NEF Presents “NEF 25: Heroes & Villains”

By: Kalle Oakes

Humility is the undertone for any conversation with Jimmy Jackson about his mixed martial arts career. It was a humbling experience that twisted Rafael Velado’s arm into the world of combat sports in the first place.

One of the men will depart Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston wielding a source of pride – the New England Fights amateur lightweight championship belt – after their clash at “NEF 25: Heroes and Villains” this Saturday, September 10.

Mention the idea of his earning a title shot in the hexagon and Jackson (3-2) almost can’t withhold a laugh.

“It’s a big opportunity for someone like me,” Jackson said. “I never thought I would be fighting for a title. I’ve had a ton of teammates come up to me and say, ‘You deserve this! Way to go!’ I just never thought of myself as that top-tier fighter. I’ve always been the guy kind of behind the scenes.”

Easy enough for the Bangor fighter to blend in, considering that he trains at Young’s MMA with the likes of Aaron “Relentless” Lacey, “The” Ryan Sanders, and Josh “Hook On” Harvey.

Fighting for the belt vacated by stablemate Harvey isn’t an endeavor that would have entered Jackson’s mind back in 2012, when he accepted a fight in Vermont on a relative lark. He won via submission, with a choke, in 96 seconds.

“My training started out as me and a few other guys messing around in a basement,” Jackson said. “My first fight was spur of the moment. I won and it sort of got the adrenaline going, like, ‘I can do this. I did pretty good.’”

Through a co-worker, he connected up with Young’s MMA.

After a learning curve that included back-to-back losses in 2013, Jackson steadily improved and defeated two consecutive opponents to earn his title opportunity.

“It’s a blessing and a curse. It’s truly a family. These are guys who truly stand by each other, in hard times, bad times, in and out of the gym,” Jackson said of wearing Young’s colors. “But on the flip side, everybody’s watching you, expecting a certain amount of entertainment from you. I want to perform at such a level that people are excited to watch me fight.”

While most fighters go through the drudgery of training in order to bask in the glory of fight night, Jackson contends that it’s the training he loves most. And entering the cage, he claims, is not about him.

“Fighting, to me, is just what I can do to show everybody what my coaches have accomplished,” Jackson said. “They sacrifice so much to give us fighters the recognition and they get very little recognition in return. The only reason I get in the cage is to represent them.”

Jackson gravitated to MMA with minimal experience in combat sports. Velado, of Norridgewock, brought a decade of jiu-jitsu and a black belt to the table.

That journey had less glamorous beginnings, however.

“In July 2005, I was playing basketball and a guy on my own team, if you can believe it, punched me in the face. He took exception to something and he messed me up pretty good,” Velado said. “From watching UFC, I thought I knew what to do to defend myself, and I pulled him down with an arm bar. Pathetically, but I pulled him down.”

Velado called it a reality check, one that led him to enroll in jiu-jitsu classes taught by Aaron Blake in Boothbay Harbor.

“I think all guys think they will be able to defend themselves in a situation, and most of those guys are wrong,” Velado said.

In more than three years of tournament competition, Velado said he fought more than 50 times and lost only three matches.

He grew restless and sought a new challenge. It led him to John Raio’s First Class MMA in Topsham. Velado was primed for his debut, but a sparring session with heavyweight teammate Nick Gulliver led to a torn MCL in his knee.

“That took about six to eight months before I fully recovered,” Velado said. “I dropped in on John again in April 2015, and we got a plan together. He got me in there with a lot of good wrestler types, including himself. He let me train with Marcus Davis and some other guys to expand my skill set.”

Velado has won three times in NEF, capped by a split decision over Mike Peitersen of Young’s.

“You’re in for a war. Young’s guys, they’re great. They’re all respectful. They train like savages,” Velado said. “Look who he’s training against…Those guys could fight anywhere in the United States and do well. You can’t not get better training against guys like that. You can’t not be a stud.”

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Jackson, who said that MMA has lowered his stress level while reminding him that there is nothing else in life he can’t handle, hinted that he is the underdog on paper.

“He went three rounds with Mike Pietersen, and Mike is a tough dude. I know he’s a black belt in jits,” Jackson said. “I’m taking a realistic approach. I’m more focused on what I need to do and can’t worry about what he’s going to do. I don’t think he’s going to show me anything that I can’t handle.”

