FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Portland, Maine (January 29, 2020)

Some people collect coins, stamps, hats or neckties.

Mike Bezanson is a busy man who probably doesn’t have the leisure time for such nostalgia, but he does admit to a passion for gathering belts.

Not the ones hanging on the rack at your neighborhood haberdashery. Rather, the variety that are earned with blood and sweat, affording their current owner bragging rights and notoriety for hundreds of miles.

Bezanson (4-0) will try to continue his meteoric rise in mixed martial arts when he takes on Gregory Ishihara (2-1) at NEF 42: “Symphony of Destruction” on Saturday, Feb. 8 at Merrill Auditorium in Portland, Maine.

Bell time for the inaugural combat sports card at the historic concert venue is set for 7 p.m.

“I’m trying to get to the big leagues. I have a lot of big dreams and aspirations,” Bezanson said. “I’d love to go through everybody in two or three divisions so that they’re begging for people to fight me. I’d like to hold two or even three different belts at a time. I’m just hunting right now.”

The 24-year-old Bezanson, fighting out of Kaze Dojo in Lancaster, New Hampshire, breezed through his first three NEF bouts before winning a regional 170-pound regional title in November in the Granite State.

Another goal on the horizon, if Bezanson is able to dispatch a difficult opponent in Ishihara, is the NEF welterweight amateur strap currently controlled by Duncan Smith.

NEF’s amateur belts often bounce around, with winners using them as a springboard to the professional ranks. Bezanson is a different breed. He’d like to win it, then defend it until he’s exhausted the supply of potential rivals.

“Nothing is set in stone, but obviously I would like to fight for the NEF belt, but to put my name out there and gain the experience,” Bezanson said. “Amateurs are all about experience, and I want to gain as much as possible. People talk about turning pro now, but it doesn’t make any sense to rush things.”

Bezanson took that same approach during a 39-month layoff in which he focused on both his 9-to-5 career path and his recovery from the rigors of the sport.

There was not even a hint of rust. Bezanson, who needed a total of fewer than four minutes to take down Jeff Dustin and Shawn Bang back in 2015 and ’16, floored Jason Landry in 40 seconds at NEF 40: “School of Hard Knocks” in September.

“I was away for two full years. Some of it was from just being busy at work, but I was also dealing with some injuries,” Bezanson said. “Slowly I worked my way back from that. Then I sat down with Greg (Williams), my trainer and manager, and said, ‘It’s time. Let’s take this thing over. Let’s get all the fights we can.’ At this point we’re looking for any fight that makes sense.”

Williams has been an integral part in Bezanson’s development personally, professionally, and in the cage.

“I started with Greg when I was really young,” Bezanson said. “He kind of took me under his wing and has been like a second father figure to me. He’s more than a trainer or a manager. If I want something, he’ll support me in trying to get it. He encourages me to be the best version of me. He doesn’t try to make me into something I’m not.”

When he’s not training for his next foray into the hexagon, Bezanson can usually found at Mountain View Grand Resort in Whitefield, New Hampshire, where he works 50 or more hours a week as the hotel manager.

Ishihara, who has two consecutive first-round NEF stoppages and a recent unanimous win on the Muay Thai circuit to his credit, presents a tricky but tempting opportunity.

Given both combatants’ history of fast action and don’t-blink finishes, Bezanson predicts a war.

“I think he’s going to want to come in and put on a show, and it is all about the show and entertaining the fans at this level,” Bezanson said. “I know he likes to work a lot on the knees in the clinch game and look for that overhand right.”

At a lanky 6-foot-2, Bezanson has been an elusive target for rivals trying any tactic to gain cage control.

“I play the space game. I feel like my length is a problem for most of the 170-pound guys,” he said. “The funny thing is, I believe I have a really strong ground game. It’s just that nobody’s ever seen it, because I haven’t had to use it.”

To make his mark on the regional and national scene, Bezanson knows he will need to expand that repertoire.

That means staying active. Don’t expect any more two- or three-year lulls on Bezanson’s ledger. He’d prefer to fight every two or three months in 2020.

Safe to say Bezanson’s entourage will be collecting ticket stubs.

“At least three more fights this year, so a total of four, even five, if it’s possible,” Bezanson said. “I’m just getting started.”

New England Fights’ next mixed-martial-arts event, “NEF 42: Symphony of Destruction,” will take place on Saturday, February 8, 2020, at Merrill Auditorium in Portland, Maine. Tickets are on sale now at www.PortTix.com.

About New England Fights

New England Fights (“NEF”) is a fight events promotions company. NEF’s mission is to create the highest quality events for fighters and fans alike. NEF’s executive team has extensive experience in combat sports management, events production, media relations, marketing, legal and advertising.