CALEB HALL TAKES NO SHORTCUTS IN MIXED-MARTIAL-ARTS CAREER
There’s no evidence that Easy Street exists in the world of professional mixed-martial-arts.
If it did, it’s safe to say Caleb Hall wouldn’t be able to find it, even if he were furnished the most precise global positioning system and the unlimited kindness of strangers.
Hall is wired to fight hard, fight often, and fight against the best available competition to give himself an accurate barometer of where he stands in the sport.
That won’t change this Saturday, September 8th, when he takes on C.J. Ewer in a lightweight bout at New England Fights 35: “Wicked Season.” The card will take place at Cross Insurance Center in Bangor with an opening bell time of 7 p.m.
Hall, 24, a multi-time state champion wrestler during his career at Dirigo High School, isn’t bothered that he’ll be taking on a hometown hero who has been a titleholder for the regional promotion. It seems he subscribes to pro wrestling legend Ric Flair’s mantra: To be the man, you’ve got to beat the man.
“Whoever they offer and put in front of me is who I’m going to take on,” Hall said. “It doesn’t matter to me. It’s a big fight and it’s in his hometown. That definitely makes it more interesting.”
The fight is a natural pairing for two of Maine’s top pros. Each is eager to get back into the NEF hexagon, for opposite reasons, after their results earlier this year.
Hall handled John Ortolani, a wily veteran with main-event experience on his 20-fight ledger, in an impressive April pro debut. His game well developed from a double-digit total of amateur scraps, Hall earned a submission via the rarity of a Von Flue choke at 2:16 of the opening round.
Two months earlier, Ewer sustained his first loss in the pro cage by kneebar against Kemran Lachinov. He’s tough on home turf, however, as evidenced by a stoppage of Rumford’s Mike Hansen last summer.
“We have similar styles and similar games,” Hall said, “I try not to think about my opponent too much and just try to fight my fight. He’s a tough matchup no matter who he’s in there against.”
Since making his debut only a month after he crossed the legal age threshold of 18, Hall has carved out a reputation as a relentless, crowd-pleasing competitor who isn’t picky about his opponents.
That’s made life easier for NEF co-owner and matchmaker Matt Peterson, who can always count on Hall being ready for prime time near the top of the bill.
“Caleb reminds me a lot of Devin Powell, our former lightweight champion. Devin most recently won in the UFC, the largest fight promotion on the planet,” Peterson said. “Devin got to where he is through good, old-fashioned diligence – desire, dedication, discipline and hard work. Caleb’s approach mirrors Devin’s. He’s not looking for the easy path to get where he wants to go.”
Everything else about Hall’s progression in the sport has been measured conservatively.
He toiled in the amateur ranks for more than five years, wanting to make sure that his acumen was developed and his repertoire well-balanced.
“I think I’m pretty well-rounded in every area,” Hall said, “My wrestling is still probably the strongest part of my game, but everything else is starting to catch up, like my submissions and my striking.”
Hall never budged from his amateur weight of 145 until moving up to 155 – historically NEF’s deepest and toughest pro division – for his shot at Ortolani.
He and Ewer are now jockeying for position in a class that provided great success for the likes of Powell, Bruce Boyington, Ryan Sanders, Jon Lemke and Jesse Erickson. Advancing to that fray would have been foolhardy if Hall hadn’t done things the right way physically and nutritionally.
“For me it’s been more about training and putting it on the right way. It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. I could still make 145, but this is a lot better for my body,” Hall said. “I was in the same weight class from the time I entered the sport when I was 18. It was a lot of weight cuts, but I was coming right out of high school wrestling where that was all part of it.”
When he fought at 145, Hall said his day-to-day weight when not in training was just shy of 170 pounds. He can now comfortably carry 175 to 180 between bouts. Less last-minute dehydration is necessary to reach the lightweight limit.
“He’s on the treadmill every day. He’s logging his training hours with commitment and focus,” Peterson said. “He’s living the lifestyle. It’s guys like Caleb that really get me excited about the sport, because they show us the best stuff that human beings are made of, and they give us a glimpse of what we’re capable of as people. If Caleb Hall hits the heights that he’s set for himself – and I’m confident that he will get there – it will be because he earned it the entire way.”
