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August 21, 2018



Brunswick, Maine (August 15, 2018) – It’s absolutely no secret that few New England lightweights have raised their fists to volunteer for a mixed martial arts showdown with “The” Ryan Sanders in recent years.

 The competition at welterweight isn’t clamoring for a date with Sanders, either, although a newcomer to the region with ties to another hotbed of the sport is eager to embrace the challenge at “New England Fights 35: Wicked Season.”

 Armando “Chino” Montoya, a veteran of 16 professional bouts, and linked closely with a pioneering figure in combat sports, will answer the call Saturday, September 8. The bout will take place on Sanders’ home turf at Cross Insurance Center in Bangor. Opening bell time is 7 p.m.

 “(NEF co-owner and matchmaker) Matt Peterson asked me if I wanted to fight, and I was happy to take it,” Montoya said. “I like to push myself. I don’t like easy fights.”

 That attitude is a product of both Montoya’s cultural and professional background.

He’s proud to be a first-generation Mexican-American and a product of the relentless, fighting culture that has made his parents’ homeland such a force in boxing and MMA.

 While living, working and fighting in California, he was a student of Thomas “Wildman” Denny, a veteran with almost 50 pro fights under his belt.

 “That’s a name well-known to longtime fans of the sport,” Peterson said. “Denny was known for always having exciting fights, win or lose, and I know he instilled some of that mentality in his students, such as Armando.”

 Montoya (10-6) fought primarily in California, Colorado and New Mexico. He was in line to fight on a UFC card in Wyoming when a hand injury forced him to withdraw from the bout.

 Although work and family commitments have slowed his pace in recent years, only five years separate him from a six-fight win streak.

 “I’ve fought the top local guys wherever I’ve been my whole career. I fought against guys who wound up fighting for UFC or Strikeforce,” Montoya said. “I’m 38, which I know is pretty old in this business, but I still like to challenge myself. It’s become more like a hobby. I have to work and support my family, but when the opportunities have come up, I love to train and give it a shot.”

 A union carpenter by trade, Montoya sought more lucrative opportunities in that realm. Maine wound up on his radar because it is his mother-in-law’s home.

After the move, Montoya sought a local gym where he could continue to hone his craft in the martial arts. At 6-foot-3, having spent much of his career at middleweight, Montoya said he didn’t find many sparring partners his size.

 “Then I was working in Portland and the superintendent there was a friend of John Raio," Montoya recalled. "He said, ‘You should check out First Class MMA in Brunswick,’ so I did.”

Both family-oriented men with a passion for the sport and their shared faith, Raio and Montoya became fast friends.

 “Armando is a strong leader and our most experienced fighter,” Raio said. “He’s the most humble guy you will ever meet and a devout Christian. His warm presence and willingness to share his knowledge and experience at First Class MMA make him a strong asset to our gym. He has been a huge reason for the growth of our students. I’m honored to call him my fighter and a great friend. He’s like family to me.”

 First Class doesn’t have many exact matchups for the newcomer’s body type, either, but Montoya likes the mix of personalities and youthful exuberance.

 “It’s exciting to see other people so excited about the sport,” Montoya said. “First Class has a lot of young guys who are just starting out, that have had one or two fights.”

 Montoya’s first inclination is a stand-up clash. Most of his opponents have been substantially shorter, though, and prefer ground-and-pound affairs in which his reach advantage is less of a factor. He said he enjoys the contrast of styles.

 Sanders (16-9) is the clear favorite. In his prime at 31, undefeated through his past seven sojourns in the NEF hexagon, he has been more active than his unfamiliar opponent.

 “Unfamiliar” is the operative word. The unknowns – namely Montoya’s vast experience against a different talent pool – make it a can’t-miss matchup.

 Montoya can appreciate the challenge Sanders will face in ascending a class to face him.

“I’m used to being the one going up in weight,” he said. “Being 6-foot-3, I’m used to bumping up from 170 to 185. It’s kind of cool being on the other side this time.”

While Montoya is quick to acknowledge God for his forward motion in life, he gives MMA proper credit for its role in his salvation, as well.

 Before entering the amateur ranks at age 25, ‘Mando’ spent five years in federal prison and walked out mad at the world.

 “I had a lot of anger issues,” he said. “This sport showed me how to take out that anger in a constructive way. I didn’t need to fight in the bars and the clubs anymore.”

 Many have gained from Montoya’s personal triumphs. Now, add NEF’s devoted fan base to that list.

 “We’re lucky to have someone of Armando’s caliber stepping up to face Ryan,” Peterson said. “As if this card weren’t already exciting enough, now we have this added fight to thrill the Bangor fans. It doesn’t get any better than this.”

 NEF's next mixed-martial-arts event, "NEF 35: Wicked Season," will see the company make its return to the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor, Maine.  The event is scheduled to take place Saturday, September 8, 2018 with a bell time of 7 pm.  Tickets are on sale now at