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May 1, 2023



Portland, Maine (April 26, 2023)

 Learning from your mistakes, staying humble despite the wins, persisting through the inevitable losses and finding your home in the cage are all essential parts of the mixed martial arts journey.

At the tender age of 23, already with more professional fights on his ledger than amateur growth experiences, Anthony Vasta (2-3) of Defensive Edge MMA perhaps personifies that full range of emotions.

Vasta knows what it’s like to taste a losing streak in the sport, as well as how to bask in the afterglow of a job well done after bucking that trend in a matter of scintillating seconds.

Consistently fighting two to four hours from home in Burlington, Massachusetts, under the New England Fights banner, Vasta doesn’t fear stepping into neutral or enemy territory. He hasn’t shied away from advancing a weight class or moving up to a higher caliber of opponent.

“For the most part it’s just maturing into my body and my skills that I already have. I think probably just maturing into my game and my experience,” Vasta said. “I’m not looking through this next fight, but I definitely would like to stay as active as I have been and hopefully just keep getting a nice win record going this year and just see where it goes.”

In his quest to capture consecutive professional triumphs for the first time, Vasta will take on undefeated Gerald Meuse (3-0) in a lightweight bout at “NEF 52: Zero Hour.” The card is scheduled for Saturday, May 13 at Aura in Portland, Maine, with an opening bell time of 7 p.m.

Meuse’s resume features one common opponent with Vasta and another name familiar to NEF fans. Both men have an early stoppage of Joshua Beauparlant to their credit. In his most recent fight, Meuse wona battle of unbeatens against Jake Hixenbaugh.

“This guy I’d say probably he’s pretty well-rounded,” Vasta said. “Probably more of a ground guy I’d say, especially in his professional fights. I’ve known about Gerry for a while. He’s a good guy. I’ve actually met him before. He’s a good fighter too.”

Not prone to engage in smack-talk to keep pace with many fighters of his generation and ability level, Vasta isn’t worried about being able to drum up the motivation to scrap with someone for whom he has no real animosity.

“For me, honestly, I wouldn’t say it makes it easier, but I’m not really a big fan of we’re all angry at each other and stuff like that. I kind of just treat it as part of the business,” Vasta said. “I don’t want to fight any of my friends, of course. It’s hard. When you’re training around at all these gyms, you’ll end up fighting someone you’ve been cool with or something. It sucks, but you deal with it.”

Vasta will fight for the sixth time in 15 months and on his fifth NEF card in that small window. His debut was in the rare combination of 6-foot-2, 145-pound featherweight in a unanimous decision loss to Nathaniel Grimard.

After two more fights in that weight category, a choke-out of Aaron Hughes and a loss via knee bar to Juan Rodriguez, Vasta moved up to what probably is his permanent home at 155 in a TKO loss to Jacob Deppmeyer before banishing Beauparlant with a 42-second blitzkrieg.

Busy-ness also is part of the business, in his estimation.

“Sometimes you might have to take some time off after a hard fight and get your skills a little better, but I think staying active for me is just huge to keep my mind growing and increase my competition IQ,” Vasta said. “As an amateur, I had some time off between my fights, and you can really tell. When you get in there after taking like a year off, it takes a round or two to get comfortable back in there. So yeah, I like to compete as much as I can as long as my body’s holding up.”

Standing several inches taller than most of his opponents whether the benchmark is at featherweight or lightweight, Vasta has room to grow into that body.

“That’s a big thing too. I don’t mind fighting a weight class up, because I do know I still have a lot of advantages with my body that some of these lightweights don’t have because I’m a taller guy,” Vasta said. “I think definitely that will show in this fight, that actually using your length can be a real advantage. I take pride in having good striking. Even if a guy outweighs me in this weight class, I’m confident with my skills and my length that it should be a good match.”

Although he has amassed the credentials to fight anywhere in New England, Vasta is a mainstay in Maine-based NEF.