Hall appreciates the perception that his fight with Ewer is a big one in the NEF title picture and beyond, but as always he is eager to steer clear of the hype.
“I had a lot of confidence going in (against Ortolani), and that hasn’t changed,” Hall said. “I see every fight as your biggest fight, anyway. That’s just how I try to approach it. This sport has a small window.”
Three five-minute rounds aren’t much time in the grand scheme, either, although it’s a grueling grind when two action fighters such as Hall and Ewer are going at it.
Despite their first-round finishes last time around, Hall won’t be surprised to see this one venture closer to the advertised distance.
“We’ll see what happens. I don’t go in there thinking I’m going to take him out,” Hall said. “I expect it to be a war. It’ll probably go deep into the second and third rounds, and we’ll see who swims.”
NEF ANNOUNCES BIGGEST FIGHT CARD IT HAS EVER BROUGHT TO BANGOR
New England Fights (NEF) will hold its next mixed-martial-arts event, “NEF 35: Wicked Season,” on September 8 at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor. The event will mark the fourth time since 2013 that NEF has visited the Queen City. Earlier today, the fight promotion announced the full fight card planned for the evening.
The exciting main event will feature two popular Bangor-area athletes doing battle as Jon Lemke (7-8) meets Aaron “Relentless” Lacey (5-2) in a lightweight contest. Lemke, a veteran of the United States Marine Corps, trains with Titan Athletics in neighboring Brewer, Maine, while Lacey represents Young’s MMA of Bangor.
The co-main event will see Lacey’s teammate, and reigning NEF Professional Lightweight Champion, “The” Ryan Sanders (16-9) taking on Armando “Big Chino” Montoya (10-6) in a non-title welterweight scrap. Sanders is coming off a huge submission win earlier this summer in Portland, Maine. Montoya, who represents First Class MMA of Brunswick, Maine, will debut in the Pine Tree State after a decade-long career on the southwest MMA circuit.
In another highly-anticipated professional fight, Caleb Hall (1-0) of the Choi Institute in Portland will face another Young’s MMA team member in the form of CJ Ewer (3-1). After a successful amateur career that saw him capture the NEF Amateur Featherweight Title, Hall impressed with a first-round submission of veteran John Ortolani (8-12) earlier this year in his pro debut. Ewer, a member of the United States Air Force security forces, closed out “NEF 30” last August in Bangor winning the promotion’s pro middleweight strap over Mike Hansen (5-9).
The amateur portion of the fight card will be headlined by a title fight as Pat “PK” Kelly (4-0) puts both his lightweight belt and undefeated record on the line against the challenge of Ed Forlenza (2-2). Kelly, who turned 54 last week, is a legend of Maine wrestling mats as both a competitor and coach and a member of the Maine Amateur Wrestling Hall of Fame. He vows that this will be the final fight of his MMA career. Forlenza took the fight on short notice after Kelly’s previous challenger dropped out due to injury. He is a member of team Juniko based in Hyannis, Massachusetts. Forlenza is no stranger to the NEF cage. He won his amateur debut at “NEF 23” in the summer of 2016 on Cape Cod.
Speaking of wrestling coaches, “NEF 35” will also feature the amateur debut of Shawn Costigan (0-0). Costigan is a member of the Bucksport High School wrestling coaching staff. He will represent Young’s MMA in his cage debut when he takes on the fellow-debuting David Hills (0-0).
BOUTIN IS BACK AND GARDNER TURNS PRO AT NEF 35 IN BANGOR
New England Fights (NEF) will hold its next mixed-martial-arts event, “NEF 35: Wicked Season,” on September 8 at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor. Earlier today, the fight promotion announced the addition of a professional middleweight bout to the card. Crowsneck Boutin (2-3) will return to the cage to take on Mark “Pockets” Gardner (0-0) at a fight weight of 185-pounds.
