FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Portland, Maine (June 29, 2023)
Rumford and its surrounding communities make up one of the consummate mill towns that have given Maine so much flavor and financial clout over two centuries.
The smoke and the distinct “smell of money” subsided elsewhere as technology and other factors exacted their toll from pulp and paper. Northern Oxford County is one of the few outposts still soldiering on with that industry as the primary employer of its people.
Even in the cities and towns where that tradition lies dormant, however, it shapes the populace. And still nowhere in the Pine Tree State are those personality traits – an intolerance for nonsense, a tireless work ethic and passionate support of youth sports – stronger than in the western foothills of the Androscoggin River valley.
It’s the habitat that made 20-year-old New England Fights newcomer Evrit Roy the man with a plan he is today. Roy has followed the footsteps of no fewer than two of his coaches and countless peers down the aisle and into the NEF mixed martial arts hexagon.
“That just turned me into who I am today,” Roy said. “Over at Mountain Valley (High School) we’ve got some of the greatest coaches in the state between Mike Hansen, Gary Dolloff, Eric Austin, Anthony Mazza. All great guys, putting the time into everyone up there.”
A two-time state runner-up with the Falcons’ powerful wrestling team, Roy now juggles a budding collegiate career on the mat with a desire to chart his course in the cage. Roy (1-0) will take on Mike Jolicoeur (2-2) in an amateur catchweight bout Saturday, July 8 as part of “NEF 53: American Valor” at Merrill Auditorium in Portland, Maine.
Being the man in the arena is nothing new in Roy’s bloodlines.
He’s a cousin to the storied Bedard brethren who etched their chapters in Mountain Valley athletic lore before he was born. Andy starred on the basketball court at Boston College and the University of Maine and is enshrined in the Maine Basketball Hall of Fame. Joe was a two-time NCAA champion decathlete at Lynchburg (Virginia) University.
“I look up to them,” Roy said. “They made it as far as you can make it in the sports they do. That’s just where I want to be. Be in the halls of fame, you know?”
Roy has taken a few detours and back roads in the first two years of his adult journey, but they have equipped him with wisdom and direction that often elude men a decade or two his senior.
He attended the University of Southern Maine and held a spot on the wrestling team for a semester before deciding the environment wasn’t a good fit.
“With COVID it just put a damper on wrestling and the whole college experience,” Roy said. “I dropped out, but it kind of was a good thing for me. It’s not like I dropped out because I was out partying or whatever. I dropped out with a 3.4 GPA. After I dropped out, it was just like what the fuck do I do with my life? I was dealing with the post-sport depression. I’d put my whole life into wrestling, just to have it gone out of nowhere. That kind of led me into the MMA route.”
The temporary void threatened to lure Roy into a lifestyle that trapped many of his friends and older role models on the sidewalks of a town where there is no longer a guaranteed career path.
“I just wasn’t in a good headspace. I was getting into fights all the time. It just wasn’t good,” Roy said. “My wrestling coach (NEF veteran) Mike Hansen just brought up the idea of transitioning into MMA, trying it out, because it’s so much better being in the gym than out running the streets getting into trouble.”
Roy had taken up mentoring another of his cousins, Hansen’s daughter, Kaydn, on the youth travel wrestling circuit when a chance meeting changed his course.
“She’s a middle school wrestler, but there’s also an open division,” Roy explained. “While I was there, the college wrestling program I wrestle for now at Bath Iron Works, the apprenticeship director came up to me and was asking what I was up to.”
He was actually on the mat himself, competing in an open men’s division at one of those summer wrestling showcases, when the deal started falling into place.
“Eventually what I’m doing now for work at Bath Iron Works led me to this program. I’m wrestling in college again. But the gym that we train out of for the wrestling team is First Class MMA, so I don’t even have to leave the mats from our wrestling practices to go into jiu-jitsu or striking.”
Roy stays busy through a unique program that provides his work and his education while stoking his competitive fires all at once.
“I work a 40-hour week. Four days of it will be spent in the shipyard, and one day is in the classroom,” Roy said. “I get paid for a 40-hour week, but being a part-time student, that allows us to wrestle at the club level with Maine Maritime Academy, which is where we get our degree through. All the BIW boys are part of a team under Maine Maritime is I guess the way to put it. All of us are one team.”
Two years from now, when Roy is scheduled to be a senior, Maine Maritime will make the jump from club program to NCAA Division III. The Mariners will feature varsity programs for both men and women.
Roy knows that the reprieve and the opportunity to continue wearing a school’s singlet and earn a degree aren’t afforded to everyone.
