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November 2, 2022



Portland, Maine (October 30, 2022)

The adrenaline-fueled, supervised violence that makes it a worldwide phenomenon notwithstanding, mixed martial arts is paradoxically most often a gentlemen’s or ladies’ sport.

Talking smack before the event and bloodying the opposition during the fight are strictly business, as evidenced by how quickly the combatants embrace and make plans to sit down together with a cold beverage afterward.

There’s no such love or even mutual respect waiting to blossom while New England Fights (NEF) veterans Matthew Denning (7-16) and Carl Langston (2-6) are in the cage together Saturday. November 12 at Aura in Portland, Maine.

 When months if not years of attempts to pair the journeymen come to fruition with a professional featherweight bout at NEF 50, it will light the fuse underneath two resilient dudes who flat-out don’t like each other.

“As a person, Carl Langston and I shouldn’t be in the same room together, ‘cause I’ll smack him in the mouth whether we’re getting paid to or not,” Denning said.

Denning, fighting independently and frequently after years of admitted shortcomings in his personal life, alleges that Langston has an equally checkered past and that he has ducked countless overtures for a fight at both the pro and amateur levels.

There is also apparent bad blood between the two over Denning’s exile from Central Maine Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (CMBJJ), a gym where Langston also occasionally cross-trained. For his part, Langston believes it is all a phony attempt by Denning to motivate himself.

“I’m really excited for it, because I’ve never been in the cage with someone I really don’t like,” Langston said. “I would love to fight Matt Denning in the alley way. He’s someone I don’t like because he’s starting a fake drama beef.”

Langston claims that Denning has backed out of multiple agreements to fight over the years, something Denning acknowledges happened only once due to amove in his personal life.

Denning counters that it’s Langston who has turned down numerous offers, although Langston argues it is because the two could never meet in the middle on a weight limit. His recent run of activity in the cage combined with a new lifestyle has dropped Denning’s reading on the scale to a place that finally makes the fight possible at Langston’s preferred number.

 “What Carl doesn’t understand is I’m sticking around to fight at 145, and I’m gonna make a bigger statement than I did before,” Denning said. “I’ve fought so much higher weight classes and such a better level of competition that I think I’ll be able to get a bunch of wins at 145 against the mediocre talent pool.”

Denning dropped eight consecutive MMA verdicts in a streak that encompassed nearly five years before back-to-back wins earlier this year over Jacob Guerrero and Brian Cosco, the latter at NEF 48: “Heatwave” in July.

He has fought twice since then, and the bout with Langston will be his second in a 21-day span. The nature of Denning’s career trajectory has prompted Langston to accuse that he is only taking the fight after all this time for the paycheck.

“There’s been times in my career where I fought some really tough people, and I knew my chances of winning those fights weren’t that high because of the level of talent and the weight classes, and it would take money for me do that. Not recently. I’ve taken big-money fights because I’ve earned them,” Denning retorted. “The level of competition I’ve fought is insane compared to who Carl has fought. He thinks he can bully and say things about his fighting career like his career is better than mine. I’ve fought more times this year and won as many as he did in his entire career. I’m his record just from this year.”

After a mixed bag of an amateur career that featured 16 fights, Langston lost six in a row out of the starting block as a pro before embarking on what is now a two-fight winning streak. He avenged a prior loss to Zac Richard by rear naked choke in February before pounding out a May unanimous decision over Zenon Herrera.

It was at the weigh-in for the Herrera fight where Langston said Denning approached him for an amicable conversation about perhaps finally putting their long-awaited fight to rest. Again, the gap in their weights was a sticking point. Langston still considered it a friendly encounter until someone altered him to a call-out from Denning on social media.

“Matt was never on my radar as a pro until he posted on his Facebook that I was running from him. Someone screenshot it and sent it to me,” Langston recalled. “They said, ‘Yo, look what Matt’s starting.’ I’m like, ‘What the?’ I even hit Matt up and asked him, ‘Where’s this coming from? How am I running from you? Your name’s not even been brought up for a fight. What are you talking about?’ That’s when this whole, ‘Oh, you’re a fake. You’re this, that. You were talking behind my back when I got kicked out of the gym.’ I’m like, ‘Bro, where is this coming from? ‘Cause this is not true.’ And then it just escalated from there.”

As for the merits of the man across the cage, Denning is more eager and expansive in terms of casting aspersions about Langston.

“He’s a mediocre taekwondo guy who has trash jiu-jitsu, no wrestling. All he does is smoke weed and party all the time. There’s nothing serious about Carl Langston in MMA. His (biggest) win was a fluke. He got super lucky, landed on the kid’s back and choked him out,” Denning said. “It’s the same as Jesse (Erickson) when Jesse and I fought each other. Jesse Erickson knew, ‘There’s no reason why Matt Denning should be fighting me.’ I knew the level of jiu-jitsu Jesse had. But I’m a natural-born fighter. It’s what I do. Carl doesn’t do anything besides annoy everyone.”

Perhaps a mite more diplomatic in his assessment, Langston didn’t waste the chance to get in one more jab about what he sees as Denning’s primary carrot on the stick leading to their overdue clash.

“He’s definitely taking this fight to get paid. That’s for sure. But I’m not gonna sit here and down Matt Denning. He has some skills. He’s not somebody that I’m gonna try to sleep on,” Langston said. “He’s definitely coming to win the fight, because he’s lost his last whatever. I don’t even remember how many fights he’s lost because he’s fighting for a check. I’m not gonna underestimate him. I’m looking to just freaking settle the score, and hopefully it shuts his mouth.”

Langston reiterated his concerns that Denning won’t make the weight and that he suspects the contracted limit of 145 is a ruse to move the bout to a higher catchweight after a failed weigh-in.

Denning is adamant that featherweight is not only his short-term destination but a long-term plan to reverse his career fortunes.

“I’m going back into the fight scene headfirst, full throttle, and Carl is just drifting along doing nothing with his life. He’s a shame to this sport,” Denning said. “I know that my history in the sport didn’t leave the greatest example, and that’s why I’m here to fix it. I’m here to fix it and show that people can change and be better people. Carl’s doing nothing but making everyone in this sport look terrible.”

While the animosity appears to have deep roots, Langston denies his role in all of Denning’s stated reasons for it.

“I never talked crap. It was none of my business what went on. For some reason now, freaking fast-forward years later, he’s back on the scene and has a problem with me and says that I was talking crap about him and all this crazy stuff,” Langston said. “And it’s like, ‘Bro, if you want to fight, let’s fight, but as far as talking crap, I’ve never said anything behind your back when you got kicked out of the gym.’ It wasn’t any of my business.”

Though it’s been said there are three sides to every story, both men predict that they will spin a tale that ultimately gets the final word in this rivalry before a large gallery of witnesses.

“It’s gonna end brutal,” Denning said. “My plan is just to annihilate him everywhere and put him through fuckin’ hell. And I’ll know when he’s ready to give up, and I’ll ease up and just keep pounding him until the ref’s had enough.”

Likewise, Langston – who has been the distance in five of his eight pro bouts – doesn’t expect the judges to be a factor this time.

“I think I’m gonna do even better than I’m used to, because now I actually have a grudge against this person. That goes back to the mental part of my training. Now the mental part is there, plus the hostility toward the person I’m about to fight I think is huge for me in this fight,” Langston said. “I believe there’s gonna be a finish. As long as I give it my all and Matt gives it his all, I think the fans are gonna love it. I’m not coming to make this go the distance. Someone’s getting finished. That’s how this is gonna end.”

Opening bell time for NEF 50 at Aura is set for 7 p.m. on Saturday, November 12. Tickets are available now at




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