FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Portland, Maine (December 27, 2019) – New England Fights (NEF) today announced the winners of their annual Year-End Awards. 2019 nominees were revealed last week in six different categories by a qualified panel of professionals with expertise in combat sports and NEF competitions. The winners were determined by fan vote. Voting was opened to fans on Friday, December 20, 2019, and closed on Thursday, December 26, 2019, and fans were given the opportunity to write in their own choices if they did not agree with the nominees. Several thousand votes were cast throughout the six-days from places as distant and varied as Korea, Lithuania, and Nicaragua just to name a few.
Tom “The Phenom” Pagliarulo (5-1) was voted the “Fighter of the Year” by fans with 31% of the vote. Pagliarulo was a perfect 2-0 in the NEF cage in 2019 and captured the promotion’s amateur featherweight title. Based out of Haverhill, Massachusetts, Pagliarulo becomes the first non-Maine-based athlete to ever win the award. He beat out fellow nominees Glory “The Fury” Watson (26%), Josh “Hook On” Harvey (24%), and Nate “Backpack” Boucher (14%), along with several write-ins (5%).
“I’m honored to win the ‘Fighter of the Year’ award,” said Pagliarulo when reached for comment. “This year has been a big turning point for me and that’s truly a testament to the people I am surrounded by! I couldn’t of done this without my team, coaches, fans, and of course the whole New England Cartel!”
Zac Richard vs. Fred Lear took home “Fight of the Year” honors by a thin margin. The thrilling five-round amateur title fight from Bangor, Maine last February garnered 32% of the vote. Just behind it was Glory Watson vs. Cara Greenwell (30%) from “NEF 41” last month in Portland. Jake Bagley vs. Brady MacDonald (27%) and Devin Corson vs. Jacob Deppmeyer (10%) were also nominated.
“Glory and Cara had a very good fight, actually, amazing,” noted Richard. “Fred and I had the sold-out crowd going absolutely nuts and it was so close there was no winner. I hope Fred will fight me when I go pro because who wouldn’t want to see it again?”
“I am blessed and honored to have shared the cage with Zac Richard, the new 155-pound champ,” stated Lear. “There’s a lot to be thankful for this holiday season. First, the fans for voting and bestowing us with this recognition. Second, my Mom and Dad who have supported me with unconditional love and encouragement as I further the pursuit of my goals. Lastly, my team, coaches, coworkers, and friends. You have all pushed me to be a better version of myself. Thank you and let’s ring in 2020 with a bang!”
Chris Sarro (38%) won in the “Knockout of the Year” category for his devastating right-hand finish of Ras Hylton last September in Orono, Maine. The knockout earned Sarro a contract with national promotion Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship (BKFC) where he is currently 1-0. Sarro topped Zac Richard’s slam knockout of Erik Tainter (28%), Kam Arnold’s brutal left-hook knockout of Walt Shea (24%), and Jason Landry’s seven-second knockout of Dan Seigars (10%).
“It’s an absolute honor to win NEF’s ‘KO of the Year award,’” Sarro said. “On paper, I wasn’t supposed to win that fight, but in my heart, I wasn’t going to lose that fight. I learned that night to believe in myself. NEF provided me with the opportunity, I capitalized on it, and for that I’m forever grateful.”
Nate Boucher (36%) took home the “Submission of the Year” for his rear-naked choke finish over Steve Desjardins in November that earned him the NEF Amateur Flyweight Championship. Boucher was given the nickname “Backpack” by teammates after winning his most recent four fights all via rear-naked choke – a streak dating back to November 2018. Josh Harvey’s armlock submission of Bill Jones (26%), Brian Cosco’s Von Flue choke on Clifford Redman (21%), and Schuyler Vaillancourt’s Kimura submission of Dillon Henry (16%) were also nominated.
“It’s an honor to be voted ‘Submission of the Year’ by the NEF fans,” said Boucher. “Last year was a very successful year that featured this choke for me. Winning this award just adds to my very successful 2019 season. Going 3-0, winning the Flyweight Title, and now ‘Submission of The Year.’ That’s just the right kind of confidence boost I need to propel me into the professional ranks to kick-off 2020. Thank you to all my supporters for making this possible. Also, special thank you to Cure Cannabis for the help they have contributed to the team. This for sure goes down as a team win.”
Nate “The Mule” White was voted the “Rookie of the Year” by a staggering 63%. White went 4-0 since his cage debut in April, finishing all four of his opponents. “Magic” Mike Murray was second with 23% of the vote. Greg Ishihara (6%) and Jason Landry (5%) were also nominated.
“It was an honor to even be nominated with such a great group of competitors, let alone to win this award for 2019,” declared White. “Thank you to everyone who voted for me and to New England Fights for providing all of us fighters with this platform to ply our trades. The Mule Train is moving full steam ahead in 2020—all aboard!”
In a new category just added this year, Young’s MMA of Bangor, Maine was voted the “Team of the Year” with 31% of the vote. To qualify as a nominee, a team had to have at least five fights in the NEF cage over the calendar year. Nostos came in second with 20% of the vote. Also nominated were Central Maine Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (18%), First Class MMA (12%), Evolution Athletix (9%), and Recon Fitness (9%).
“With so many great gyms nominated this year, several probably more deserving of this award, it came as a surprise to hear we had won,” noted Young’s MMA head coach and owner Chris Young. “2019 was a tough year for Young’s MMA, the gym facing adversity and a lot of change. To know that the fans still have faith in us only makes us want to come back stronger. So thank you to all who voted, and rest assured Young’s will be back to form in 2020 with your favorite fighters, including the relentless return of an NEF standout.”
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 NEF Year-End Awards
The NEF Year-End Awards are chosen annually at the conclusion of every calendar year to recognize outstanding athletic achievement and excellence in New England Fights (NEF). Nominees are selected by a qualified panel of professionals with expertise in combat sports and NEF competitions. Award Winners are determined by fan vote. All NEF Year-End Awards Winners will receive a trophy to commemorate their accomplishment.
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.