FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Portland, Maine (July 4, 2023)
Having one fight fall through and then being chosen as a substitute opponent for someone else midway through a fight camp doesn’t bother Mike Jolicoeur.
If anything, it fits right into his ‘have-knuckles, will-travel’ agenda. The Nashua, New Hampshire-based Jolicoeur has made four walks to the mixed martial arts cage and three climbs into the kickboxing ring since his debut in both environments less than two years ago.
After donning the MMA gear twice in a five-week span earlier this year, Jolicoeur (2-2) will remain in that realm for his second foray with New England Fights when he takes on Evrit Roy (1-0) at “NEF 53: American Valor.”
The card is set for Saturday, July 8 at Merrill Auditorium, a storied, century-old theater venue in Portland, Maine.
“I’m excited to be back,” Jolicoeur said. “They’ve been getting better at every show. I’ve been at a lot of the shows since then, just because we’ve got guys fighting. So, I’m excited to be back up in Maine. Back up in Portland, a whole new venue that I’ve never been to. It should be fun.”
Jolicoeur last fought in the Pine Tree State’s hub city under the NEF banner on February 12, 2022, when he defeated Will Smith with an arm triangle in his cage debut.
“Got the win by submission in the first round, so that was good,” Jolicoeur recalled. “It was a really great experience, especially for it being my first MMA fight. I was treated well, with respect and was shown a lot of support from the promotion.”
Amateur MMA careers are all about navigating the challenges of a demanding, elusive craft and sometimes dealing with adversity in the won-lost columns.
That journey is no different for Jolicoeur, who is a spotless 3-0 as a kickboxer but whose MMA ledger follows a won-lost-won-lost pattern. He sandwiched a second victory by unanimous decision over Nestor Yuja between defeats via choke to Jarrod St. Jean and Saheeb Jackson.
“I’m very confident in myself right now. I’ve got a good team around me,” said Joliceour, who trains out of the Karasu Tengu Academy stable. “We’ve been doing nothing but pushing each other. I’m constantly in the gym, always working on my game, always thinking about fighting.”
It isn’t hard to find at least one common denominator between Jolicoeur and Roy. Both defeated Smith by submission with the same signature move.
Roy applied his triangle just 1:28 into his only bout to date last July. Jolicoeur needed only slightly longer to fashion his finish at 2:07.
“I know he fought the same guy, and he submitted him the same way that I did. I thought that was kind of funny,” Jolicoeur said. “I’m excited to get in there with him and really test him. I’m coming forward the whole fight. I’m gonna give it all I’ve got. Really excited to get in there and do my thing.”
The fight is a clash of styles. Jolicoeur’s forte is striking, while Roy reaps the benefits of an extensive high school and college wrestling career.
“I don’t know too much about him, but he definitely won’t be able to handle me on the feet,” Jolicoeur said. “Knowing that he’s a wrestler, he might not want to bang with me on the feet. We’ll see what happens when we get in the cage. Things don’t always go as planned. He might get in there trying to wrestle, and then we end up throwing hands.”
Sometimes taking a short notice fight means you don’t get to order a tailor-made opponent off the menu, and that’s admittedly the case for Jolicoeur.
“It doesn’t really play to my strengths at all,” he said. “It kind of plays to my weaknesses. My wrestling is where I struggle the most. But I’m in a room full of killers, you know? So I don’t think he’ll able to match what my guys bring to me every day in the gym.”
Jolicoeur works out under the watchful eyes of Walter Smith-Cotito, an NEF and Bellator veteran of a dozen pro bouts.
“I met Walter through Instagram in the pandemic. I saw him moving pads for a friend of mine, Jon McNeil. He was training at another gym I was at,” Jolicoeur said. “I decided to shoot him a message, got with him, and he coached me in my first jiu-jitsu tournament. Right after I joined the gym, I was like, ‘Yo, I want to get in there. I want to compete. I know there’s a tournament this day. Can you get me ready for it?’ And he got me ready, welcomed me with open arms, showed me how it worked. It’s been great ever since.
“I love Walter. He’s a great guy, great mentor and awesome person all around, awesome coach.I got in with the team around I’d say right when it turned from ’20 to ’21, almost a year after the pandemic and everything. And yeah, I’ve been working ever since. My team, we’re like a family. You know how it is. We help each other. We elevate each other. Nothing but good people in the room. Nothing but hard workers.”
In the vein of recent NEF newcomers Jared Turcotte and Dalton Rice, Jolicoeur’s youth athletic prowess was in stick-and-ball sports.
“I had a little karate background, but that stems from me being a kid. It was kind of like not real martial arts, per se, but it was like learning to kick and sparring a little bit. But I was younger, so that’s all it really was,” Jolicoeur said. “That was the first real combat sport I did. I was a hockey player and lacrosse player. Just always getting into fights, so once I found MMA, it was a way for me to stay out of trouble at first. Stay out of trouble, get in shape, get my life together. It’s done nothing but that, so I’m very grateful to the sport. I’ll give it everything I’ve got.”
