FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Bangor, Maine (December 10, 2018) – It has been a meteoric rise through the New England Fights enterprise for Zac Richard, who will celebrate one year since he started training in the sport by fighting for the featherweight title on February 1st.

Richard, a state champion high school wrestler with three first-round stoppages to his credit since he transitioned from the mat to mixed martial arts, will face former bantamweight champion Fred Lear for the vacant 145-pound strap at NEF 37: “Sub Zero.” The fight will be held at Cross Insurance Center in Bangor.

In a recent interview with Ryan Jarrell and Bryan Stackpole for the Between Rounds Radio podcast, Richard noted that MMA has given him balance and structure after a tumultuous time in his personal and family life. Richard’s last fight, a 51-second stoppage of Chris Lachcik by rear naked choke, took place one day before the six-year anniversary of his sister Lacy’s death from cancer.

“Every year around this time, I always found myself making bad decisions or being down in the dumps. This year I had something to take my anger out and have all those people come out and support, so it was pretty awesome. It’s the best mindset I’ve ever been in for a fight, that’s for sure,” Richard said.

NEF co-owner and matchmaker Matt Peterson knew he had a fighter on his hands the moment Richard signed with the organization.

Anyone who thinks the opportunity is being extended too soon probably isn’t familiar with the fighter, his background or his disposition.

“After watching Zac wrestle for almost a decade, I knew that his aggressive, go-for-broke style against the toughest competition that he could find would translate well to the mixed martial arts cage,” Peterson said. “He welcomes a challenge, and he never hesitated for a second when I offered him the opportunity to face a decorated veteran, Fred Lear, for the featherweight championship.”

A graduate of Massabesic High School in Waterboro, Richard said he started training in 2018 as part of a new year’s resolution.

That journey took him an hour away to Nostos MMA in Somersworth, New Hampshire, where his dogged determination and raw talent caught the eye of none other than Devin Powell, the former NEF Lightweight Champion and current UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) competitor.

“On the weekends after work, I did nothing. I might go to the bar or something. I kind of felt like I was wasting my time. I used to wrestle, and that was all I did. I didn’t want to go to college and wrestle, because there was nothing I wanted to go to college for,” Richard said. “I was like, ‘I’m going to try mixed martial arts.’ I just walked in, started slamming people and stuff, not tapping, and after a while Devin was like, ‘Hey, who are you?’ And then we kind of just hit off and started training.”

Richard said friends and family, at first, didn’t believe him when he told them of the connection to the local celebrity turned worldwide fighter.

“It’s crazy, telling people. They think I’m joking. Then I’ll post pictures with (Powell) on Instagram and Facebook and people start hearing about it,” Richard said. “It’s good to know you can make it. It’s good to have a coach who’s living it in the UFC. He’s fighting his heart out, getting hurt and still going. He makes some good media, so it’s pretty cool.”

Richard recently relocated by renting an apartment across the street from the gym, providing further evidence of his commitment.

Working with Powell has its privileges, but it also comes with a lighter side. Richard elicited a few laughs on the program when he relayed the story of his mentor adopting a baby pig. It’s a free-range animal, he reported, wandering the gym right along with Powell’s fighters.

“He loves that thing. When we went to Las Vegas, he was talking about it and said, ‘I’m gonna get a pig.’ And I’m like, ‘OK, Devin.’ Then one day I went on Instagram and watched his story and I’m like, ‘No, he didn’t.’ I’d like to follow some of his footsteps, but not the pig one,” Richard said. “I’m pretty sure it’s like a teacup pig, but it’s kind of big, so guess we’ll just have to see. Hopefully he didn’t get lied to. He’s going to be kind of upset when there’s a full-grown pig running around Nostos every day.”

Richard and Lear will meet in the middle in terms of weight for their title bout.

Lear, out of Young’s MMA in Bangor hasn’t fought since his victory over Walt Shea for the 135-pound title in August 2017. Richard will come down in weight after tackling his past two outings at 155, not far below his typical walking-around weight of 160 to 165.

It will be a challenge in the cold Maine winter. Richard, who is a mechanic by trade, said his job helps him sweat out the pounds during summer.

“I’m always fluctuating. Knowing that I’ve been fighting at 155 my past two fights, I’ve been eating whatever and lifting, walking around about 165,” Richard said. “I’m used to cutting weight for wrestling. I’d like to see myself at 145 from here on out. I don’t feel the need to cut that much weight for a fight. It’s only amateurs, and I don’t know when I’ll go pro or if I’ll go pro. I just now got a strength and conditioning coach at the Brickhouse in Sanford, so we’ll see where it goes. 145 is where I see myself.”

“I know Zac’s parents, and he comes from a wonderful family. They always did everything that they could to support him, going above and beyond during his wrestling career,” Peterson said. “He’s young and athletic and has the confidence to complement his genetic gifts. Fred is an experienced champion that has faced all manner of fighters over the course of his eight MMA bouts. Both guys know how to wrestle. Both come from respected gyms. It’s a match befitting our return to Bangor in February.”

That shared wrestling background made the fight with Lear (6-2) attractive to Richard.

In addition to being on enemy territory in Lear’s hometown, Richard expects to be seen as the underdog due to the opponent’s previous title fight experience.

“I don’t really care about the noise that much. I always liked being the underdog in wrestling,” Richard said. “I’ve got nothing to lose. If his crowd ‘s there and chanting his name, whatever. It’s just more noise.”

Richard said he has never been much for watching film of opponents, knowing that tactics can turn on a dime. He has watched two of the bouts in Lear’s archive, though, and both expects and craves a battle for the ages.

“I want it to go into deep water,” he said. “I’ve had three fights, and not to sound cocky, but they’ve all been pretty quick. I want a war. That’s why I do it. I train all this time. I want to show my true self and get into a real fight, you know? I think Fred and I will be a good fight. Hopefully it lives up to the expectations I have for it.”

Lear’s year-and-a-half of inactivity is in stark contrast to Richard’s rapid-fire approach since gravitating to the sport. The newcomer hopes that won’t be held against him if he comes out on top.

“I think he’ll be fine. I hope he is. I don’t want any excuses,” Richard said. “I want it to be a straight-up fight with some highlight reels on it. If I lose, I lose, but I’m going to go out swinging if I do.”

NEF’s next mixed-martial-arts event, “NEF 37: SUB ZERO,” will take place on Friday, February 1, 2019 at Cross Insurance Center in Bangor, Maine with a bell time of 8 pm.  Tickets are on-sale now at www.CrossInsuranceCenter.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.