“It’s a sweet second chance at being successful. I was working at Walmart stocking shelves before this shit,” he said. “(Open wrestling) was just kind of a fun thing to do in the summer, and it turned into this.”
First Class MMA in Brunswick, a close-knit gym headed up by namesake and NEF pioneer John Raio, has become a safehaven, where Roy never feels like he’s 90 minutes from home.
“It’s just a huge family,” Roy said. “I know I can hit up anyone. If my car breaks down in this area, everyone’s got your back. There are a lot of stellar athletes. We’re a smaller gym, but we get the best out of our athletes for sure.”
Roy won his NEF debut in spectacular fashion nearly a year ago when he submitted Will Smith with an arm triangle choke 88 seconds into their 145-pound bout at “NEF 48: Heatwave.”
He channeled Babe Ruth or perhaps Muhammad Ali by calling his shot in a conversation with NEF co-owner and matchmaker and fellow Rumford native Matt Peterson a few days earlier.
“I was turning in some ticket money to Matt probably a week or two before the fight,” Roy said. “He was asking me what my thoughts were, what my game plan was. I basically told him I’m gonna take him down and then eventually work for an arm triangle. It worked out how I planned.”
His quick finish wasn’t the only lasting impression Roy left on cageside observers that night.
Some were sent scrambling for handy-wipes or perhaps a change of clothes after Roy punctuated his victory with a brief bout of projectile vomiting. Roy recalls the moment and relays the story with the brand of enthusiasm and colorful detail that make it sound twice as legendary.
“I don’t really get nervous at all for any combat sports,” Roy said. “I’ve been wrestling my whole life, so it’s the same thing for me. It’s just like another day. After I subbed him, I got up and looked around and was like, ‘Holy shit. What’s going on?Everybody’s going crazy. I know I said it’s the same thing as a wrestling match, but it’s so much more crazyafterwards. I could’ve gotten my arm broken or my face punched in, you know?
“What caused me to throw up, it wasn’t really nerves,” he continued. “It’s just riding that roller coaster for the first time, you’re like, ‘Holy shit.’ I’ve wrestled in Virginia, Texas, Puerto Rico. I’ve been all over, but there’s other matches going on. This was more like my state finals match. Everyone’s there, and you can’t fuck up.”
Roy rendered Smith unconscious, rose to his feet and spun around into the waiting arms of his camp as the crowd roared its approval.
That led to a rare case of the winner in an MMA bout feeling inclined to tap out.
“After I won the match and whirled around and all that shit, John Raio comes in and gives me the biggest bear hug of my life,” Roy recalled. “He like squeezes it out of me. I was tapping him on the shoulder as he was bear hugging me.”
Give Roy credit: He showed the presence of mind not to defile the mat for his fellow competitors and managed to poke his head through the unlocked exit before completing his business.
“It’s that instinct just to hold it in, I waddled to the cage by the door and just let it fly,” Roy said. “I think I hit (play-by-play announcer) Ryan Jarrell a little bit. Someone threw me a bottle of water afterwards. I chugged that and threw it to the ground. It was sweet.”
Any lingering nerves and stomach upset are out of the way along with the newness of the NEF environment.
Roy will have seen it all before when he takes the short-notice bout against Jolicoeur, who coincidentally defeated Smith by arm triangle in his cage debut. Jolicoeur also has a three-fight winning streak as a kickboxer to his credit.
A similarly multifaceted fighter, Roy doesn’t profess any grandiose goals on the mixed martial arts side at this stage.
“Honestly, I don’t even know necessarily how far I want to go yet. I’m still trying to play it out. Me fighting right now, this is just for fun, trying to stay in shape in offseason,” Roy said. “Wrestling is my main focus. I have All-America status I still need to get. I have two more chances at it.”
MMAlikely will get his full attention when that chapter closes.
“After my last season of college wrestling, I’m looking to turn up the gears and grind out some fights, three or maybe four a year if I feel up to it,” Roy said. “Being a pro is still up in the air. I’ve got to see how I do as an amateur first. I can’t plan too far ahead. I’ve got to take these baby steps. But being a pro would be pretty sweet.”
Over the long haul, Roy hopes to parlay his childhood wrestling acumen and grown-up understanding into a place where his favorite sport will thrive in his favorite part of the world.
“I want to open up a wrestling club. My last opponent, Will Smith, was representing Smitty’s Barn, and I think very highly of that wrestling club,” Roy said. “They’re one of the best in New England. Matt Smith is one of the greatest minds of wrestling in New England, hands down. I want to make the Smitty’s Barn of Maine.”
“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.