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July 8, 2022



Portland, Maine (July 7, 2022)

Few if any combatants have made their debut in the New England Fights (NEF) mixed martial arts (MMA) cage with as many athletic accolades as Jared Turcotte (0-0), who has signed on for an amateur light heavyweight scrap with Seth Godfrey (1-0) at NEF 48: “Heatwave” on Saturday, July 30.

Turcotte won the Fitzpatrick Trophy as Maine’s outstanding schoolboy football player at Lewiston High School, where he was also a state track and field champion in the long jump. Later, he starred at the University of Maine in a career cut short both by injuries and a higher calling as a husband and father.

Six children, two career paths and more than a decade later, Turcotte, who will turn 33 the day after the outdoor fight card at scenic Thompson’s Point in Portland, Maine, acknowledges that it all transpired what sometimes feels like a lifetime ago. And he’s the first to admit that the hardware and headlines of yesteryear won’t amount to much in a completely new sporting environment.

“I will say it’s nice to be able to hide behind five 300-pounders,” Turcotte, once a record-shattering running back, said with a laugh. “(But now) it’s all on me. There’s no excuse. If I get KO’d, I have to figure out how to not get KO’d. I don’t have a crystal ball. I see it going one of two ways. I see it being either I get in the cage and, ‘No way, this is not for me. I thought my savagery was at level 10 and it was actually level four.’ Or it’ll be, ‘Let’s go. Who wants to do this again?’ I don’t see it going anywhere in the middle.”

Turcotte’s walk to the cage started innocently when the eldest of his active, evenly spaced brood – his kids are currently 11, 9, 7, 5, 3 and 1 – sought a summer activity to supplement their packed winter schedule of snowboarding, skiing, basketball and dance in the bucolic, lakeside community of Litchfield.

They found it with a short commute to Central Maine Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (CMBJJ), home of NEF superstars Jesse Erickson, Dustin Veinott and other stalwarts of the NEF hexagon.

“We were looking for something we could learn and do together and be novices at the same time, grow together from square one, and Brazilian jiu-jitsu was what we decided to dip our hands in,” Turcotte said. “That just morphed into going to jiu-jitsu class and the Muay Thai class happening and really being mesmerized by what they were doing and having Dustin (Veinott) throw some gloves and shins at me and getting me out on the mat. It’s kind of just been training ever since.”

Far away from the crowd of thousands who raucously cheered his exploits on the gridiron, Turcotte reignited those dormant competitive flames.

In addition to the coveted Fitzy, Turcotte reaped 2006 state player of the year awards from Gatorade, Sports Illustrated and Maine’s major daily newspapers. He rushed for 4,562 yards and made 554 tackles in high school.

The transition from Blue Devil to Black Bear was immediately successful. Turcotte started all 13 games at UMaine, led the team in rushing and was named a second-team All-American as a redshirt freshman in 2008 before chronic knee ailments and a sports hernia limited him to only six more collegiate contests.

“Name a college football player that’s playing Division I football and not banged up in November, and I’ll show you someone that rides the bench,” Turcotte said. “Were the injuries a factor? Yeah. My knees were a little banged up. It made (getting) out a little easier I would say for sure.”

Turcotte married, started a family, bid farewell to football and embarked on a medical sales career, all the while knowing deep down there was some unfinished business in his rearview mirror.

“The way I describe it now is I’ve got to kind of go back into those parts of my brain. It’s been 10 years or so since I’ve quote-unquote flipped the switch, and it’s hard to do once you’re not used to it and trying to find that nasty guy that’s there. It’s definitely there,” he said. “I think that is part of it (with MMA). It’s something I tried to experience in different ways with the sales gig that I had before. I tried to quench that thirst professionally, but it’s not the same. I couldn’t get excited about selling knees and hips like I could about trying to run people over.”

Turcotte has watched a steady parade of players from his era in Orono ultimately reach the National Football League, some enjoying all-pro caliber careers.

“It took me a long time to move on. I don’t think I really exited the way that I really could have. I have some borderline (feelings) like did I give up on myself right before the prime came, before the goal was gonna be achieved? But that’s what life is,” Turcotte said. “The proximity of my departure from football to being a husband and father is not a coincidence. In my mind, at that time I couldn’t fully be what I needed to be for my wife and my daughter and play football, and 11 times out of 10 I’m going to make that decision. I don’t like to play the what-if game, but I do sometimes. I won’t lie.”