Jolicoeur embellishes those words with actions in terms of his workout schedule.
“I’m in the gym every day. I take one day off, Sunday usually, but even then, I’ve started training,” he said. “I’ve got my days where I go hard and my days where we recover and just move around. I’m always in the gym, always getting better, always trying to help my guys and bring more to the table.”
A plumber by trade, Jolicoeur’s daily itinerary makes sleep sound like a low priority.
“Right now, I’m dedicating all my time to training MMA, coaching, teaching and just learning and being in the gym. It keeps me out of trouble, keeps me sane, keeps me around good people,” Jolicoeur said. “I like to stick to my routine. Go to work, fucking 6 a.m. start. 2 o’clock I leave. About an hour drive home. Pick up my son, rest up a little bit. Hang out. Then we’re off to the gym for 5:30, some days 5, and we’re there ‘til 8:30. It depends on the days, but we’re always doing something, I dedicate my life to this shit.”
It is a labor of love that friends and family don’t always understand.
“All the free time I have, right to training, right to the gym. Some people tell me, ‘You gotta live a little, man. You can’t be in the gym every day.’ But I’ve gotten to where this place is my comfort zone,” Jolicoeur said. “When we’re in fight camp, nothing else. Straight gym, every day. Even if I’m not in fight camp, I’m usually there every fucking day. Even if I’m not pushing super hard, I’m there doing something. I’m learning. I’m teaching. That’s just what I do, man. Then we party after we get the results.”
Jolicoeur won his kickboxing trilogy by virtue of injury default, technical knockout and unanimous decision.
“When I was getting ready for the kickboxing fights, it was not as intense,” Jolicoeur said. “It wasn’t as stressful on the body, because we were just getting ready for a striking fight. But MMA is everything. You’ve got to work the wrestling, the jiu-jitsu, the ground-and-pound, the clinch, all the stuff that comes with being under MMA rules. And the rounds are longer too. Two-minute kickboxing rounds versus three minutes. It’s been a while, about six months since my last kickboxing match, so I’ve definitely gotten my conditioning up since then.”
As evidenced by his gym schedule, Jolicoeur has discovered that the diverse demands of MMA are addictive.
“I love jiu-jitsu. I also love striking. I’d say I’m better at striking than I am at jiu-jitsu,” he said. “But I love jiu-jitsu, so that’s kind of what reeled me in to MMA. I just fell in love with the shit, started doing Muay Thai, and then it all started coming together.”
Portland is approximately halfway between Jolicoeur’s natural habitat and Roy’s home base of Rumford, Maine, so he doesn’t see it as a true road game.
“I think it’s neutral territory. It is kind of his backyard, but KTA, we’re kind of known over there. We come to fight,” Jolicoeur said. “People might know me. I’m gonna show ‘em who I am.”
Without explicitly predicting a knockout or even a victory, Jolicoeur cautioned those potential new fans not to blink.
“You’re gonna see me up in there, handling business. There’s not much to say,” Jolicoeur forecasted. “You’ve just gotta come out Saturday, July 8 and check it out. I’m ready to go wherever the fight ends up. I’m prepared. I think I’m gonna dictate the pace of the fight. It should be a fun one. Good luck to my opponent, but I’m coming to fight. I’ve been fucking coached. I’m excited. Expect fireworks.”
Jolicoeur would love to embark on a full-time MMA career, but he is trying to carve out his amateur career in such a way that a commitment to the next level won’t be a shock to the system.
“I want to go pro. I’m not rushing anything. I’m still young,” he said. “The opportunity to go pro will arise. I’m looking to get as much experience as I can in the cage. Right here, right now, I want all the fights I can get. I had a fight fall out, and then NEF came up with a possible opponent. That just happened to work in our favor. We got this fight lined up.”
And if that’s how the next bout falls into place, or the one after that, so be it.
“It doesn’t matter who, man. I want to fight good guys. Get the experience being in there. Get durable. Become a pro before I go pro, you know what I’m saying?” Jolicoeur said. “It’s lot of mentality stuff too. Fighting in there with an amateur mentality and fighting in there with a pro mentality are two different things.
“It’s a lot of shit to do, but I’m here for the journey. I’m here for the ride. The next year and a half to two years, it’s in God’s hands, but it’s also in my hands. He knows I put the work in, so we’ll see where we go.”
“NEF 53: American Valor” is scheduled for Saturday, July 8 with an opening bell time of 7 p.m. as the blood, sweat and adrenaline of mixed martial arts take center stage where classical music, opera, contemporary dance and Broadway theater have long reigned supreme. Tickets are available at www.porttix.com.