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July 12, 2022



Portland, Maine (July 11, 2022)

David Burke didn’t even give spectators to his New England Fights (NEF) mixed martial arts (MMA) debut long enough to purchase the popcorn they might have spilled all over the place in stunned appreciation of his fistic prowess.

An accomplished wrestler in a not-too-distant combat sports life, Burke unleashed a barrage of blows to the head of David McCarty and notched a knockout only 19 seconds after the opening bell of NEF’s May card.

“I knew I had it in me,” Burke said. “The game plan was to take him down, overwhelm him and just not give him a chance to have any success at all. That was really what we were looking for the whole time, just that early takedown and get him out of there.”

Burke, fighting out of the ever-growing stable at Nostos MMA in Somersworth, New Hampshire, isn’t shy about saying he wants a longer, stronger workout for his next challenge.

He expects to experience just that when he battles Ryan Fredette, another champion wrestler newly focused on the cage, in a middleweight scrap at NEF 48: “Heatwave.” The outdoor card is set for scenic Thompson’s Point in Portland, Maine on Saturday, July 30 with a bell time of 7 p.m.

“That was the first fight that was offered to me after the first one. They said he was four-time state champion, a New England champ, and I said ‘let’s do it’ right away. That’s what I want,” Burke said. “The first fight was cool and whatever, but I want to be challenged. I want competition. This is someone I’m trying to take out and move on to the next one and find someone better to fight. I’m not looking for easy fights. I know it’s his first fight, but with that skill set he should bring a good fight to the table. That’s what I’m hoping for at least.”

Fredette, who won that New England title his senior year as a three-sport athlete at Winslow High School, will make his MMA debut against Burke. Both men only started training for their new competitive environment in earnest this calendar year.

“I started training right about January 1. I'd wrestled in high school or whatever. I'd always wanted to get in there, but I wasn't in the right position in life to do it,” Burke said. “Everything came together this year. It was perfect timing, just being in the right place and getting in the door at Nostos. I kind of wrote myself off at one point because I didn’t get started right away after high school. I’m happy with the way things are turning out.”

Burke graduated from Exeter High School with a state title his senior season and two New England tournament appearances of his own.

With no plans to attend college immediately thereafter, Burke lost the opportunity to stoke those competitive flames. He remained close friends with two of his former teammates, Ross Dannar and Nathaniel Grimard, and experienced MMA vicariously through them as they branched out into the new disciplines at Nostos.

“They’re pro fighters now, and all through their careers I’d been in and out of contact with them, and I had seen what they were doing with it,” Burke said. “That motivated me a lot, ‘cause I was like, ‘Damn, I want to get in there.’ I always loved the sport. I had some injuries in 2016 that I had to get some stuff done there. At one point, like I said I wrote myself off, but seeing them have success motivated me.”

Another chance meeting pushed him in their direction to get the band back together.

“I was working with a guy doing landscaping, and he had been doing karate, He was like a brown belt in some form of karate. He got me to do some sparring sessions with him one-on-one,” Burke explained. “That was the summer before I started training. That got the gears turned again, and I started thinking about it. I was on the good side of 30, so it’s just something I wanted to go for.”

Burke enjoyed a more accomplished career than a vast majority of high school wrestlers, but that hasn’t stopped him from playing the dreaded what-if game over the years.

He admits to some regrets about not taking two key aspects of being a student-athlete seriously.

“In high school I had a little over 150 varsity wins. I placed at New Englands my junior and my senior year. I won a state title my senior year. But truthfully, I don’t think I ever reached my max potential wrestling-wise,” Burke said. “I think I’m a better competitor now than I was at the time. Just going through life experiences, you look at things a little differently. I think I could have been better than I was. I also wasn’t as focused on nutrition and just doing everything the way I should have, I cut a lot of weight last minute in high school. That never helps the morning of (a meet). Just little things. I have a very different mindset than I did back then.

“Part of my problem was I was more focused on wrestling than I was on schoolwork,” he continued. “I was my own worst enemy, man. I kept my grades just scraping by to where it was good enough to wrestle. At the time that was good enough for me. I didn’t take that part of things as seriously as I should have. I definitely feel like I shorted myself when it comes to that. But that’s also why I take this so seriously now. It’s like I have a chance to really get to where I should have been.”