Listed as 6-foot-2 and 230 pounds at the peak of his football days, Turcotte relied on speed, brute strength and a running style that punished would-be tacklers. He blended natural talent with desire and was a student of the game.

Some of those talents may serve him well when the cage door is latched, but in many respects, it is like starting over.

“The MMA game is a game in and of itself. However deep you want to go into each one of the pools that is a specific martial art, the striking, the grappling, the wrestling, each one of those pools is very, very, very, very deep,” Turcotte said. “I’m as green as green can get. There’s no way around it. I’m not gonna sit here and say I have a particular strong suit, because as far as I’m concerned, all my attributes are at zero.”

Turcotte said Curtis Ouellette (3-3), who will take on Kyle Hill (2-0) in a welterweight bout on the same card, has taken him under his wing.

“They’ve got a lot of guys in there that from my understanding are fairly new to the gym but are athletic guys that train hard,” Turcotte said. “That’s what wins fights. You’re not gonna get to fight day and just magically do stuff you didn’t do when you were training in fight camp. However you train, that’s what the fight is, and you resort back to your training and that’s what you get. I think people see I’ve been training hard during this fight camp. I hope to keep the guys that have been training with me with their eyebrows raised like, ‘OK, he trains hard for a reason.’”

Like many raw talents making their first foray into the sport, Turcotte believes less is more when it comes to scouting Godfrey, who debuted with a 37-second knockout of George Pissimissis in May.

“I know absolutely nothing about my opponent. I don’t mean that in any condescending way. I’m sure he’s a great dude. I’m sure he’s a hell of a competitor if he’s willing to step inside the cage,” Turcotte said. “I’m not ready to pretend like I can analyze an opponent except for within the fight. Every fight is a world of its own, so I’ve been told. I kind of understand that just from training with so many different people how people use range, length, athleticism, throw that into their brains and out through their bodies.”

Turcotte is relatively new to combat sports in general.

Lewiston didn’t have any semblance of a wrestling team when he was in high school. Basketball was his winter sport. And MMA was just starting its meteoric rise into the public consciousness.

“It’s not something that I’ve always been super into. I’ve definitely gotten a lot more now that I’m watching fights all the time when I’m training, just to try to learn it and try to absorb as much as I possibly can about what the dos and don’ts are,” Turcotte said. “It’s not something I really thought I’d be doing. It wasn’t something I was presented with as a kid as an option to do, to utilize the athleticism that I do have and train it into something else.

“This is all brand new. I’m definitely a fan. I understand the excitement and the entertainment aspect of fighting, and also the artistry that’s involved. That’s what the beauty of it is, that adrenaline rush people feel when they’re watching is something that comes right from the two guys squaring off in the cage at its most intense.”

To borrow the phrase attributed to Theodore Roosevelt and most recently popularized in a documentary series starring Tom Brady, Turcotte is fully acquainted with being the “man in the arena.”

Athletes who can handle the heat of the spotlight share a certain makeup. Turcotte hopes his comfort level with being that center of attention will translate well from turf and white lines to bars and canvas.

“Just performing in front of a crowd of people. This is my first go, so I go back to my other first goes athletically,” Turcotte said. “My first college game was at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa, and at first it was like, ‘Hooooo-lyyyyyshit! What is this?’ And then you get through a series and it’s like, ‘Oh, we’re just playing football.’ You get that out of you, and you do what you do, and it is what it always has been. I hope to draw from that experience that I have from college football in the cage. Whether or not it'll be the same, different, I don’t know. Ask me after July 30th.”

Together with his older brother, Nate, Turcotte now exercises his sales acumen in the world of medicinal cannabis.

He is not courting a career in UFC or Bellator by any means, but Turcotte’s default setting remains laser-focused on excellence on whatever he pursues. If cage success mirrors his greatness of the past, watch out, even if he is a late bloomer.

“I’m an old, old man. I should be in a rocking chair,” Turcotte quipped. “I figure I’ve definitely got some catching up to do. I’m older than young but younger than old. I think I’ve still got some pep in my step.”

Keeping up with the half-dozen who call him Dad ensures that.

“They’re all trying to convince me to let them go to the fight and watch in person,” Turcotte said. “They’re excited. They see me training in MMA classes, so they’re not completely foreign to what it’ll look like. The intensity will be a little bit of a shocker to them, I think.”

NEF 48: “Heatwave” is the second outdoor card in the history of the organization. Opening bell time is 7 p.m. on Saturday, July 30. Tickets are on sale now at NewEnglandFights,com.

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