FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Lewiston, Maine (April 27, 2017) – Never one to back down from a challenge, or an opportunity to call out the competition, “The” Ryan Sanders is irked by the tone of the scuttlebutt since his first fight with Jon Lemke last November.
Yes, the skirmish stopped during the third round, due to a deep cut on Lemke’s head. But with Sanders leading comfortably, 20-18, on all three cards, he was declared the winner.
It all fell in line with the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts, and it surely reflected Sanders’ conviction that he was well in command of the bout and on his way to victory, regardless. Since that night, the Saturday before Thanksgiving, however, Sanders, 29, says that Lemke and others in his camp have been a tad too outspoken about their belief that it was somehow a tainted victory.
In a recent interview with Jason Floyd on “The MMA Report Podcast,” Sanders held nothing back when queried about his motivation to dole out another beating when the former training partners meet this Saturday, April 29 in a rematch at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston.
This time, it’s the tournament final for the vacant lightweight title at “NEF 28: Invincible.”
“I was a little upset afterwards that (Lemke) said he thought it should have been a no-contest,” Sanders said. “What Jon won’t talk about or say is that right before I got that takedown, he quit. He quit in my arms.”
Sanders (13-8) clarified that comment, adding that while Lemke (6-7) didn’t say the word explicitly, his vast experience in the cage underscored his belief that the end was nigh.
“A fighter knows when someone is about to give up, and Jon was about to give up,” he said. “He wasn’t fighting that takedown in my arms. He was just dead weight in my arms, so it’s a bit frustrating that he would say that.”
It didn’t take long for the stars to align and serve up the second helping that both fighters’ fan bases crave. With a shot at the strap in the offing, both men made short work of their 155-pound tournament semifinal opponents in February.
Sanders landed a vicious kick to the jaw of John Ortolani that ended their confrontation in a mere 15 seconds. Lemke was just as impressive, needing only a minute longer to dispatch Jesse “the Viking” Erickson.
Typically it’s the defeated fighter in this scenario who covets the chance at vindication, but Sanders sounds like the one with an axe to grind after hearing some of the public perception about his previous win.
“I’m happy that we get a rematch and to be able to show everyone that the first time it wasn’t a fluke and to have my hand raised again,” Sanders, who is 6-1 in his past seven fights, said. “I’m unstoppable right now. I’m surrounded with the best people. I’ve got great teammates, great coaches and an amazing wife … Any guy who fights me, they are (screwed).”
Asked if he is bent on earning a submission to achieve a measure of unfinished business, Sanders quickly declared that any form of victory will suffice.
“Not necessarily to get a stoppage victory, but I’m going to show him. It will be five months since we fought, and I’ve been in the gym every day, and I’m going to show him that he’s not on my level,” Sanders said. “Eventually the victory will come whether it’s a submission, a TKO, a knockout. Jon does have a lot of heart, but I’m going to be stealing it from him. I’m going to steal his soul and I’m going to break his will.
“I’m a grappler, so I do prefer a nice submission victory,” he continued. “But whatever he gives me I’ll take, and I’m going to go in there and take it. I’m going to take that belt home. That is my belt, and I’ve worked too hard to let anyone else take it from me.”
The rivalry between Sanders and Lemke is a natural one. They were former stablemates at Team Irish before Sanders switched to rival Young’s MMA.
Sanders said he didn’t earn enough takedowns for his liking in the previous encounter, but he believes the scorecards were an accurate reflection of how he dominated the fight.
“I knew he was a tough dude. He could take a punch. He could take a kick,” Sanders said. “I feel like I was getting the best of it.”
A second bout with Lemke fits Sanders’ profile as a fighter willing to take on anyone, anywhere, at any time.
Sanders, who has been matched in his career with the likes of Marcus Davis, Gil de Freitas, Levan Makashvili, Luis Felix and Derrick Kennington, has won his last five in a row on Maine soil.
He dropped back-to-back decisions to de Freitas in his two previous bids for an NEF title and naturally predicts that he won’t let the third chance at gold slip away.
“I know with the training I’m putting in that I’m destined for greatness,” Sanders said. “My work has shown that, and my future fights will show that. I know I’m there to fight the best. Look at the guys I’ve fought. They’re UFC or Bellator vets, or they’re top-five fighters in the region.
“(The fans are) going to witness a great fight, a great performance by Ryan Sanders,” he concluded. “They may say, ‘This guy’s being (a jerk). He’s real cocky.’ It’s not that I’m cocky. I’m fully confident in my training and in my training partners and in my coaches and in myself that I am ready to fight anybody in the region and beat anybody in the region.”
The opening bell for “NEF 28: Invincible” on April 29 is set for 7 p.m. Tickets start at $25 and are available at www.TheColisee.com or by calling the Colisee box office at 207.783.2009, extension 525.