unlike Boyington, Powell returned to CES later in 2016 when Dana White, Matt Serra and Din Thomas came to town “Looking for a Fight.” Powell, who replaced an injured Jesse Erickson on short notice, would battle Jon Lemke at a non-title Catchweight of 160 pounds. Powell overcame early adversity, in the form of a badly broken and displaced nose, to knockout Lemke in the first round and inevitably earning himself a contract with UFC boss Dana White. Having signed a multi-fight deal with the UFC, Powell, like Green and Boyington, would vacate his title in order to chase the dream of fighting on the sport’s biggest stage. Every promotion enjoys seeing their fighters succeed but the success the NEF Lightweight Champions have earned is somewhat unprecedented, and on February 11th four men take to the cage with intentions of becoming the next successful NEF Lightweight Champion.

On one side of the bracket Young’s MMA standout Ryan Sanders (12-8) takes on Billerica, Massachusetts native who is currently fighting out of Tampa, Florida John Ortolani (8-10). On the other side Team Irish’s Jon Lemke(5-7) faces off for the second time with none other than Jesse Erickson (9-5) three of Jesse’s career five losses have come in NEF Title matches. Given his familiarity with NEF Lightweight title fights and his addition to the four man tournament which could earn him his fourth title shot for the promotion, I caught up with Jesse Erickson just over a week out from his opening round match with Lemke and asked him a couple short questions about the tournament in general.

Travis: So you have fought twice for the vacant title already correct?

Jesse: Correct

Travis: And three times total for the belt, having two title fights against Bruce and one against Devin?

Jesse: Also correct.

Travis: Can you tell me a little about your title fights in the past?

Jesse: All 3 fights were great learning experiences and they showed me what I really need to work on. I think it shows in my performances following those losses.

Travis: What your thoughts are on Devin and Bruce as fighters?

Jesse: Both are outstanding fighters and athletes, not a bad thing to say about either of them. I enjoyed my time in the cage with them both and am happy they moved on to the National/World stage. That being said, it's obviously heart wrenching to have lost and seen them get propelled into bigger and better things. I think about those losses all the time and use it as motivation.

Travis: What your relationship is like with them now?

Jesse: Both have been great since. I've cross trained with them and always wish them luck when they fight. I still talk to Bruce sometimes and I talk to Devin pretty much every week. Devin and I became friends pretty much instantly after the fight. I went down to see him get promoted to black belt and am looking forward to Carol Linn and his wedding.

Travis: Do you feel like the next NEF champ will be offered a fight on the National level?

Jesse: Let's hope so!

Travis: Tell me something you know about Lemke (who you’ve fought before if I remember correctly?)

Jesse: Lemke and I fought years ago. It was my pro debut. He's a gentleman and a great fighter, I look forward to sharing the cage with him again and showing everyone the changes in my game since we first met. I think the difference is I’m 100% focused on beating him and I feel like he is looking to get a rematch with Sanders.

Travis: And how do you think the Sanders v. Ortolani fight will play out?

Jesse: I'll worry about who's next after we've finished our business.

Jesse is confident that his hard work and evolution as a fighter will make a huge impact on this tournament. Jon Lemke knows a thing or two as well about the top guys in NEF’s Lightweight division. Lemke has shown up on the wrong end of his last four bouts with three of those bouts coming against the division’s top talent in Sanders, Powell and Boyington. Lemke definitely has been battle tested and would be looking to secure a rematch with Ryan Sanders after their last fight ended prematurely at NEF 26 due to a large cut that lead to the dotcor stopping the fight after the second round. Lemke would undoubtedly like to earn another shot at Sanders but will have to get through a very tough Erickson and hope that Sanders can dispatch a tough out in his own right in Ortolani. “Orto” as he is known across the New England MMA scene is not unfamiliar with the talent pool he is about to enter either, having fought two former NEF Lightweight champs during his 18 fight Professional career including a victory over Bruce Boyington and a loss to Des Green. Sanders will likely find himself as the favorite to win the tournament and the belt, on paper. Sanders has stacked up 12 wins against 8 losses during his Professional career, securing wins against top New England Lightweights including; Luis “Rockstar” Felix, Lucas “Golden Boy” Cruz and a Doctors Stoppage TKO against former training partner and UFC Veteran Marcus Davis at NEF 12, that fight taking place in the Welterweight division.

Regardless of how the first round of this tournament plays out I think the NEF fans are in for an exciting night of action in Lewiston, Maine next Saturday night at NEF 27. These four Lightweights, who are all well aware of each others games, will all be looking to launch their careers and gain national attention as the next great NEF Lightweight Champion. Both Travis’ from will be in house to watch the action live; OG Travis, Travis Sinclair will be live cage side with results for all of our fans and I will likely be trying to steal some pictures with the fighters and keep you guys updated on our Facebook page. I want to thank Jesse Erickson for the insight and taking time out of his final days of camp to have a talk with me.

Jesse Erickson would like to thank: “My team CMBJJ, My sponsors KTW, C+C Tattoo, Orchid, Vapor Room, Duval’s Auto, Therapeutic Touch Massage, Key Fitness, WKBC cleaners, and of course my amazing friends, family, and fans for their support throughout my MMA career. This is my 20th fight and some of them have been there for every fight. Pretty incredible!”