The question, Velado said, is whether or not Jackson’s modesty suggests any level of uncertainty.

“The difference between us is that I know I have jiu-jitsu in my tool box. He doesn’t have anything like that in his tool box that I know of,” Velado said. “He’s going to see what level he’s at in this fight. He’s going to find a way to get past me, or he’s going to take a step back and say is this something I really want to be doing? He definitely has to have confidence if he wants to beat me.”

The opening bell on this Saturday, September 10 is set for 7 p.m. The current docket for “NEF 25: Heroes and Villains” includes three professional boxing matches, five pro mixed martial arts bouts and five amateur MMA scraps. Tickets start at $25 and are available at or by calling the Colisee box office at 207.783.2009, extension 525.


New England Fights (NEF) will hold its next event, “NEF 25: HEROES & VILLAINS” this Saturday, September 10, 2016 at the Androscoggin Bank Colisée in Lewiston, Maine. The event will feature both mixed-martial-arts (MMA) and professional boxing bouts with an MMA cage and a boxing ring set up side-by-side. Earlier today, the promotion announced that it would hold the event weigh-in this Friday, September 9, 2016, at 2:00 pm EDT at the Lewiston Ramada. The Ramada is located at 490 Pleasant Street, Lewiston, Maine 04240.

Weigh-ins are open to the public and free to attend. All of the fighters competing on Saturday night will be at the weigh-in. Fans and press are encouraged to attend.

The “NEF 25” fight card (subject to change):


180 POUNDS: Crowsneck Boutin vs. Jesse Erickson

205 POUNDS: Matt Andrikut vs. Mike Hansen

145 POUNDS: Taylor Trahan vs. Matt Denning

145 POUNDS: Cory Trial vs. Aaron Lacey

135 POUNDS: Walter Smith-Cotito vs. Elias Leland


145 POUND*TITLE: Caleb Hall (c) vs. Johnny Crafts

155 POUND*TITLE: Rafael Velado vs. Jimmy Jackson

155 POUNDS: Caleb Swoveland vs. Frank Johanson

135 POUNDS: Rachael Joyce vs. Jessica Borga

135 POUNDS: Walt Shea vs. Joel Downing


160 POUNDS: Casey Kramlich vs. John Ortolani

175 POUNDS: Brandon Montella vs. Tollison Lewis

160 POUNDS: John Webster vs. Zenon Herrera

The opening bell this Saturday, September 10 is set for 7 p.m. Tickets start at $25 and are available at or by calling the Colisee box office at 207.783.2009, extension 525. Tickets will also be available at the door the night of the event.

The weight cut is regarded by many fighters as the most difficult part of preparing for a fight. For Jesse “The Viking” Erickson (7-5), his weight cut was cut short Monday night in preparation for his upcoming bout at “NEF 25: HEROES & VILLAINS” next week. Erickson was initially scheduled to take on Jon Lemke (5-6) in a rematch of their bout from Bellator 93. The fight would have been at the lightweight limit of 155-pounds. NEF executives, however, were informed Monday afternoon that Lemke had been injured in training and was out of the fight.

Enter Crowsneck Boutin (2-2). The middleweight from the Choi Institute in Portland, Maine stepped in to fill the void left by Lemke’s departure. Boutin will take on Erickson at a catchweight of 180-pounds on September 10th. For Erickson, the heavier limit means not just the end of his weight cut, but a chance to finally face Boutin in a showdown that has been some time in the making.

“It seems the stars have aligned for me and Crow to finally fight in the NEF cage,” said Erickson. “I’m thankful he took the fight and look forward to going to battle with him September 10th. Victory or Valhalla”

“Well, my buddy, Jim Bass, he’s a workin’ pumpin gas and he makes two-fifty for an hour,” sang Boutin when reached for comment. “He’s got rhythm in his hands as he’s tappin’ on the cans. Sings rock and roll in the shower.”

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New England Fights’ next event, “NEF 25: HEROES & VILLAINS,” takes place on Saturday, September 10, 2016 at the Androscoggin Bank Colisée in Lewiston, Maine. Tickets start at just $25 and are on sale now at or by calling the Colisée box office at 207.783.2009 x 525.


