LEWISTON, Maine — Two of the state’s more popular amateur mixed martial arts fighters will make their professional debuts against each other next month at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee.
Ray “All Business” Wood, a former three-sport standout at Bucksport High School, will take on John “First Class” Raio of Topsham in a featherweight (145-pound) bout announced Monday as part of the Fight Night V card being staged by New England Fights on Nov. 17.
“It should be a great fight,” said Ernie Fitch, co-owner and manager at Young’s MMA in Bangor where Wood trains. “Raio has a huge fan following, and everyone loves to watch Ray fight. I can’t wait for it.”
Wood (4-1) is ranked third among amateur fighters in his weight class by NortheastMMA.net entering a bout slated for Friday night in Derry, N.H., against top-ranked Sophanarith “Soap” Am (4-0) of Braintree, Mass.
Wood and Am were scheduled to meet at Fight Night IV in Lewiston last month but an injury forced Am to back out of the fight.
Wood has not fought since dropping a unanimous decision in mid-April to Shane Manley of the Ithaca, N.Y.-based Team Bombsquad at Fight Night II in Biddeford. In that bout, Wood had to move up in weight to fight the bigger Manley at a catchweight of 150 pounds.
“I really feel for Ray,” said NEF co-owner and matchmaker Matt Peterson. “I know how badly he’s wanted the best fights to challenge himself this year. And I know firsthand just how difficult it’s been to match him with the reputation he has as a competitor. He’s had several opponents pull out on him on NEF cards for various reasons. I understand that was one of his major considerations when deciding to turn pro.”
The 35-year-old Raio, a former Maine high school wrestling champion while attending Gardiner Area High School and now a postal worker in Portland, began his amateur MMA career last February at NEF’s Fight Night I and has won all four of his previous bouts in Fight Night promotions.
“When I decided to turn pro, the opportunity to fight Ray Wood presented itself,” said Raio, who trains at MMAAthletix in Bath. “I am excited to test my skills against one of the best fighters in the Northeast.”
Raio most recently scored a unanimous decision victory over Damon Owens — a Young’s MMA teammate of Wood — at Fight Night IV held Sept. 8.
“Over the course of the past year, John Raio and Ray Wood have been the standouts of the NEF amateur ranks,” stated NEF co-owner and promoter Nick DiSalvo. “They are probably our two most popular fighters with the fans. I can think of no better way to end our inaugural year as a promotion than with a bout of this magnitude. This is the No. 3-ranked amateur featherweight in the Northeast [Wood] facing the NO. 10-ranked amateur featherweight [Raio]. This fight will set the stage for the NEF pro 145-pound division in 2013.”
Other bouts scheduled on the Fight Night V card include battles to crown the inaugural NEF Maine State MMA pro champions in the lightweight and bantamweight divisions.
The lightweight (155-pound) title bout will match Windham native Jamie Harrison (4-1) against undefeated New Yorker Dez Green (5-0), while the clash for the bantamweight (135-pound) crown will feature Portland’s Paul Gorman (9-9) against Adam Toussaint (5-4) of North Berwick.