It will have been two years almost to the day since Boutin last competed in the NEF cage. That September night in 2016 he was defeated by Jesse Erickson (9-7) at “NEF 25.” Since that time, Boutin has become an instructor with a new team, Bad Little Falls Dojo, based in Machias, Maine and has concentrated on raising his young daughter. He will look to recapture the glory of his 2014 season when he went 3-0, including two first-round knockouts, in the NEF cage and was voted “Fighter of the Year” by fans.
“I am blessed with this opportunity to go to war inside the NEF cage,” said Boutin. “Past two years, I’ve been fighting for my sweet princess, Iola Soule. I possess new light, and I’d whoop the old me’s ass. I am still aboard this ride. I am a revenant.”
Mark Gardner has had a stellar first year with NEF. Last November, he debuted with a second-round technical knockout of Carlton Charles (2-2) at “NEF 31.” He would follow up that success with a pair of first-round finishes this year, including a submission victory by arm bar earlier this summer at “NEF 34.” In all, he finished his amateur career a perfect 3-0. Gardner is a product of the Academy of Mixed Martial Arts based in Portland, Maine.
“I can’t wait to fight Crowsneck in September,” said Gardner. “To be able to make my pro debut so soon after three good fights is pretty rad. I’ve been training hard for this and I can’t wait to see it pay off in there.”
VETERAN WEST COAST FIGHTER MONTOYA FINDS A NEW HOME IN MAINE MMA SCENE
It’s absolutely no secret that few New England lightweights have raised their fists to volunteer for a mixed martial arts showdown with “The” Ryan Sanders in recent years.
The competition at welterweight isn’t clamoring for a date with Sanders, either, although a newcomer to the region with ties to another hotbed of the sport is eager to embrace the challenge at “New England Fights 35: Wicked Season.”
Armando “Chino” Montoya, a veteran of 16 professional bouts, and linked closely with a pioneering figure in combat sports, will answer the call Saturday, September 8. The bout will take place on Sanders’ home turf at Cross Insurance Center in Bangor. Opening bell time is 7 p.m.
“(NEF co-owner and matchmaker) Matt Peterson asked me if I wanted to fight, and I was happy to take it,” Montoya said. “I like to push myself. I don’t like easy fights.”
That attitude is a product of both Montoya’s cultural and professional background.
He’s proud to be a first-generation Mexican-American and a product of the relentless, fighting culture that has made his parents’ homeland such a force in boxing and MMA.
While living, working and fighting in California, he was a student of Thomas “Wildman” Denny, a veteran with almost 50 pro fights under his belt.
“That’s a name well-known to longtime fans of the sport,” Peterson said. “Denny was known for always having exciting fights, win or lose, and I know he instilled some of that mentality in his students, such as Armando.”
Montoya (10-6) fought primarily in California, Colorado and New Mexico. He was in line to fight on a UFC card in Wyoming when a hand injury forced him to withdraw from the bout.
Although work and family commitments have slowed his pace in recent years, only five years separate him from a six-fight win streak.
“I’ve fought the top local guys wherever I’ve been my whole career. I fought against guys who wound up fighting for UFC or Strikeforce,” Montoya said. “I’m 38, which I know is pretty old in this business, but I still like to challenge myself. It’s become more like a hobby. I have to work and support my family, but when the opportunities have come up, I love to train and give it a shot.”
A union carpenter by trade, Montoya sought more lucrative opportunities in that realm. Maine wound up on his radar because it is his mother-in-law’s home.
After the move, Montoya sought a local gym where he could continue to hone his craft in the martial arts. At 6-foot-3, having spent much of his career at middleweight, Montoya said he didn’t find many sparring partners his size.
“Then I was working in Portland and the superintendent there was a friend of John Raio,” Montoya recalled. “He said, ‘You should check out First Class MMA in Brunswick,’ so I did.”
Both family-oriented men with a passion for the sport and their shared faith, Raio and Montoya became fast friends.
“Armando is a strong leader and our most experienced fighter,” Raio said. “He’s the most humble guy you will ever meet and a devout Christian. His warm presence and willingness to share his knowledge and experience at First Class MMA make him a strong asset to our gym. He has been a huge reason for the growth of our students. I’m honored to call him my fighter and a great friend. He’s like family to me.”