In 2018, at a crossroads in his young adult life, Burke made the decision to travel 2,500 miles and move to Utah sight unseen.

A journey reminiscent of the Native American spiritual concept that inspired the title of the 1980s coming-of-age and wrestling motion picture “Vision Quest,” it was a crucial period of self-discovery for Burke.

“Out of high school I started working landscaping. I was doing that for years. At one point I was pouring concrete foundations, just laborish work,” Burke said. “The biggest thing for me is I was getting sick of all that. I wasn’t as healthy as I wanted to be, wasn’t working out, wasn’t doing anything. That’s when I up and moved across the country out to Utah. I stayed out there for a year and a half. I went out there with my dog. I had a lot of time to get truly healthy and seclude myself and get my mind right. Then I started lifting weights again. I gained a bunch of good weight. When I came back, it was almost like I had a fresh start here in New England.”

Going to the gym at Nostos was part of continuing that process. Burke had no agenda or timetable for taking that first walk to the cage.

“It’s that competition. That’s what I missed,” Burke said. “When I started going to the gym again, I didn’t know if I was gonna fight or not. I didn’t know how my body was gonna react. I didn’t know what it was gonna feel like, but as soon as it started, that competitor in me, it was hard to not want that competition again.

“I’m training with the best local guys, and pretty soon they’re gonna be the best outside of our local region,” he added. “We’ve got Kyle Hill, who’s gonna be fighting for the 170 amateur title on this card. Brody McDougal, who’s knocking people out on other promotions. I don’t want to leave anybody out. Ross and Nathaniel. Cody Lightfoot has been my main training partner for this camp. He’s a heavyweight.”

Nostos puts in that grind under the watchful eye of UFC and NEF veteran Devin Powell. The stable’s burgeoning success is somewhat of a chicken-and-egg phenomenon, the newcomer noted.

“The stuff that Devin puts us through, if you don’t have the bodies that we have, it doesn’t matter what your coach is putting you through. And then vice-versa. You could have great partners, but if you don’t have that coaching that we have, you’re just not gonna be able to get that same work in that we are,” Burke said. “Everyone in there, especially the fighters that are training for fight camps, we push each other hard. You’re not around yes-men. They’re not telling you just what you want to hear. We’re working on making ourselves better. It’s a great place. It’s a family.”

Having already realized a dream of most fighters who enter the MMA realm, yet true to his local roots, Powell has emerged as the perfect mentor.

“He's so down-to-earth, and he’s really taken that coaching position (to heart). He and (wife) Carol-Linn are like the gym parents. They’re great role models,” Burke said. “He sacrifices so much time to make us better. As far as that knowledge that he has, I trust everything that he puts us through and everything he says. You know that he knows what he’s talking about. You know if you do what he says and work hard, you’re gonna have results. He’s laid-back, but he turns it up when he needs to.”

Burke acknowledges that Fredette is one of the few NEF personalities whose accomplishments on the mat overshadow his.

To those who will use that history to handicap the fight, he cautioned that the rest of his acumen could be a deciding factor.

“I didn’t quite accomplish some of the things he accomplished, but I’m a different person than I was back then when I was accomplishing those wrestling goals. It’s a whole another animal once you’re in there,” Burke said. “I’m dangerous. I’m gonna be dangerous through this whole fight. I’m not gonna gas out. I’m in great shape. I feel great. I’m working hard.

“Wherever this fight goes, he’s not gonna have room for any mistakes, ‘cause I’m gonna capitalize on that. It’s just the way it is. He can rely on his wrestling or do whatever he wants, but at the end of the day I have a gameplan and I’m gonna stick to it. That’s the way I see it. But I’m up for a challenge. I hope he’s ready to fight. Wrestling’s one thing, but we’re gonna go in there and we’re gonna fight. It’s not a wrestling match.”

Burke also looks forward to the unique venue, roughly halfway between his home base and Fredette’s.

“I hope he has a lot of people there too. I like being cheered on, and I don’t care if I get booed either. Either one is motivating to me,” he said. “I wouldn’t mind shutting a bunch of people up or making a bunch of people happy who want to see me do well, so either way works for me.”

NEF 48: “Heatwave” is the second outdoor card in the history of the organization. The feature fight is a pro heavyweight bout between Burke’s training partner, Cody Lightfoot, and Ras Hylton. Tickets are on sale now at

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