On September 6 in Lewiston at “NEF XIV,” rising amateur middleweight Mike Vangelist (2-0) will face his toughest opponent to date in the form of the number-two ranked 185-pounder in the Northeast, Buck “Knuckles” Pineau (7-3). Vangelist burst onto the New England Fights Mixed Martial Arts (NEF MMA) scene late last year, defeating Pineau’s teammate, tough veteran Crowsneck Boutin (5-6), via first-round submission in one of the biggest upsets in the fight promotion’s history. The victory proved to be no fluke when Vangelist returned to the NEF MMA cage this past February and submitted Dan Connaughton (2-2). Vangelist’s success, however, comes as no surprise to those who know him well. A product of Jay Jack’s (12-7) The Academy of MMA (AMMA) in Portland, Maine, Vangelist currently holds a Blue Belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ). He recently took time out of his busy schedule from training and his day job with non-profit environmental organization Reverb (www.Reverb.com) to join NEF MMA co-owner and matchmaker Matt Peterson in the studio for the latest edition of the NEF Podcast.
“I grew up on the North Shore of Boston in a city called Lynn, Massachusetts,” recalled Vangelist of his early childhood. “I grew up taking Judo and a few other martial arts like Aikido in Salem, Massachusetts… I played football, lacrosse and wrestling… I moved to Maine the middle of my junior year, to Sanford, Maine to finish up high school. From there, I went on to college at Maine Maritime Academy. There I focused on international business logistics as my degree. I also played football and lacrosse there. When I graduated from college in 2010, I really just wanted to get back to my roots with martial arts training, and was actually looking for a good Judo school in the Portland area where I ended up working after college… I found Jay Jack, went in there (AMMA gym), and it was love at first site. I’ve been there ever since.”
Currently training with Jay Jack and his wife Amanda Buckner (11-5), as well as Shaun Durfee (2-1), current Maine State MMA Bantamweight Champion Paul Gorman (10-8) and Elias Leland (0-0) who will make his professional debut at “NEF XIV,” Vangelist is in good company. He compares the atmosphere at AMMA to that of a tight-knit family.
“Training with Paul and Jay every day, it’s awesome,” said Vangelist. “Then you got Shaun Durfee, who’s another high-level BJJ guy… These guys are not only my coaches—they’re my training partners… I feel like there’s nothing close anywhere around that compares to the family kind of bond you get at The Academy.”
While Vangelist is set to fight Buck Pineau at “NEF XIV,” he admits that before he began competing in MMA, he was a fan of Pineau. When the two have had a chance to talk in recent weeks, they have expressed a mutual admiration and respect for one another’s abilities.
“I’ve been wanting to fight Buck for a long time,” Vangelist declared. “I actually got to speak with him for a little bit before his last fight. It seemed like he wanted to fight me too… I’m training for everything right now… I’m not going to go out there and say I’m going to choke him out in the first round. I’ll just take what he gives me and see how it turns out.”
Later in the interview, Vangelist, when pressed for a prediction, responded, “I think I’m definitely going to win. I think it’s going to be a finish and I don’t think it’s going to go outside the second round.”
While the prospect of becoming a professional fighter and making a living in the sport might be in the back of Vangelist’s mind, he is more concerned with the here and now. The “here and now” being one Buck Pineau.
“All that’s in my head right now is Buck,” admitted Vangelist. “That’s my main focus… It’s one game at a time, it’s one fight at a time. I’m definitely not looking past Buck… Do I see myself turning my hobby into something I could profit from and potentially make a living from? Of course I do. I think that’s every amateur MMA fighter’s dream… There’s definitely a future for me in MMA. As for Jiu-Jitsu, that’s just something I’m so passionate about.”
Vangelist is sponsored by Origin, a Maine-based action sports company firmly rooted in BJJ. Having worked early in his career for Maine outdoor apparel and equipment company L.L. Bean, Vangelist appreciates the “Yankee ingenuity” that drives Origin’s mission to create the best quality products for its customers. Vangelist’s walkout shirt for “NEF XIV” was designed and produced by Origin. Pre-orders are currently being taken through Vangelist’s Facebook page.
“The walk-out shirt, it looks sick,” exclaimed Vangelist. “I shared that on my Facebook wall. You guys can message me for that. Give me your size and we can have that pre-ordered and ready for you the night of the fight. You just have to go to the Origin tent to pick that up. Origin, making all their stuff state-side is just something unheard of, and the quality of it… It looks like they’re just a small, efficient operation and they’re doing it the right way. Their Gis are second to none.”
To listen to the full NEF Podcast interview with Mike Vangelist, please visit www.NewEnglandFights.com/Podcasts/.
To contact Mike Vangelist, please send him a private message to his Facebook account. You can also visit www.TheAcademyMaine.com to learn more about The Academy of MMA in Portland, Maine.
NEF MMA’s next event, “NEF XIV,” is scheduled to take place on Saturday, September 6, 2014 at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston, Maine with a bell time of 7:00 pm. In the main event of the evening, Tim “The Maine-iac” Sylvia (31-9) returns to Maine to face fellow UFC veteran Christian Morecraft (8-3) for the Super-Heavyweight Title. Featherweight Champion Ray “All Business” Wood (4-0) returns from injury after a year of recovery against Brazil’s Gabriel Baino (6-1). Bantamweight Champion Paul Gorman (10-8) defends against Tim “The Terror” Goodwin (8-4). Plus, Bruce “Pretty Boy” Boyington (6-7) and Jesse “The Viking” Erickson (3-2) will meet for the Lightweight Title, Ryan Sanders (6-5) faces Ryan Quinn (10-4-1), and John “First Class” Raio (2-5) competes in his final fight.
Tickets for “NEF XIV” start at just $25 and are on sale now at www.TheColisee.com or by calling The Colisee 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 www.NewEnglandFights.com. In addition, you can watch NEF MMA videos at www.youtube.com/NEFMMA, follow them on Twitter @nefights and join the official Facebook group “New England Fights.”