First Class doesn’t have many exact matchups for the newcomer’s body type, either, but Montoya likes the mix of personalities and youthful exuberance.
“It’s exciting to see other people so excited about the sport,” Montoya said. “First Class has a lot of young guys who are just starting out, that have had one or two fights.”
Montoya’s first inclination is a stand-up clash. Most of his opponents have been substantially shorter, though, and prefer ground-and-pound affairs in which his reach advantage is less of a factor. He said he enjoys the contrast of styles.
Sanders (16-9) is the clear favorite. In his prime at 31, undefeated through his past seven sojourns in the NEF hexagon, he has been more active than his unfamiliar opponent.
“Unfamiliar” is the operative word. The unknowns – namely Montoya’s vast experience against a different talent pool – make it a can’t-miss matchup.
Montoya can appreciate the challenge Sanders will face in ascending a class to face him.
“I’m used to being the one going up in weight,” he said. “Being 6-foot-3, I’m used to bumping up from 170 to 185. It’s kind of cool being on the other side this time.”
While Montoya is quick to acknowledge God for his forward motion in life, he gives MMA proper credit for its role in his salvation, as well.
Before entering the amateur ranks at age 25, ‘Mando’ spent five years in federal prison and walked out mad at the world.
“I had a lot of anger issues,” he said. “This sport showed me how to take out that anger in a constructive way. I didn’t need to fight in the bars and the clubs anymore.”
Many have gained from Montoya’s personal triumphs. Now, add NEF’s devoted fan base to that list.
“We’re lucky to have someone of Armando’s caliber stepping up to face Ryan,” Peterson said. “As if this card weren’t already exciting enough, now we have this added fight to thrill the Bangor fans. It doesn’t get any better than this.”
JOSH HARVEY TO MAKE LONG-AWAITED RETURN TO MMA CAGE AT NEF 35 IN BANGOR
New England Fights (NEF) will hold its next mixed-martial-arts event, “NEF 35: Wicked Season,” on September 8 at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor. Earlier today, the fight promotion announced the addition of a professional lightweight bout to the fight card. Josh “Hook On” Harvey (4-0) will return to the cage to take on Jay Ellis (15-79) at a fight weight of 155-pounds.
The fight with Ellis will take place just over 16 months since the last time Harvey did battle in the NEF cage. The former amateur lightweight champion is undefeated thus far in his professional career. Harvey has entered the cage four times in the pro ranks and has finished all four opponents in the first round with two knockouts and two submissions to his credit. He is a member of Young’s MMA based in Bangor, and “NEF 35” will be Harvey’s first opportunity to fight in front of his hometown fans, family and friends since “NEF Presents Dana White: Lookin’ for a Fight” which took place at the Cross Insurance Center in August 2016.
“I’m excited to display the improvements I made since my last fight,” Harvey said. “Thankful for any opponent willing to hook on, will be one for the highlight reel for sure!”
Harvey’s opponent, Jay Ellis, is a longtime veteran of the sport based out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin where he trains with Team Knockout. Ellis regularly travels to New England to compete and has gained a cult following throughout the region. Last summer, he shocked Bangor fight fans by taking the fight to Ryan Sanders (16-9) and nearly upsetting the hometown favorite with a submission attempt before Sanders was able to score a come-from-behind victory.
“I’m so happy to be coming back to Maine to put on another great performance,” stated Ellis when reached for comment. “This time my hand will be raised high as the victorious one.”
EWER AND HALL ON COLLISION COURSE FOR NEF 35 IN BANGOR
New England Fights (NEF) will hold its next mixed-martial-arts event, “NEF 35: Wicked Season,” on September 8 at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor. Earlier today, the fight promotion announced the addition of a professional lightweight bout to the fight card. CJ Ewer (3-1) is scheduled to face Caleb Hall (1-0) at a fight weight of 155-pounds.