That could give him the rare home mat advantage this time around against Meuse, a Virginia native who has built his perfect professional record with stoppages on cards in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

“I feel like I’m kind of building a little bit of a fan base where I’m not getting booed by the home crowd when I’m in there, so it’s nice,” Vasta said. “I had my first professional fight at this venue we’re fighting at now, so it should be a good time to get back in there at Aura.”

Vasta already had a foot in the NEF door thanks to his trainer, Connor “Bare Knuckle” Barry. A veteran himself of 10 professional fights with seven wins, Barry fought and won an amateur bout at “NEF 17: Power is Legend” back in 2015.

Barry has been in Vasta’s corner since the latter made his amateur debut four years later.

“I’ve been training about five years, and Connor’s been my coach since day one. Connor’s huge. If I didn’t meet Connor, I would probably still be struggling with my grappling,” Vasta said. “A lot of guys when they get in MMA, if you don’t have a wrestling background, it takes a really long time to pick up the grappling. I got lucky with having a really high-level black belt coach who was able to really help me learn faster than most people would in the grappling department. He’s huge with my jiu-jitsu and of course all my stuff. His jiu-jitsu is very good. It’s good to have him.”

That self-assurance in his skill set is audible when Vasta is asked about Meuse, who has dismantled his trio of prior opponents in a total cage time of under eight minutes.

“I’m confident. I’ve taken some fights where I’m not as confident. I know they’re tough fights. But I know this fight as long as I stick to my game plan that he’s 3-0, but I definitely have more professional experience,” Vasta said. “He definitely had more amateur experience, but I think we’ve got a good game plan for this fight. I don’t see where he has a significant advantage over me anywhere.”

Vasta’s demolition of Beauparlant also emboldened him with the conviction that he is ready for whatever is next.

It was his most emotional victory to date.

“I knew I had to get that win back. I was on a two-fight losing streak. We had a really strange fight before that (versus Deppmeyer) where it was a little back and forth, and it was tough to come back after knowing that I could have been up and got the win,” Vasta said. “I kind of just went in there and did what I should have done against that guy and got him out of there quick.”

Rapid enough that there was no hesitation about throwing his name into the hat to perform on back-to-back cards.

“It was probably the most calm I’ve ever felt for a fight, which at the same time I was really ready the day after to get another fight booked,” Vasta said. “That one was so quick that the euphoria kind of wore off quick.”

Being relaxed was a key to that explosion and will prove crucial again if Vasta is to turn it into a winning streak.

“That was the big thing with that fight. The fight before I had a really great camp mentally and physically, but fight night it was really hard.” Vasta said. “I was very emotional the way I fought. Even when I watch it back now, I see just the tension in me. I just don’t fight well when I’ve got that emotional tension.”

The rush, whether it’s a result of winning, losing or simply preparing to make that walk to the cage time after time, is what hooked Vasta and keeps him coming back.

“I definitely have bounced around a lot of different action sports. I’ve always been after the adrenaline you get. The thing about MMA, I’ve done a lot of different things that give me adrenaline and different sports, but MMA is really that unknown factor,” he said. “You kind of just have to go in there knowing you did your work, and you don’t know what exactly awaits you. You could injure yourself with the first punch. You could knock the guy out with the first punch. You could get yourself knocked out. You just never know. I’m always after that better performance than the last one and just doing a little better each time.”

As a fighter whose acumen has improved through both experience and activity, Vasta wants his fast-growing NEF fan base to know they shouldn’t expect that pace to diminish anytime soon.

“I know where I want to end up, but I’m really enjoying the process right now of trying to get better and seeing how far I can take my skills,” Vasta said. “I’m just gonna keep fighting on each card that I can.”

“NEF 52: Zero Hour” will take place Saturday, May 13, 2023, at Aura in Portland, Maine. Doors will open at 6 p.m., with the first fight at 7 p.m. Tickets are on sale now at