New England Fights (NEF) today announced the addition of a professional featherweight mixed-martial-arts (MMA) bout to the fight promotion’s next event, “NEF 25: HEROES & VILLAINS.” Aaron “Relentless” Lacey (2-0) has signed to face Cory Trial (0-0) at the featherweight limit of 145-pounds.

Lacey, the former NEF MMA Amateur Featherweight Champion, recently signed a multi-fight developmental deal with the fight promotion. He amassed an amateur record of 6-1 prior to turning professional. Since entering the pro ranks, Lacey is undefeated. His pro debut saw him submit veteran Derek Shorey (3-7) in the first round last April. Earlier this month, Lacey waged, and won, a war with John Santos (3-4) before UFC President Dana White in Bangor at the “NEF Presents Dana White: Lookin’ for a Fight” taping. Many observers agree that Lacey, a product of Young’s MMA, is but a few victories away from fighting permanently in front of White.

“I’m very happy to be signing with NEF,” said Lacey. “It’s a big step forward in my career and it shows that they have the utmost confidence in my ability! My last fight was an absolute war, but I was fortunate enough to get out of it without any serious injuries. If I’m healthy, I’m fighting–it’s my passion! I’m anxious to welcome Cory to the pro ranks. He has a dangerous skill set that has to be acknowledged and respected. That being said, so do I! I like to be the guy who comes in and puts on a fight that fans don’t forget and that is exactly what I will do September 10.”

Cory Trial makes his professional debut after a memorable amateur career with NEF. In June 2015, Trial scored the fastest knockout in NEF history when he rocked Corey Hinkley (2-4) a mere seven-seconds into the first round. In his final amateur performance, the 41-year-old Trial defeated Angelo Rizzitello (0-1) via split decision this past spring. He is a member of the tough, gritty team of Ruthless MMA & Boxing based out of Benton, Maine.

“I wanna thank NEF for giving me the opportunity to take the next step in my career,” said Trial. “My coach and I have been talking and it’s time. We’ve been putting the work in and I’m ready to take the next step. This fight will really tell me where I’m at. Aaron is a well rounded fighter that likes to push the pace and I’ll be right there looking to do the same! Don’t miss it – it’s going to be fireworks!”

New England Fights’ next event, “NEF 25: HEROES & VILLAINS,” takes place on Saturday, September 10, 2016 at the Androscoggin Bank Colisée in Lewiston, Maine. Tickets start at just $25 and are on sale now at or by calling the Colisée box office at 207.783.2009 x 525.


He has one of the largest and most passionate fanbases of any New England fighter, and now John Ortolani (0-0 boxing, 8-10 MMA) will return to New England Fights (NEF) after a two-and-a-half year absence at “NEF 25: HEROES & VILLAINS” on September 10 in Lewiston. Ortolani, however, will not be competing in the NEF MMA cage. He will make his professional boxing debut that evening, stepping in to replace Connor Barry (0-1) against Casey “Buzzsaw” Kramlich (4-0-1, 2 KOs) in a four-round middleweight contest.

John Ortolani has been a fixture of the New England MMA scene since 2009. It is well-documented that Ortolani is a two-sport athlete. In addition to fighting MMA, he is a midfielder in Major League Lacrosse (MLL) where he has played for the Boston Cannons, Rochester Rattlers and Florida Launch. Recent years have seen Ortolani take up residence in Tampa, Florida where he has continued competing in MMA out of South Tampa Jiu-Jitsu & MMA. A native of Billerica, Massachusetts, he looks forward to making the trip north to New England where he will have the opportunity to once again fight closer to home in front of his friends and family.

“I am excited to be fighting back in Maine again,” said Ortolani. “I’d like to thank (NEF owners) Matt (Peterson) and Nick (DiSalvo) for having me back. This will be my first time stepping in the ring and I couldn’t be more excited. I’ve wanted to test myself in a boxing match for years and now is my chance. Casey is a great opponent and I’m happy I could fill in and give him a good fight. I am a true martial artist and can’t wait to test my hands. It’s been almost three years since fighting for NEF. Get ready for an exciting fight.”

