Despite setbacks Boucher's not backing down
Nate Boucher’s journey inside the New England Fights’ (NEF) mixed martial arts (MMA) cage has not been a course without its challenges and heartbreak along the way.
After winning his first two outings at the start of his amateur fight career, Boucher, a lifelong wrestler, earned a chance to compete for the NEF Flyweight Championship. His title shot came in November 2017 in front of a sold-out crowd when NEF made its highly anticipated Portland, Maine debut. That night, Boucher was outscored on the judge’s cards and dropped a close, controversial split-decision to NEF veteran Justin Witham. It’s a loss that continues to confound Boucher almost a year and a half later.
“As far as I’m concerned, I won the flyweight title that night,” Boucher stated recently in an interview with Ryan Jarrell and Bryan Stackpole on the Between Rounds Radio podcast. “I try to watch that fight and be optimistic the best that I can. I try to watch that fight and be respectful of what the judge’s could have seen. There’s not an absolute bone in my body that sees the fight going the way the judge’s said it went. That being said, they decided that Justin Witham won that night. He knows I’m coming after him. I’m going to do what it takes to get back into that title conversation and I’m going to get that win back. “
The Witham loss would be followed by two more defeats for Boucher.
In Boucher’s first fight back after losing to Witham, he dropped another split-decision against his hometown wrestling rival, multiple-time state champion, and former NEF Flyweight Champion, Ryan “Gordo” Burgess.
Jumping right back into the cage two months after his loss to Burgess, Boucher sustained the only stoppage defeat on his record when he lost via third-round technical knockout to former bantamweight title contender, Walt Shea, who fights out of John Raio’s First Class MMA in Brunswick, Maine.
Last November, down but not out, Boucher rebounded from three-losses-in-a-row by finishing 2018 off with a first-round submission victory over Jordan Young, a state champion wrestler from Belfast, Maine. The contest took place in the 135-pound weight class.
“Jordan was coming off of a win against my teammate—a tough teammate of mine,” Boucher said. “Not many guys on a three-fight skid would take a fight with a guy coming off of a win and then beat him in the first round. So, I hope that opened some eyes for people so they know exactly what I’m about and they know that I’m strong mentally.
“I’m very happy with myself that I was able to fight like I train,” Boucher recounted regarding his win over Young. “The cut to 135 isn’t as much as it is to flyweight and I think that played a big part in my cardio. I was in great shape for that fight. Mentally, I knew I was going to win months before the fight happened.”
With six bouts already under his belt, Boucher, at only 22-years of age, knows that he still has limitless room to grow within the sport.
“I’m an amateur,” he noted to Jarrell and Stackpole. “I’m a student of the game and I’m learning and developing my skills. I haven’t even come close to what my full potential is. I knew what I can achieve—I know what is possible if I stay on the path.”
Boucher’s 2019 fight season officially begins on Friday, February 1st when he’s scheduled to face newcomer Dillon Henry from First Class MMA. Henry is also a wrestler, having competed for Windham High School. Henry now trains with one of Boucher’s previous opponents, Walt Shea. Regardless of being pitted against the teammate of the only fighter that’s ever stopped him in MMA competition, Boucher stated that he’s confident in the matchup.
“I know he’s going to be training with Walt Shea, obviously,” Boucher said. “I know that Walt Shea is going to pass down information he feels is going to help him. It won’t… He seems to look like a strong guy. All I am going to do is I’m going to prepare myself and I’m going to become a better fighter in this fight camp and I’m going to go out there and fight him. I think it will go my way, for sure.”
Squaring off in the cage against other talented wrestlers is nothing new for Boucher. He defeated four-time Maine state wrestling champion Jeremiah Barkac by first-round submission the last time he competed in Bangor. Ryan Burgess was a three-time state champion for Mountain Valley High School in Rumford, Maine.
“I probably perform at my best against wrestlers,” Boucher stated. “They have really bad habits that a lot of wrestlers don’t seem to be able to shake off their first couple of fights, including myself. Fortunate for me, I have a coach like Jesse Erickson who’s a top-level guy when it comes to the jiu jitsu game around these parts, and he’s shown me the difference between what wrestling the sport is and what wrestling in a fight is. They’re different types of wrestling. I think he’s [Henry] going to expose himself and leave himself open. He’s going to make some rookie mistakes and I’m going to capitalize.”
While the prospect of defeating another wrestler in the NEF cage is an inspiring proposition to Boucher, he’s also excited by the opportunity to once again compete in Maine’s Queen City.
“I’ve never lost in Bangor,” Nate said. “I love that venue. I love the city of Bangor. I’m excited to be there and I’m excited to be sharing a card with some of the monsters that are on it. There’s a lot of great fights on this card and I’m very much looking forward to seeing some of them myself. It’s going to be a great show—I can’t wait.”
“I’m starting to earn my stripes a little bit in the cage,” Boucher added. “I’m starting to get more comfortable. I’m starting to feel more and more like a recognized name in the NEF—and I think all of that is going to play a factor. I think he’s [Henry] bit off a little more than he can chew for his first fight and, unfortunately, he’s going to figure that out very hard on February 1.”
As 2018 came to a close, Boucher, like many forward-thinking individuals, clearly defined his goals for the year ahead.
“I will be the flyweight champ in the NEF at the end of this year ,” Boucher stated confidently. “No doubt about it. That’s what my mind is set on right now.
“My teammate, Kam Arnold, he’s going to carry that belt straight through at 135. Man, the two of us together are some bad dudes. I’m fortunate to have him to push me through this mentally and be able to get me on the right mindset of what a champion is supposed to be—and I’m going to be there, right there with him at flyweight. Man, it’s going to be one hell of a one-two punch, that’s for sure.”