FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Lewiston, Maine (June 14, 2017) – Derek Daley believes that his mixed martial arts training gives him an edge in his career. He also recognizes that training with First Class MMA makes him a better mixed martial artist.
It’s a busy life for Daley, a law enforcement officer and father of a 6-year-old daughter, Ella. He will break away for a few frenzied moments on the night of Saturday, June 17, when he returns to the New England Fights hexagon for the first time in a year.
Daley, 27, is one of seven fighters who will represent his Brunswick gym at “NEF 29: Stars & Stripes.” The opening bell is set for 7 p.m. at Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston.
“I’ve improved in every area, and I’ve really improved my cardio,” Daley said. “My first fight I was worried about what might happen if I got to the third round.”
There was barely time to break a sweat. Daley, a two-time Maine high school wrestling champion at Dirigo High School in Dixfield who later played college football at Husson University, dispatched Johel Stephenson in only 55 seconds.
“We had a game plan to hit him with a straight jab to set him up for an overhead right, then get it down to the mat and finish it with ground-and-pound,” Daley said. “It actually went exactly as we planned it, which was great.”
This time, Daley (1-0) takes on the more seasoned Frank Johanson (2-2) of Lewiston’s Central Maine Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in a featherweight amateur scrap.
Daley joins Ras Hylton, Dominic Jones, Rafael Velado, Josh Jones, Jake Deppmeyer and Jon Tefft in the First Class contingent on the docket. He was lured to the training center and the MMA phenomenon by another local police officer with fighting in his blood, Nick Gulliver of Jay.
“I had been training jiu-jitsu at the Foundry in Farmington,” Daley said. “Nick said (MMA) would translate well to law enforcement, and he was right. Plus, John and Jody (Raio) are just great people.”
Raio’s experience on the high school and college wrestling mat has made him a natural mentor for Daley, who hit the 100-win plateau early in his junior year at Dirigo.
Daley won the 119-pound state title as a sophomore and backed it up as a senior at 135 pounds, not far from where he fights today at 145.
“Derek is a tremendous athlete and one of our best wrestlers,” Raio said. “He has a solid attitude and gives 100 percent every class and sparring session.”
It’s admittedly difficult for Daley to balance his competitive passion with his blossoming police career.
He began as an officer in Wilton. After moving to Richmond, he applied for work in three surrounding cities. Augusta was first to make him an offer.
“I’ve been there since November and it’s a perfect fit for me,” Daley said. “I have a great sergeant and a great team.”
Police work is a family tradition. Daley’s father, Hart, is Chief Deputy of the Oxford County Sheriff’s Department.
It was not a case of a father wanting his son to fill his shoes.
“I majored in physical education,” Daley noted. “Dad said, ‘Be a teacher. Don’t go into law enforcement.’ But it’s one of those things that must be pretty stubborn in the family, because my brother and I both are police officers. The schedule is tough and unpredictable.”
First Class MMA helps Daley bring his commitments as cop and fighter under one roof. “It’s a great workout. I’m not really into traditional weight lifting. I mean, I did it when I played college football (Husson). This way I get a workout, but it doesn’t feel like I’m working,” he said. “It definitely makes me feel more comfortable if I ever have to get into a physical confrontation as an officer.”
Raio, now retired from the cage after a run as one of NEF’s most popular fighters in its infancy, understands the home vs. work vs. family balance. He is the father of two and was employed full time with the U.S. Postal Service when he got the itch to try combat sports once again.
Still, he is high on his pupil’s potential if Daley ever decides to focus fully on the cage.
“The sky is the limit for him in this sport. I can see him getting to the UFC or Bellator if that is the path he chooses,” Raio said. “He is an outstanding police officer and a great father as well. He puts his daughter first in everything he does.”
Daley returns the compliments, insisting that even if his foray into MMA winds up being a cup of coffee, he will continue to train at First Class for fitness purposes. He describes the atmosphere as a tight circle of friends and a brotherhood.
“It’s a great group of guys. There are no egos,” Daley said. “I was kind of worried about that when I first showed up. Was I going to be (a target) because I’m a police officer, or were there a bunch of guys all looking to be the alpha dog? But it’s quite the opposite. It’s like a big family. You’re punching a guy in the face, but you’re family.”
That goes double for his friendship with Gulliver, who is undefeated as an amateur heavyweight.
“I feel like a baby gorilla with its mom when I’m working out with Nick,” he quipped. “I think for him it’s enjoyment just to pound on me.”
It certainly reduces the stress when he gets the opportunity to pick on someone his own size at an NEF card, although Daley knows better than to take the veteran Johanson lightly.
The CMBJJ fighter enters on a two-fight winning streak, and he defeated First Class’ Deppmeyer in February.
“Frank is a tough opponent. I saw his fight against Jake,” Daley said. “He has a tough chin. He takes shots and just keeps coming forward.”
Even though he fought in front of thousands at the state wrestling showcase four times as a high school student, Daley is humble enough to acknowledge that an NEF show is a different animal.
“I was a complete nervous wreck, like almost to the point where I was ready to puke behind the curtain,” he said of his debut. “Then once I stepped in the cage, it went away and I just did what I had to do. I was able to shake off the rust a little bit.
“But it’s still different from wrestling. Back then I wasn’t getting punched in the face.”
The June 17 card features four professional MMA fights, four pro boxing matches, and seven amateur skirmishes in the cage. Tickets to “NEF 29: Stars & Stripes” start at $25 and are available by calling (207) 783-2009 ext. 525 or at www.thecolisee.com. For more information on the fight card, please visit www.newenglandfights.com.