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At the other end of the spectrum, Casey Kramlich has made a second home of the boxing ring. Training out of the Portland Boxing Club in Portland, Maine, Kramlich had an extensive amateur boxing career prior to turning professional in 2014. This past spring he gave Jason Kelly (5-1, 3 KOs) his first taste of defeat in the ring. Kramlich followed up that win with a dominant technical knockout victory over Zenon Herrera (0-2) in the third round of Kramlich’s NEF debut at “NEF 24.”

“I’m looking forward to fighting on an NEF card again,” said Kramlich. “I’ve been training hard and ready to put my talent on display. My opponent has a little weight advantage on me, but I plan on using my speed and angles to pick him apart.”

New England Fights’ next event, “NEF 25: HEROES & VILLAINS,” takes place on Saturday, September 10, 2016 at the Androscoggin Bank Colisée in Lewiston, Maine. Tickets start at just $25 and are on sale now at or by calling the Colisée box office at 207.783.2009 x 525.


–New England Fights (NEF) today announced the full fight card for the promotion’s next event, “NEF 25: HEROES & VILLAINS.” It is scheduled to take place on Saturday, September 10, 2016 in Lewiston. The dynamic card will feature professional boxing bouts, as well as both professional and amateur mixed-martial-arts (MMA) contests.

On the boxing portion of the card, Brandon Montella (4-0) will meet Tollison Lewis (2-1) in a four-round light-heavyweight contest, while longtime Maine middleweight John “Rumble” Webster (8-7-1) returns on the eve of his 48th birthday to battle Zenon “K-Bar” Herrera (0-2). Rounding out the pro boxing portion of the card will be Casey “Buzzsaw” Kramlich (4-0-1) and Connor Barry (0-1) in a four-round bout.

The professional side of the MMA card will feature a total of three Bellator and one Invicta veterans. Jesse “The Viking” Erickson (7-5) and Jon Lemke (5-6) will rematch their previous bout won by Lemke at Bellator 93 in 2013. Bellator 144 competitor Walter Smith Cotito (3-4) returns to Maine after a three-year absence to meet Elias “Danger Mouse” Leland (2-1), while Valerie “Valociraptor” Aspaas (0-0) herself returns to Maine after three years to make her pro debut against Invicta 16 veteran Sarah “SwitchKick” Click (0-1).

The amateur MMA card will be headlined by two title fights. Rafael “Deez Nuts” Velado (3-0) takes on Jimmy Jackson (3-2) for the vacant amateur lightweight title. Amateur bantamweight champion Johnny Crafts (4-0) steps up in weight to challenge Caleb Hall (7-3) for Hall’s featherweight crown.

The amateur card will also feature two women’s bantamweight bouts with Brianne Genschell (0-0) and Melissa Trahan (0-0) making their respective cage debut against one another, while Jessica “The Black Widow” Borga (2-1) is scheduled to meet Rachael Joyce (1-0).

The full “NEF 25” fight card (subject to change):


175 POUNDS: Brandon Montella vs. Tollison Lewis
160 POUNDS: John Webster vs. Zenon Herrera
155 POUNDS: Casey Kramlich vs. Connor Barry


205 POUNDS: Mike Hansen vs. Matt Andrikut
155 POUNDS: Jesse Erickson vs. Jon Lemke
145 POUNDS: Matt Denning vs. Taylor Trahan
135 POUNDS: Elias Leland vs. Walter Smith Cotito
125 POUNDS: Sarah Click vs. Valerie Aspaas


155 POUND*TITLE: Rafael Velado vs. Jimmy Jackson
145 POUND*TITLE: Caleb Hall (c) vs. Johnny Crafts
155 POUNDS: Caleb Swoveland vs. Frank Johanson
135 POUNDS: Walt Shea vs. Joel Downing
135 POUNDS: Brianne Genschell vs. Melissa Trahan
135 POUNDS: Jessica Borga vs. Rachael Joyce

New England Fights’ next event, “NEF 25: HEROES & VILLAINS,” takes place on Saturday, September 10, 2016 at the Androscoggin Bank Colisée in Lewiston, Maine. Tickets start at just $25 and are on sale now at or by calling the Colisée box office at 207.783.2009 x 525.

For more information on the event and fight card updates, please visit the promotion’s website at In addition, you can watch NEF videos at, follow them on Twitter @nefights and join the official Facebook group “New England Fights.”