Ewer headlined the previous NEF card in Bangor with a win over Mike Hansen (5-9) last August to claim the professional middleweight title of the promotion. Earlier this year, he tried to become the first multi-division champion in NEF history when he met Kemran Lachinov (5-2) for the welterweight strap. It was not to be, however, as Ewer suffered his first professional loss that February evening at “NEF 32.” A member of Bangor’s Young’s MMA who proudly serves his country with the United States Air Force security forces, Ewer will look to rebound from that loss against Hall this September.
“Caleb has improved exponentially every single fight, and he looked amazing his last fight,” said Ewer of his opponent. “Caleb will go very far in this sport, but I am going to make sure he doesn’t do it at my expense. It’s going to be a very tough, very exciting fight for sure.”
Caleb Hall surprised many fans when he arrived for “NEF 33” weigh-ins this spring. The one-time amateur featherweight titleholder looked like a monster version of his former self after bulking up with ten pounds of muscle for his professional debut at lightweight. The next night, Hall squeezed the proverbial life out of rugged veteran John Ortolani (8-13) with a Von Flue choke to pick up his first pro victory. The impressive performance sent a message to the New England MMA scene that Hall had indeed arrived in the pro ranks. Hall is a product of the Choi Institute in Portland, Maine and a two-time state wrestling champion out of Dirigo High School in Dixfield, Maine.
“I am looking forward to making another statement with a win over Ewer in his hometown,” stated Hall. “He’s a tough fighter, and I can’t wait to get in there and fight.”
New England Fights (NEF) will hold its next mixed-martial-arts event, “NEF 35: Wicked Season,” on September 8 at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor. Earlier today, the fight promotion announced the addition of a professional lightweight bout to the fight card. Jon Lemke (7-8) will meet Aaron “Relentless” Lacey (5-2) at a fight weight of 155-pounds.
Lemke is an eleven-fight veteran of the NEF cage and a perennial top contender in the promotion’s lightweight division. A member of Titan Athletics based in neighboring Brewer, Maine, Lemke has developed a massive following out of the Bangor area. He is a four-year veteran of the United States Marine Corps. One of the highlights of Lemke’s career was scoring a victory over Jesse Erickson (9-7) before a nationally televised audience on the NEF co-promoted Bellator 93 event in Lewiston, Maine. He is coming off a unanimous decision win against Josh LaBerge (11-7) in Rhode Island last fall.
“It is with great excitement and anticipation that I step back into the NEF cage to fight in front of my hometown friends and fans,” said Lemke. “It is with equal enthusiasm that I fight Aaron Lacey, who is one of the best fighters in New England. This is going to be an absolute battle that fans will not want to miss.”
For Lacey, the bout with Lemke will be the first time he has fought in the lightweight division since his amateur career. Lacey was victorious over Dom Cofone (6-6) in a 150-pound catchweight contest in the spring of 2014. Since that fight, Lacey has competed nine times – all in the 145-pound featherweight division. The fight with Lemke presents an opportunity for Lacey to once again compete before his hometown fans and friends in the Queen City. A member of Bangor’s Young’s MMA, Lacey was scheduled to appear on NEF’s previous event at the Cross Insurance Center in the summer of 2017, but his opponent was forced out of the bout just hours prior to bell time when it was discovered that he was serving a medical suspension for a boxing loss in another jurisdiction. Lacey will look to bounce back from a loss to top prospect Da’Mon Blackshear (5-1) last month at “NEF 34″ in Portland, Maine.
“I’m so excited to be fighting in Bangor,” exclaimed Lacey. “Last time I was slated to fight in Bangor it did not work out. My last fight (Blackshear) didn’t go my way, and I’m looking to fix some mistakes this fight. It won’t be easy for him. He will suffer, and I will test and then break his will! Bangor is my home, and I will defend it.”
NEF’s next mixed-martial-arts event, “NEF 35: Wicked Season,” will see the company make its return to the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor, Maine. The event is scheduled to take place Saturday, September 8, 2018 with a bell time of 7 pm. Tickets are on sale now at www.CrossInsuranceCenter.com.
About New England Fights
New England Fights (“NEF”) is a fight events promotions company. NEF’s mission is to create the highest quality events for fighters and fans alike. NEF’s executive team has extensive experience in combat sports management, events production, media relations, marketing, legal and advertising.